University welcomes two former members of the US Congress

Date 16.11.2015

The School of Social Sciences at the University of Northampton welcomed two former members of the US House of Representatives yesterday, who spoke at the Congress to Campus event at Park Campus.

Former representatives Hon. Claudine Schneider and Hon. Dennis Hertel discussed contemporary issues in American politics, including the presidential race, the debate over the federal budget and challenges facing the environment, before an audience of University students and A-Level pupils from local schools.

Republican Hon. Claudine Schneider, who represented the 2nd district of Rhode Island from 1981 to 1991, was the first and thus far only woman elected to Congress from the State of Rhode Island. In the House she served on the Science, Research and Technology Committee, specialising in environmental, energy and conservation issues.

Her Democrat counterpart, Hon. Dennis Hertel, was elected in 1980 to represent 14th District of Michigan in the House of Representatives. He retired in 1993. In the House he served as Democratic Whip for the Michigan Delegation and Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee.

Hon. Hertel and Hon.Schneider were joined at the event by politics expert Philip Davies, Professor of Politics at De Montfort University, and Ashlee Godwin, Deputy Editor of the Royal United Services Institute (the world’s oldest defence think-tank).

Hon. Hertel said: “It was great to see so many of the young people take such an interest in American politics – they had so many questions about the US Congress. We touched on so many subjects, including the rise of the Tea Party and of course, who the next president could be.”

Hon. Schneider was also impressed by the young audience’s appetite for politics, and urged students from the University to vote in the forthcoming UK General Election. She said: “It is essential for young people to understand the importance of voting – you are either part of the solution or part of the problem, and by voting you are very much part of the solution.

“We explained to the young people how voting impacts what happens in Parliament. It impacts on the quality of the healthcare you receive, the education and experience you receive at university, the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink – politics affects every aspect of life.”

Ron Mendel, Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Northampton, commented: “Congress to Campus is a unique opportunity for students to hear from those with personal experience at the highest levels of American government. We’re really grateful to both Claudine and Dennis for engaging with the questions from students and their teachers and sharing their insights with us.”

The Congress to Campus event was organised by the School of Social Sciences in association with the Eccles Centre for American Studies at The British Library and the US National Association of Former Members of Congress.

Pictured from left: Dennis Hertel, Claudine Schneider and Dr Ron Mendel.