Staff photo by Allison Potter
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr gives a civics lesson and answers questions from students at New Hanover High School on Thursday, Oct. 11.
Ukrainian exchange students participate
New Hanover High School students had a special civics lesson on Thursday, Oct. 11, as U.S. Sen. Richard Burr made a visit to talk about what lawmakers do in Congress.
Burr spoke with a large group of students and teachers gathered in the library, using a hypothetical example of free ice cream days at school to explain the many steps involved in taking an idea, making it a bill and passing it into law.
“You’ve done it exactly like we do it in Washington; you’ve just done it about a year and a half faster,” Burr, R-N.C., told the students.
Burr also took questions from students about a variety of topics, including gay marriage, (Burr said it was a state issue but that he voted to end the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.), abortion (Burr said that issue was decided by the Supreme Court.), and the upcoming presidential election (Burr said Mitt Romney was his preference because of the nation’s difficult financial issues.).
Burr noted the younger generation’s use of technology and the need for an electronically driven learning platform.
“It’s time for us to recognize the fact that if you communicate that differently than I did when I was your age, you probably learn differently than I did,” Burr said.
One student asked why Burr voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“This bill can’t be fixed,” Burr said. “It will over time raise the cost of health care, diminish the quality of what people receive and provide less benefits…It’s more focused on the process of health care and not on the outcome.”
Other questions included whether Burr, as a high school student, saw himself as a senator in the future.
“Absolutely not,” Burr said. “I had these wild dreams of playing in the NFL.”
Another student asked if Burr ever gets to meet the president.
“The short answer is yes,” Burr said. “Do you ever get invited to the principal’s office?”
Burr spent about an hour with the students and encouraged them to ask questions.
“Typically I’m going to get questions from students, and I got a few today, that their parents would never ask me at the Rotary Club when I speak at lunch,” Burr said during an interview following his talk. “They typically will ask me questions that they hear parents talk about around the dinner table but are too scared to ask. So I find that students will always be much more candid than adults.”
Among those in the audience were several students from Ukraine who were visiting for a couple weeks through the Foundation for International Professional Exchange.
“It’s extremely important to begin to expose kids in K through 12 to the global nature of the world, because our economy is global,” Burr said.
About 18 students and educators from Ukraine were visiting, New Hanover High principal Todd Finn said.
“It’s just a willingness to have our doors open, to have our hearts open,” Finn said.
The foundation began in the 1990s to bridge countries so teachers and students could meet and share ideas and cultures, said Nataliya Zdanovych, a foundation representative from Ukraine.
Several teachers commented that it was an incredible opportunity to have an elected official such as Burr talk to the children, said Jennifer Selden, a local director of student exchange for the program.
Audience members included New Hanover students Philip Green and Ryan Faircloth, who have visited the Ukraine, and Ukrainian students Dima Savchenko and Andrey Shelest, all 10th-graders.
“Being exposed to such a different part of the world kind of opens your mind,” said Green, who said his favorite part of Ukraine was the food, particularly the borscht soup.
“Going over there has definitely opened my mind to different perspectives,” Faircloth said.
Shelest said he liked how Americans use technology during school.
“In our country we (mostly) use books,” Shelest said.
Savchenko said he enjoyed a recent Powderpuff football game at New Hanover High.
“It was very funny,” Savchenko said.
This story has been updated since it was first reported on www.LuminaNews.com on Oct. 12.