The day this newsletter is being distributed, the 13th
of November, 2019, happens to be World Kindness Day
. It’s an apt day to talk about Representative Joe Negues’ program at Boulder Rotary Club last Friday.
Because it is World Kindness Day, the program recap starts at the end of Representative Neguse’s program. After being thanked by our responder, Representative Negues asked the BRC audience for a favor. He said that we (indicating himself and all of us) need to find a way to bring “decency and humanity and generosity” back into our daily lives. He asked and encouraged us, as we go about our daily business, to talk to and listen to someone who may see the world a little differently than we might. Thinking perhaps of the 4 Way Test.
Joe Neguse was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives a year ago. Before his election he founded New Era Colorado, an organization to get young people involved in politics; he had graduated from University of Colorado, College of Law; was an Assistant to Andrew Romanoff; served as a Regent of the University of Colorado from 2008 to 2015; was appointed as the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, and managed to practice as lawyer. He’s thirty-five years old and he and his wife Andrea welcomed their first child, Natalie, fourteen months ago.
Once elected to Congress, Representative Neguse rapidly rose to a leadership position in the freshman class and was named to the prestigious Judiciary Committee, a position usually reserved for the best and brightest.
It has been a tumultuous year that has included a controversial Supreme Court nomination, unusually high levels of conflict between President and Congress, and a trip with a congressional delegation to study the plight of Representative Neguse’s parents’ home country of Eritrea.
Having done much of his public service work and university in Boulder, Representative Neguse had many friends in the BRC audience. His friend and mentor Dorothy Rupert also officiated his marriage to his wife Andrea. Others like Merrill Glustrom and Judy Herreid helped with his election to the Board of Regents.
Representative Neguse’s first eleven months in office have been interesting, fascinating and continues to require lots of energy and wherewithal to keep leaving his wife and baby to go to Washington, D.C. He shared that his daughter just recently learned to walk. Unfortunately, he was in Washington at the time his daughter Natalie first walked. He said he was sad to miss this milestone in his daughter’s life but his wife shared a great video of the moment, and the thought of his daughter, brought him a great feeling of hope- he feels that the best days are ahead of us.
Representative Neguse shared that he believes that hope for the future has been an ongoing thought throughout his first year in Congress. He said 2018 was an interesting time to be a Freshman member of Congress. There were 90 new members of Congress elected- about one-fifth of the House of Representatives changed over. It was the largest class of new members in over 80 years. It is also the most diverse new class of Congress people. The average age of Congress dropped by 10 years because of the newly elected. The first black members of Congress were elected from Massachusetts, from Connecticut and of course, from Colorado. It is also one of the largest class of elected Congress people who had prior government service experience. (That experience includes veterans from different branches of the military, those who served in the Department of Defense and other security positions among others.) And they were all sworn in during a government shut-down.
Representative Neguse feels that this Freshmen class of Congress, was elected with the spirit that all of them should be finding ways to work together, and “recognizing that no one political party has a monopoly on good ideas.” He said that idea has stayed largely consistent throughout his last 11 months.
As an example of that spirit of working together, Representative Neguse shared that he was able to join a Republican Freshman Representative from North Dakota, (they both serve on the House’s Select Committee on the Climate) in a trip to Boulder County to demonstrate some of the benefits of regenerative agriculture work being done here. He said that people from both parties want to work to find solutions to the crisis and this is one way they are trying.
Representative Neguse said that even if you are not reading about it in the paper, or seeing it on the news, most of the legislative work being done in Congress is bipartisan.
Reresentative Neguse serves on three Congressional committees; the Natural Resources Committee, (important to him and to Boulder County because 52% of the district is federal public lands); the Climate Change Committee, (they are doing a lot of work on carbon sequestration and other regenerative agriculture practices), and the Judiciary Committee. He said that while the Judiciary Committee is in the news for the impeachment proceedings, much of the work the Committee does deals with things like intellectual property and commercial law. (Before being elected, Representative Neguse was a commercial law litigator and a regulatory attorney.) The normal work of the Judiciary Committee is largely bipartisan as well.
Representative Neguse also mentioned the Immigration Reform Subcommittee. He said that the Committee has had ongoing talks across party lines that have also been fruitful- working towards a bill that will be presented by both parties.
Mentioning “the elephant in the room,” the impeachment inquiry, Representative Neguse said that all Representatives to Congress take an oath to defend the Constitution. Representative Neguse said he keeps that oath in mind at all times. He said that he as also kept as a mantra throughout all his public service, “to try to always empathize with those who have a different worldview than our own.” He believes strongly, like Rotarians, that everyone has different experiences that inform their judgement and we ought to value each and every person and be willing to have thoughtful conversations. He hopes those conversations will lead to better friendships, better partnerships and in the context of legislation, better policy outcomes.
Representative Neguse ended his program by sharing that as he and his wife were looking back at the election (a year and a day before his program at BRC) and he remembered that just before the election he got to tour the Anschutz Medical Campus. In the children’s long term care wing he saw a quote a child had posted on their communal board. The quote said, “fear is contagious but so is hope
.” He imagined the child who posted the quote, being in that hospital, fighting a long term illness or disease, in very tough circumstances, tougher than anything he’s ever experienced. Representative Neguse thinks that quote is meaningful in many current contexts- fear for the environment, fear of personal circumstances, fear about the future of our country. Those fears can be contagious. But his hope is that people will remember that hope is also contagious. He feels that the work Rotarians do, the conversations and the service that we do, inspires hope. Representative Neguse believes he also has an obligation to make sure people don’t lose hope, so he will continue his work in service as long as he is given the privilege of representing this “wonderful community!”
Representative Neguse's staff has asked that we not post the video of his program and BRC is honoring that request.