The North Carolina senator has served in the Senate since January of 2005 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994.Currently, Burr serves as a ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, his government biography stated.
Burr opened Monday morning’s discussion by gauging the student’s knowledge of the legislative branch of the government and explained how the U.S. Senate may differ from the House of Representatives. He also explained how the Senate adheres by a guideline of specified rules known as Robert’s Rules of Order and how senators are expected to conduct themselves once granted floor time.
Following a brief tutorial, Burr began to describe in detail some of the challenges the United States government will face in the rest of 2009. Burr explained how the current condition of the national economy is in the worst state it has been in since the 1930s. He also explained how the economy’s forecast could become bleaker if the appropriate measures are not taken.
“I don’t need to tell the people of Ashe County that we are in the worst economic times of your lifetime,” Burr said.
Burr would later explain that the policies currently being implemented in the U.S. Congress would affect the lives of students for the rest of their lives. He also stated that the situation could worsen before it improves and said that the federal budge could “spin totally out of control” if serious changes are not made.
“Paying off our debt will fall on your children and your children’s children simply because it (debt) grows like a snowball,” Burr said.
Low civic participation at the polling booths was another area of concern that the senator shared with students. Burr explained that it was because of low voter participation that the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election was as close as it was. It is actually possible, Burr explained, to have nearly a 50-50 split in a close election and still have a president that 70 percent of voting Americans side against in terms of his political policies.
“I believe the higher level of participation you have the better the possibility you will have of getting the most qualified person, whether that person is me or not,” he explained.
Burr went on stress the importance of elected officials listening to public opinion. He praised former President Clinton’s implementation and “extensive use” of public polls because he said that it able the White House to “gauge the pulse of what we (citizens) wanted” regardless of the amount of criticism he received for such a move.
The importance of vigilance when collecting and gathering public information was another highlight of Burr’s speech as he urged students to remain cautious when it came to the type of media that they use in their daily lives.
“The challenge for us is to realize that not 100 percent of what is reported is accurate,” he said. Burr asked students how many times they had watched news broadcast earlier in the day and for it to change drastically by the time the evening news began to air.
Prior to the Q & A session, Burr stated that the missing link in facing some of these daunting challenges may rest in “enlisting American people to get involved” in terms of eradicating some of those dilemmas.
Burr then opened the floor to students to ask questions about the current state of the nation. He had already explained that the students were free to ask whatever they desired as “nothing was off limits.” When asked by one student if he did see a light at the end of tunnel in terms of the future of the economy, Burr explained that it looked doubtful.
“The truth is, I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, we haven’t done things we need to do to turn the economy around,” he said. Burr also said that the economy would not take a reversal until the devaluation of the housing market ceases.
The hot topic of same-sex marriages was brought up by one student during the questioning portion. Burr explained that “the federal government has numerous references (concerning same-sex marriages) predominantly in the IRS code.” He went on to say that it is essential for the government to define what marriage is for the purpose of filing income taxes.
While answering a question pertaining to the state of the nation’s educational system, Burr urged students to complete grade school and pursue higher education. Low national high school graduation rates will affect the nation’s future workforce, Burr explained. The national graduation rate is right at 70 percent as Burr cited that those are “statistics of a developing nation.
“The jobs being created today will not be offered to those without a high school diploma,” he said. Burr stated that every student present had the “necessary tools” to complete high school and the financial means to allocate funds for a college education.
Burr also answered questions concerning his role in a party that is now viewed as a minority in Washington.
“In many ways, being the minority is liberating because the majority are the ones who responsible for setting an agenda,” Burr said. “I find that when I am in the minority I have more time to delve into policy, especially when the other team is in the White House.”
Following eager student questions, social studies instructor Terry Williams explained that he was “delighted” by the caliber of questions that the students asked and how the questions were “off the cuff” in terms of originality. He also explained how fortunate the school was to have Burr visit as many of the civic classes’ students could relate his speech directly to their studies.
“Having a U.S. Senator speak about the legislative process of the government is invaluable,” Williams said. “It was really quite an experience having a senator here.”
For information on Burr or how to contact him, please visit burr.senate.gov/public/.