Ottawa Times: Congressman Kinzinger answers students' questions at Putnam County

On votes: 'For me, it’s about doing what’s right'

Putnam County High School students took part in a question-and-answer session with U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, on Thursday during a visit to the school.

Students took the opportunity to pick Kinzinger’s brain about various ongoing issues including the tensions between Syria and Turkey, the funding of President Donald Trump’s wall and homelessness among veterans. Students were also curious about Kinzinger’s long-term plan for Congress and whether he used personal beliefs or followed political affiliations when voting.

With Kinzinger making recent headlines for criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, sophomore Lillian Sandberg asked Kinzinger where he stood on the increasing tensions between Syria and Turkey.

He did not hold back, calling the situation a “catastrophe.”

“America didn’t stand by its word and that will have an impact on the future,” Kinzinger said.

“There’s going to be another war someday. … We’re going to need people to stand up with us. How do you convince people we’re going to stick by them after doing something like this?”

Trump made the decision to pull 50 troops out of northern Syria earlier this week, paving a way for Turkey to attack Syrian Kurds that were U.S. allies that helped control and defeat Islamic State terrorists.

Kinzinger said if he was in Trump’s shoes, his first move in solving this issue would be to first off, get rid of Twitter — an answer met with a loud applause among students.

He’d then encourage Turkey to stop their attacks, cut off their ability to purchase weapons from NATO, tell the Russians to get out of Syria, and work with parties on a peace treaty.

Jack Buffington, a Putnam County senior, asked Kinzinger what his opinion was on Trump using money from the general defense fund for a wall at the Mexico border.

The congressman said while he did not like Trump using emergency funding to do it, he supported the wall because of the ongoing crisis at the border. He added the crisis has nothing to do with immigration, but rather the money and human trafficking issues created by the drug cartel. Kinzinger said he wants immigration reform, which includes border security.

Junior Lucas Strawn asked Kinzinger what was more important to him when voting — personal beliefs and moral obligations or following political affiliations.

“For me, it’s about doing what’s right,” Kinzinger said.

He added while members of Congress have an allegiance to their party to some extent, it’s not uncommon to stray away from the party when it comes to something he feels strongly about, for example, his criticism of Trump for pulling troops out of Syria.

“It risks making people mad, but you have to do what you think is right,” he said.

Before fielding questions from students, Kinzinger shared his story of how he got into politics and what led him to being a congressman in his early 30s.

Because of his young age, he spent most of his early career being discouraged by people who said he couldn’t represent a district of 700,000 people. But he did it anyway. Today, he is serving his ninth year in Congress.

He also shared how 9/11 changed his life and influenced his Air Force career. When he got out of the Air Force in the summer of 2009, that's when he decided to run for Congress. He said it’s where he is supposed to be right now.

He passed on advice to the students by encouraging them to never chase money in a career as it doesn’t change the level of happiness. Chasing what one is most passionate about is where they will find the most happiness, all while leaving behind a legacy of good.

Lastly, he urged students to learn to communicate issues with one another without hate. He said today’s generation in politics is relying on future generations' ability to debate with one another while maintaining respect for each other.


The original article with photos from the day can be found on the Ottawa Times website, via Shaw Media, here.