Event Summaries

October 17, 2016 legacy-international-fall-2016FMC-Legacy International
Round Table Discussion with Fellows visiting from Egypt and Algeria
Monday, October 17th | 2:00pm – 3:30p
HVC 201A, U.S. Capitol

The U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress partnered again with Legacy International to hold a bipartisan roundtable discussion on Congress, the Former Members experiences, and to discuss government and the current American political situation. The North Africa Fellow Program had the opportunity to meet with a bipartisan panel that included Bev Byron (D-MD, 1978-1992), Bob Carr (D-MI, 1975-1981, 1983-1995), Barbara Kennelly (D-CT, 1982-1999), Jim Kolbe (R-AZ, 1985-2007), and Tim Petri (R-WI, 1979-2015). The discussion was moderated by Mr. Michael Duvall from Legacy International.

Exploring non-governmental organizations (NGOs), panelists first examined the management. A comparison between Algerian, Egyptian, and American NGOs revealed the differences in the funding streams, the people involved, and their role they play in their communities.  The American NGOs roles can vary, from promoting and building international relations, to work against corruption in the government, from solving specific issues, to unifying people with the same interests. They are very deep in the culture, and although there are little regulations overseeing them, they are monitored in order to ensure their efficiency and effectiveness in the public arena. A big factors that differentiate the management of organizations among North African NGOs and Americans is the governmental structure; in the US the independence of the NGOs from the government is in contrast to the role government plays with NGOs outside the US.

The current American political situation and the upcoming presidential elections, were also discussed. How did this happen? The panel expressed their concern as well, and discussed some of the internal issues that led to the current situation, including the role of the media. It was noted that times have changed and the media and communications have evolved to create a different way of effective campaigning. It seems that, although people are more connected through the internet and access to the immediate news, the younger generation is not educating themselves or reading all complete sources of information and are focusing on only the issues or articles they have in their view.

The discontent among citizens about the candidates are creating a bigger distress nationwide, people cannot identify themselves with either candidate. As a consequence, the division within Americans is expanding rapidly.

The discussion concluded with the agreement that diversity is necessary in every country in order to improve societies. Governments must promote any level of international exchange. NGOs help communities and build relations. In addition, people must be aware of what happens in the next three weeks in the presidential elections.


October 6-10, 2016

2016 Regional Meeting to Southern California

 

california-2016

Schedule included:

  • Mini Congress to Campus at UCLA
  • Visit to J. Paul Getty Museum
  • Hollywood Bus tour
  • Tour of the USS Iowa Battleship
  • Tour of the Queen Mary Ocean Liner
  • Attendance at the LA Opera performance of McBeth with Placido Domingo
  • Exclusive VIP Tour of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
  • Dinner and Debate Watching at the home of former Member Elton Gallegly and Janice Gallegly.

Lots of good food and fellowship.


 

September 14, 2016

Former Members Speak with visiting professors from China,

Central Party School Fall Institute: 2016 Election and US-China Relations

 

On September 14th, FMC participated in Central Party School Fall Institute: 2016 Elections and the US-China Relations. The Institute, hosted by the US-China Education Trust and American University Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and FMC, welcomed 8 Chinese professors for a week of programming. On Wednesday September 14th, three panel discussions with bipartisan pairs of former Members spoke to the group.

At the first panel, Running for the US Congress- Opportunities and Challenges former members Martin Frost (D-TX, ) and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ, ) explain to the Chinese visitors, their experience in running for Congress Mr. Frost explained how a campaign’s life blood is money and without it one could never run for Congress. He further detailed how the role of money has changed over the past decades and how the cost of running has increased substantially. Similar to the how the importance of money has changed over decades, the importance of social media has become a vital tool for candidates.   Mr. Kolbe explained that a candidate who can properly use social media has a huge advantage over their competitors. Both Mr. Kolbe and Mr. Frost agree that running is on going job; in that it is essential to start planning on how to get re-elected once elected. They explain that with 2-year term to make any of the changes you hope, it is important to get re-elected.

For the second panel, Serving in Congress- How to be an Effective Lawmaker, former members Tim Petri (R-WI,   ) and Steven Horsford (D-NV, ) again noted the need to be re-election and identified some tasks Members should do to help them get re-elected. Both former Congressmen agreed that the best way to get reelected is with contingent relations. They explain to the professors that by helping the people in your district you are more likely to get re-elected. The constituents need to know that you are in Congress to help them. Mr. Horsford talks about his push for compulsory education for all, and how that helped him make a name for himself in his district. Similarly, Mr. Petri used education reform to help make a name for himself. Mr. Petri, detailed the unusual route a bill he proposed, for student loans forgiveness, took and how a colleagues awareness of the idea was useful to his constituents in another way so that when they joined the ideas together they both were able to accomplish what they wanted. Mr. Petri explains to the professors that supporting interest groups that are aligned with your interests is a great way to increase your chances on getting re-elected.

The last panel former members Martin Lancaster (D-NC) and Jim McCery (R-LA), spoke on the topic of The implications of the 2016 Elections for US-China Relations. Both were reluctant to predict the political landscape of the US post presidential election, since, they admitted they could not have predicted that the elections would have looked like it does today. They explain to that no one foresaw Donald Trump becoming a candidate. That being said, Mr. Lancaster explained the significance of a potential Trump victory; indicating that Trump wins, the US would have a unified government, something that hasn’t happened for a long time. Mr. McCery elaborated by saying with a Republican President, House and Senate, the US-Chinese relation could change dramatically. Also noting that although Republican have traditionally been in favor of free trade, Trump expresses anti-globalization views which could lead to strained trade relations with China and the US. On the other hand, Mr. Lancaster explained that Clinton is pro-globalization and if elected President she would probably find a way to rework the TTIP, and would like to have a strong trade agreement with China. Both McCery and Lancaster stress the volatility of the US political landscape and that nothing can be predicted.   Both former Members stressed that a positive US-China relation is beneficial to both countries in future, especially with the growing concern of nuclear weapons in North Korea.

 


 

July 21st, 2016

Discussion on US- Russia Relations

The United States and Russia: Russia discussion

Is a Bilateral Dialogue Possible?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On July 21st, 2016, The US Association of Former Members of Congress and the Kettering Foundation co-hosted  a special discussion on Russia.

The relationship between the two countries represents an ideological rift between world powers and in light of recent militarization in Eastern Europe, now, more than ever, is an appropriate time to dissect this relationship. The event was moderated by Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. Rojansky has spent his career advising governments, intergovernmental organizations, and private actors on the enigmatic and dynamic relationship between these two countries. In addition, two Former Members sat on the panel, Mike Kopetski (D-OR, 1991-1995) and Connie Morella (R-MD, 1987-2003), each presenting a unique perspective on this issue. The luncheon brought a holistic picture of current tensions, while deftly articulating future steps to a more promising future.

The Russian-American relationship has been a fixture on the agenda of foreign policy for decades. Despite is notoriety, a lack of information exchange and dialogue has significantly hindered a truly genuine understanding between the two countries. Simply put, it’s possible the status of relations  may be the worst since the end of the Cold War.

The Panel first put recent events into a broader perspective. Russia’s increased militarization efforts in Ukraine and Eastern Europe have alarmed NATO allies enough to station troops in the region. However, all agreed that a full scale armed conflict in Eastern Europe would be in no one’s best interest. A war between nuclear powers would spell mutual annihilation for the combatants, while claiming huge amounts of collateral damage around the world. The consideration of this scenario must lead us to creating a more peaceful and cooperative solution. The most significant actions that the US can take to improve relations are to foster sincere discussion and invest in understanding the enigma that is Russia.

The Former Members echoed the importance of mutual understanding and dialogue between the two countries. There was a recognizition of a growing threat of nuclear weapons and the dangers of a Russia-US conflict during the time the former Members were in Congress. To help mitigate the situation, in fact there was legislation to create a nuclear testing moratorium that passed in the House and Senate. This moratorium gave Russia a concrete signal of American de-escalation, a significant gesture poised to improve the situation at that time.  But where are we now?

Russia Discussion 2

 

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August 11th, 2016

FMs to speak to groups of Middle school students throughout the summer

This summer  bipartisan pairs of former Members will speak with groups of 250-300 middle school students on the House floor, on 12 separate dates. The former Members discussed their journey to become a Member, their trials and tribulations while being a Member.  They discussed what actually goes on in the Chambers and fielded a range of middle schoolers’ questions.

  • June 15: Jason Altmire (D- PA, 2007-2013) and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY, 2011-2013 )
  • June 21: Dan Maffei (D-NY, 2009-2011, 2013-2015) and Nancy Johnson (R-CT, 1983-2007)
  • June 22: Chet Edwards (D-TX, 1991-2011) and Dan Burton (R-IN, 1983-2014)
  • June 28: Martin Frost (D-TX, 1979-2005) and Michael Flanagan (R-IL, 1995-1997)
  • June 29: Martin Frost (D-TX, 1979-2005) and Michael Flanagan (R-IL, 1995-1997)
  • July 12: Karen Thurman(D-FL, 1993-2003) 
  • July 13:  Bob Walker (R-PA, 1977-1997)
  • July 26:  Martin Frost (D-TX, 1979-2005)
  • July 27: Ron Sarasin (R-CT, 1973-1979)
  • August 2:  Bill Sarparlius (D-TX, 1989-1995) and Ron Sarasin (R-CT, 1973-1979)
  • August 3:  Ron Sarasin (R-CT, 1973-1979)
  • August 10:  Ken Kramer (R-CO, 1979-1987) and Lincoln Davis ( D-TN, 2003-2011)

 

Judge Marjorie Rendell’s Keynote Speech from the Distinguished Service Award Luncheon, June 15, 2016

It is an honor to be asked to speak with you this afternoon and share some reflections on one of my favorite subjects – civics education. The education of young people to assume their role as citizens in a democratic society is the central mission of our schools. The primary impetus for establishing public schools in the United States was to educate a diverse American population into a literate and informed citizenry. In his farewell address, President George Washington, argued for the creation of “institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge in a democratic society”. It is essential that the youth of our county understand this and have the proper knowledge, skills and dispositions of effective citizens. As individuals who have spent their lives in public service – you understand this. It is important that at every level we explore the principals of rights and responsibilities and the role of an active citizen.

However, I believe we must start when they are very young. Education about rights and responsibilities of citizens in our constitutional democracy and education about the rule of law is essential to the preservation of our democracy. Our founding fathers understood the crucial role education of the citizenry would play in keeping our country free. Thomas Jefferson wrote to a colleague, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and what never will be.” He emphasized that point again in the Notes on the State of Virginia declaring “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers… The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved.” The development of the American public school system in the 19th century was based on this vision that all education had civic purposes and that every teacher was a civics teacher. Evidence of the centrality of that vision to our school system is the fact that 40 of our 50 state constitutions underline the importance of civic literacy; 13 state constitutions identify the central purpose of their educational system as promoting good citizenship, democracy, and free government.

It is amazing to me that 200 years later we must reassert and demonstrate the inter connection between education and democracy. I know I am preaching to the choir about the need for civics education, but we need to spread the word.

Every generation has wrestled with the challenge of establishing and maintaining a system of public education that will provide for individual advancement at the same time that it nurtures a citizenry that is informed, engaged, and committed to our nation’s history and principals. When the concept of universal public education was established in the United States two centuries ago, visionary proponents like Horace Mann believed they were building the first large-scale democracy in the history of the world. They realized that citizens would have to be educated to play their parts in a system that depended on millions of wise and active participants. They made a courageous bet that children could be taught to make democracy work through civic education. That is the Civic Mission of our nation’s schools. Today, civic education is a core purpose of schools, as reflected not only in courses on civics or American Government (required in 46 U.S. states), but also throughout the K-12 curriculum and in co-curricular activities ranging from student governments to service clubs. At least it’s supposed to be a core purpose of education.

What is today’s reality in civic education?

The evidence of a decline in civic education is abundant and quite visible. From the many surveys of our fellow citizens’ lack of basic civic knowledge; to the growing distrust of, and alienation from, the governmental institutions that “We the People” truly own. Evidence of the decline in effective civic education is all around us. An Annenberg Public Policy Survey released for Constitution Day 2015 showed that many Americans are unfamiliar with basic facts about their government:

• Only one in three Americans (31 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, while just as many (32 percent) could not identify even one.

• More than one in four Americans (28 percent) incorrectly thinks a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is sent back either to Congress for reconsideration or to the lower courts for a decision.

• About one in 10 Americans (12 percent) says the Bill of Rights includes the right to own a pet. It does not.

On the last National Assessments of Educational Progress Civics test, done in 2014, barely 1/4th of the students tested could demonstrate a proficient understanding of this topic so critical to our nation’s future. The NAEP Civics test scores have remained flat since the first NAEP Civics was administered in 1998.

Why is this?

There are many reasons. Among the most significant are, an over-emphasis on a few curricular subjects over others; lack of attention to Civics because it is not part of most states testing regimes; and a lack of appreciation for the central role the civic mission of our schools plays in maintaining the health of our Representative Democracy. My Friend and colleague, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, co-chair of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, has said many times, “Knowledge of our system of government, our rights and responsibilities as citizens, is not passed down through the gene pool, it must be taught anew to each generation and we have work to do!”

Civic education is important not only for the substantive content-based knowledge about our country and democracy, but also for the development of the skills necessary for adult citizenship-critical thinking, problem solving and informed participation. Such skills transfer to all subjects but more importantly they transfer to life, to be productive/active citizens and workers. In the Judiciary, I see the consequences of a lack of civic education every day. The lack of understanding of and at times lack of respect for, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary makes me doubly concerned about the state of civic education. This should concern you too as veterans of the Legislative branch. Many of your Membership have enlisted in the cause to restore the civic mission of schools. For example, former Congressman David Skaggs of Colorado was the co-founder of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools. The civic mission of schools has done fantastic work for over a decade leading the charge for restoring the civic mission of schools. Former Congressman Lou Frey founded an Institute in Florida that works to improve Civics. Their programing includes:
• The Lou Frey Institute Symposia – which nationally and internationally recognized scholars, public leaders, and policy experts together to explore political and policy challenges facing the nation along with high school and college students
• The Florida Civic Leadership Academy which is a two-year, school-based co-curricular program. It offers students opportunities to learn about Florida’s state and local governments and to develop their civic leadership skills through community involvements. Students who successfully complete the program receive six hours of dual enrollment credit.

In addition, Mr. Frey teamed up with former Senator Bob Graham to pass The Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act in Florida to improve civics. Former Congressman George Nethercutt of Washington is working with a number of former members to publish OpEds calling for more and better civics. And your Association’s work with High School and Higher Education on civics is fantastic. I am particularly impressed with the Civics Connection which connects high school teachers with former of Members of Congress and other experts, and delivers on-demand broadcast-quality programs featuring former Members of Congress as instructors of basic civic education. It is so powerful to have an outside resource come into a classroom and work with a teacher or students. I have seen the impact this can have with our Rendell Center Summer Teacher Institute, our work with literature based mock trials and our Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Chats where judges come to the National Constitution Center and do question and answer with visiting school students.

Certainly the recent passage of the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, will be helpful in providing some funding for innovation in Civics and in devolving important curricular decisions to the states. The policy and funding decisions that impact what happens in the classroom are made at the state and school district level and those are the decisions we need to effect to strengthen and improve civic education for every student in the nation. Your involvement and leadership are critically needed in your state to restore the vital civic mission of our schools.

Let me give you some background about my personal journey with the civic education movement and why Ed Rendell and I started the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement. Our passion for civics education goes back several years. When Ed became governor of Pennsylvania, I decided to focus my efforts as First Lady on promoting civics education. The thought came to me as a result of my experience presiding over a naturalization ceremony. Looking out over the crowd of joyful new citizens, I realized that they know how special our citizenship is. They realized that our democratic way of life, our respect for the rule of law, our fundamental belief in equal opportunity, mutual respect, individual liberty and freedom for all – these things make us different. These things cause people from other countries to leave their homelands, sometimes risking everything, to come to America. This does not happen anywhere else. We are indeed blessed. Perhaps the only thing our natural born citizens lack is an appreciation of how very special our country is, and an understanding of the responsibility we have to insure its continued vitality by being knowledgeable about it and participating in it to the fullest.

This was confirmed in a story told to me by U. S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, he tells a story of a Russian lawyer who visited the United States and wanted to come to the Supreme Court and meet Justice Souter and some of the other Justices. And when they met, this gentleman knew so much about the Supreme Court cases and Justice Souter said, “How do you know so much about what our United States Supreme Court has done?” And he said during the Cold War when one of our lawyer friends would get an opinion of the court, we would sit down and go through it and learn it. And the Russian lawyer said to Justice Souter, “What do you think is the most important decision that your court has come down with in the last forty years?” And Justice Souter – his was fifty years – said “Brown vs. the Board of Education,” which we all know threw aside the concept of separate but equal in our schools. The Russian lawyer was disappointed in this and clearly didn’t agree. So Justice Souter said “What do you think is the most important decision?” To which the lawyer responded, “the Nixon tapes decision.” That decision held that the executive of the country could be overruled and overturned and governed by the court. And he said, “In my country, in Russia, that is unheard of.” I am impacted about that as you can tell, because it is what our country is all about. It’s all about the fact that we have a rule of law and it’s so precious that we don’t realize it. It often takes an individual who observes our system from a far to show us what precious commodity we have in our democracy.

Neuroscience tells us that the size of the adult brain is almost totally reached by the age of 10. How can we capitalize on this growth early on:
1. Read with – not to our children
2. Active learning, not passive learning (using mock trials, simulations, debates, discussions)
3. Emphasize Self-discipline and focus
4. Believe in them
5. When they are happy they learn better.
A principal in Ritter Elementary School in Allentown once said to me, and I quote, “the children are happier; and when they are happier, they learn better”. The atmosphere of self-discipline, mutual respect, and pride at Ritter elementary told me that these children are indeed getting smarter. So how does this relate to civics- or citizenship education? My theory is that children are capable of so much more thought than we give them credit for. And thought is at the heart of citizenship – appreciating who they are and where they fit. Having them express things they value, things that are relevant to their lives. Challenge them to think and express themselves. Help the to explore ideas- not just parrot what someone else has said, Make it all about them and their ideas- value those ides, challenge them to use their voice, their dynamic brain. The concepts behind participatory citizen (exploring, solving, questioning, debating), should not be reserved for just junior high or high school. These disciplines can and should be fostered when our students are 8, 9 and 10 years old.

The very positive feedback I received when working with our young students is what led us to establish the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement. It is our vision that all students will have a basic understanding of our representative democracy (content knowledge), will have experienced public participation in the democratic process to include democratic deliberation (skills) and will be better prepared to be good engaged citizens who understand their rights and their responsibilities as citizens (dispositions). The mission of The Rendell Center is to promote civic education and engagement. To do this, The Rendell Center offers opportunities for educators and the broader community to develop the knowledge, practices and dispositions of engaged citizenship. For educators, The Rendell Center creates curriculum content, pedagogical tools, and professional development experiences. For students the Rendell Center develops literacy based programs and experiential learning exercises.
Our approach is to help K-8 schools build civic curriculum and youth-adult governance structure so students learn and practice the knowledge and skills of effective active citizenship. The program (We The Civics Kids) being piloted in Philadelphia Schools is designed to provide civic education to our youngest citizens through a rich interactive program that marries reading literacy and civic literacy. The goal for the program is to create a culture of active citizenship in our schools through materials that build basic civic knowledge, promote engagement, and provide on-going opportunities for developing the art of democratic deliberation. At the same time, We the Civics Kids materials are strengthening each student’s reading, writing, speaking, thinking and problem solving skills. We are focusing on the youngest students combining civics and literacy.

During our Literacy Based Mock trials, each class prepares a mock trial based on a work of literature. This not only embeds the literature in the students mind, thus enhancing comprehension, but it also is welcomed by the teachers as a way to teach what is already required and is not an add-on or additional work. – I would like to share with you a quote from an elementary school teacher commenting on our literacy based mock trial:
Our partnership with the The Rendell Center enabled my first grade students to see different views from different perspectives, or see things “in the gray”, and not see everything as one-sided. Recently, my class was chosen to begin a mock trial, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, alongside the third grade class where my students served as part of the jury, At first, I was hesitant because I was not sure my students were ready nor did I know where to begin. However, with the collaboration with the Rendell Center, we were able to integrate literacy with civics education as my first grade students began to think about our judicial system. To my surprise my students were able to retell the events, as this was a skill that was challenging, and support their arguments with reasons as to why they thought Goldilocks was guilty or innocent of criminal trespassing.
Our annual Lenfest Citizenship Challenge –Essentially a class essay contest has made in depth focus on an issue of civic importance a fun learning experience. Two years ago in the Rendell Center’s Citizenship Challenge we asked 4th and 5th graders how to increase voter participation. We received over 250 essays from classrooms on this topic. I would like to share with you a portion of the words of the winning essay. These words from 5th grade students are powerful and relevant to our discussions today.

We believe that it is essential that all students recognize their role in our Democracy and appreciate the importance of each vote. Our Founding Fathers would surely be disappointed by the lack of voter participation in our elections. The foundation of our society was based on the belief that power comes from the people; in fact, this is one of our Constitution’s core principles. We declared our independence from Great Britain so that we could have representation in our government. And yet today voter apathy is widespread. Establishing civic education programs will allow the youth to learn about the importance of voting at a young age. Impressing upon young minds the significance of voting will ignite in them a desire to fulfill the legacy of the Founding Fathers who sacrificed so much to establish our country. The voice of the people can only be heard if they participate to the fullest extent possible and the best way to have your voice heard is to vote.
(From the mouths of babes, I could not have said it better myself)

I sense that there is growing recognition of the need for more and better civics education for our children, but Civics teachers and administrators are ill equipped to effect change in this area without help. This is where your involvement and leadership is needed and wanted, at the all critical state policymaking level. When I was First Lady of Pennsylvania, we had a coalition of organization and schools across Pennsylvania promoting our civic work. These organizations exist not only in Pennsylvania but across the United States. Organizations who are doing exceptional work but need help to have a true national impact. Can you imagine if we could challenge the energy and excitement of the history lessons contained in Tony award winning Play “Hamilton” to all of civics education? Think of the inspired citizens we would have.

Your Executive Director, Pete Weichlein can connect you with people working to improve civics in your state and Doug Dobson head of the Lou Frey Institute is here and can give you some great suggestions of activities. And please visit the Rendell Center Website. As I am sure you recall, there is an old story that I think best illustrates why we should be concerned about civic education. Perhaps you know it. On the hot humid afternoon of September 17th 1787, a large curious crowd had gathered outside of Independence Hall, in my hometown of Philadelphia, wanting to know what the Founders had come up with during the Constitutional Convention. As the Delegates filed out of the Hall, a woman approached the eldest of the Delegates, Dr. Benjamin Franklin and asked “Well Dr. Franklin, what sort of government have you men given us?” “A Republic, Madame,” he replied, “If you can keep it!” For more than two hundred years that has been the civic mission of our schools, to help ‘keep,’ renew and pass along to the next generation, this, the greatest experiment in self -governance in the history of the world.
I am reminded of a line from the musical Hamilton – Who tells your story? But when you are gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story.
I think it is up to us to continue to tell the story of our democracy and insure that the next generation has the knowledge, skills and dispositions of effective citizens. It is up to us – the public servants, who understand the legacy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, to keep the flame sparked by our founding fathers alive.