By John Mirisola
In the midst of an increasingly tense political climate, it can be greatly refreshing to return to informed, civil dialogue—especially when this dialogue is with your own member of Congress.
Representative John F. Tierney (D) of Massachusetts' 6th District paid a visit to campus this week, meeting with President Michael Lindsay and joining Professor Timothy Sherratt's American National Politics class for an hour of open discussion—but without the posturing or the shibboleths we have come to expect from politicians.
"American political discourse is currently very polarized—whatever someone says always gets filtered through an ideological lens," observed Dr. Sherratt. "I think Congressman Tierney offered a nice counter to that charged discourse we've become used to. He was able to field questions and talk about his own opinions about the better course of action without leading the class to think this was all about one of two mutually exclusive ideological positions."
Tierney’s district contains most of Essex County, including the North Shore and Cape Ann, where Gordon is located. He sits on the House Committee on Education and Labor, where his priorities include green energy and increased college access. He has coauthored several pieces of legislation, including the College Affordability and Accountability Act of 2008. He reached out to Gordon earlier this semester to express interest in coming to campus for a visit, and the College gladly obliged.
The congressman began his time in Sherratt's class by commending Gordon College for its exemplary community outreach initiatives. "The kind of work Gordon does in Lynn is very impressive, and it deserves as much attention as it can get."
He then spoke to a wide range of student questions, covering everything from party politics to election cycles, economic theory to the media's influence on public opinion. The representative expressed a deep interest in American job creation, and in re-examining pieces of the tax code—"We ought to have tax laws that can't be taken advantage of so easily," he said, in response to a question on the country's economic future.
Speaking on the media, the congressman commented, "If we had a press that was skeptical but not cynical, one that reported the facts but didn't jump to conclusions or try so hard to entertain us, we'd all be better served." And in the face of the 24 hour news cycle, Tierney offered his own advice on how to become more savvy and informed constituents: "Find news sources you trust—sources that prove to be accurate over a long period of time—and, most importantly, don't be afraid to open a discourse with your elected official."
Through venues like Twitter and Facebook, email and video conferences, Tierney discussed the relative ease with which he can now engage in those sorts of dialogs, and how these technologies are narrowing the historically wide divide between Washington D.C. and constituencies at home.
Along with this opportunity to engage in discussion with the representative, Tierney welcomed Gordon students to apply for internships in his own district offices, or in Washington. Politics and international affairs majors at Gordon have frequently found internship placements with national politicians, including Massachusetts Senators Scott Brown and John Kerry, and Congressman Tierney’s invitation expands upon this web of opportunities.