DelBene talks civic engagement with Mount Vernon students

April 2, 2018 GMT

MOUNT VERNON — With teens across the country entering the political spotlight, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene stopped by Mount Vernon High School last week to talk about her career, politics and civic engagement.

“It’s been a hard year and a hard Congress,” DelBene told the students. “That’s one of the challenges we all face is how do we work together.”

DelBene spoke to the students as part of a teen town hall Thursday. Many students stayed after school to listen to DelBene and ask her questions.

DelBene told students she got into politics so she could have a voice.

“I never thought I would run for office ... but sometimes along your path, things change,” she said. “I can complain about what’s happening, or I can try to make a difference.”

During the town hall, students asked DelBene about homelessness and affordable housing, transportation and infrastructure, and immigration issues.

One issue the students returned to multiple times was school safety.

“What would you do to make this building safe for us?” asked senior McKeighla Holt.

The answer is complicated, DelBene said.

“There is no one thing we can do that will prevent all senseless acts of violence,” she said. “But we can do more and we should do more.”

She said the first thing she’d do would be to gather research from experts on the issue.

Because of legislation known as the Dickey Amendment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not conducted research into gun violence since 1996, she told students.

“We need to understand what we can do better after every act of gun violence,” she said.

The U.S. House of Representatives hasn’t been given the option to vote on issues related to gun violence, DelBene told.

“Not even allowing the vote stops our whole process from moving,” she said.

After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead, DelBene said students have been instrumental to keeping the national debate about gun violence going.

“I think students have done more than ever to move this conversation,” she told the students. “We have students across the nation that are having marches.”

She encouraged the students to continue to be involved in politics, especially through voting.

“You all have the chance to be those voices,” she told them. “People have to care.”

Having DelBene speak at the school makes current political conversations more approachable for the students, teacher Alex Brewer said.

“It makes politics real,” he said. “It’s not something you’re learning in a text book. It’s not something you’re learning online.”

DelBene said she hopes the students learn it’s important to work together.

“We don’t all have to agree on every issue — we probably won’t,” she said. “But we do have to talk to each other.”