Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), the youngest member of Congress and voted “hottest freshman” by readers of The Huffington Post, spoke to students Wednesday evening in the Intercultural Center about his fast track to Congress, his experience as a first-time senator and his views on the current state of the Republican Party.
Schock, 28, explained what motivated him to enter politics in 2001, when he was a 19-year-old elected to the school board of Peoria, Ill.
“I really got involved in politics not because anyone was pushing me that direction, but simply because I saw a need on my local school board and thought, `I’m going to step up and I can do a good job and I have something to offer,'” Schock said.
After becoming the youngest school board president in history at 23, according to his Web site, Schock decided to run for the Illinois House of Representatives. In 2004, he defeated the 8-year incumbent, Democrat Ricca Slone, by 235 votes.
Since his election to the House of Representatives in 2008, he has been appointed to deputy minority whip and has been given three committee assignments, more than most congressional newcomers usually receive.
“The fact that he is only a few years older than most of our members makes his appeal to our group even stronger,” Geoffrey Bible (SFS ’12), chairman of the Georgetown University College Republicans, said.
Schock said that although many questioned his qualifications at first because of his age, he believes that age diversity among congressmen is crucial.
“People of our generation have a different view on life, and while I would suggest that not everybody in the [U.S.] Congress ought to be our age, if you took a look at the [Congress], which I’m sure you have, you know that most of [Congress] doesn’t look like anything like you or I,” he said. “And when you get too much of one thing, you get skewed government.”
After describing his path to Congress, Schock fielded questions regarding his views on the government as a whole and on the Republican Party’s present and future.
“I actually think one of the reasons why we have a great shot at winning the majority is because the issues of the day are economic concerns,” he said. “That is an issue our party owns, I believe, and it is also an issue that unites our party.”
Reflecting on Schock’s speech, Bible provided some political commentary.
“I think the point that resonated for me was that we need to be a big-tent party. We can’t expect a Republican from the West to be the same as one from the Northeast and one from the Midwest,” Bible said.
As Schock discussed the problems facing government today and his proposed solutions, however, not everyone in the audience agreed with his politics.
In response to a comment Schock made on the high deficit accumulated during President Obama’s term, Isabel Baker (SFS ’13) said, “The deficit would have gone up no matter who the president was because we’re going through one of the worst financial crises in history.”
“He was looking at a partial truth rather than a whole truth,” she said later. “His numbers were correct figures but they mean nothing without the context in which they actually exist.”