Congressman Jim Himes speaks to students about democracy

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Connecticut’s Fourth District Congressman Mr. Jim Himes visited Convent of the Sacred Heart October 24 to speak to Upper and Middle School students about the responsibilities of a congressman, and the obligations of citizenship.
Mr. Himes was born in Peru to American parents and spent his childhood in Peru and Colombia. This allowed him to learn to speak Spanish fluently. When Mr. Himes moved to the United States, he attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and earned a Rhodes scholarship, according to himes.house.gov. As a result, he attended Oxford University in Oxford, England where he earned a degree in Latin American studies.
After graduation, Mr. Himes worked at Goldman Sachs as a banker in Latin America and New York, where he eventually advanced to vice president of the company, according to himes.house.govThen, in 2003, Mr. Himes ran the New York City branch of The Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit real estate services organization that offers affordable housing and community development, according to enterprisecommunity.comHis work with the organization led to the construction of multiple affordable housing units in New York.
Prior to his position in Congress, Mr. Himes also served as the Commissioner of the Housing Authority of Greenwich, a committee that offers affordable housing to the people of Greenwich, Connecticut, where he led the program through instituting reforms. This position drove his interest and involvement in politics, according to himes.house.gov
After working in an election campaign for the House of Representatives, Mr. Himes decided to run for office. Although he believed his chances of winning were slim, Mr. Himes ultimately succeeded and became a Connecticut Representative.

Congressman Jim Himes speaking to the Upper School Juliette Guice '17
Congressman Jim Himes speaking to the Upper School
Juliette Guice ’17

“I have a profound respect for what the government can do when the government gets it right,” Mr. Himes said. “When [they] get it right, amazing things happen.”
As a Connecticut Representative, Mr. Himes is responsible for introducing bills and resolutions, offering amendments, and serving on committees, according to house.gov. Although it is difficult to pass new legislation, Mr. Himes works on campaigning for issues that are important to his constituents, such as the continual improvement of early childhood education programs and the introduction of the College Affordability and Innovation Act. This measure created a new grant competition program that will promote the access of higher education to middle and low-income students, according to himesforcongress.com
During his talk with the Upper School, Mr. Himes discussed the political system of the United States, the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government, and his typical day in the House of Representatives. He also emphasized the importance of thinking critically about society’s current issues when voting for presidential candidates and legislative representatives.
Mr. Himes enjoys serving in the House because he believes the legislative branch is the most democratic branch of the government. He informed students that United States Senators serve for six years, while Representatives only serve for two terms. As a result, House Representatives must be more attuned to the will of the people.
“My constitutional role is to be deferential to the will of the people,” Mr. Himes said. “Critical thinking is important.”
Mr. Himes also spoke about his position on various issues during his reelection period. He stated his position as a socially liberal representative who advocates for equal marriage and gender rights. Still, Mr. Himes promotes small businesses, by taking a more conservative approach to the economy.
Furthermore, Mr. Himes explained that he decided to support the Iran nuclear deal, even though his constituency was split on the issue. This deal prevents Iran from developing nuclear weaponry, and further protects the United States, according to himesforcongress.com
Occasionally, Mr. Himes stays in the capital overnight, but in his hometown of Cos Cob, Connecticut, Mr. Himes takes time to be with his family and reach out to the people he represents. Last year, he hosted an event called “Coffee with your Congressman” at SoNo Harbor Café in Norwalk, Connecticut, where he interacted with his constituents and listened to their opinions over coffee.
Sophomore class president Emma Butler sees the value in constant communication with constituents.
“Being able to see an honest representation of the US government was helpful for us future voters to see how the government tries to reflect the views of the people,” Emma said.
After his talk, Mr. Himes held a question and answer session in which students were able to ask for his advice and opinions. Senior Anna-Luisa Brakman asked for his perspective on the nation’s bipartisan system, a question which intrigued much of the audience. Mr. Himes responded that he believes this system does work, even though parties can sometimes make people feel isolated and do not always have a candidate that is truly representative of their views. 
For high school students considering a career in politics, he advises them to take risks and work towards this goal. He recommends that eligible students should vote in order to have an impact in the upcoming presidential election. He also encourages high school students and those pursuing a career in politics to stay informed on national and international news. According to Mr. Himes, this knowledge is critical when congressmen wish to efficiently serve the people.
Finally, Mr. Himes suggests that students try a different career before entering into politics. He believes that a well-rounded background gives candidates and congressmen a fair balance between acting for the best interests of the country and effectively representing American citizens. 
“When you graduate college, go and do something else before you get into politics, so you have a set of skills and perspectives that can really add to the Legislative [work] you will subsequently do,” Mr. Himes said.
– Pau Barbosa, Features Editor