Midland students get chance to hear, question Grassley

Midland student Jacob Shoaff (standing, left) poses a question to Sen. Charles Grassley Jan. 26. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Associate Editor

     Students of the Midland Community School District have attended Sen. Charles Grassley’s town hall meetings at various sites in recent years.

     This time, Grassley came to them.

     The recently re-elected senator visited Midland to witness the district’s ongoing school construction, and to conduct an assembly for grades 5-12, on Thursday, Jan. 26.

     Grassley answered Midland students’ questions about a variety of issues, including the recent women’s marches in protest of President Donald Trump, the nation’s division, education, the Keystone pipeline, and more during a 45-minute assembly in the high school gym.

     Then, after a short tour of the campus, Grassley spent another 15 minutes answering questions from area media members.

     The visit came about after Midland social studies teacher Stephanie Kaftan emailed an invitation to Grassley.

     Once Grassley accepted, students prepared for the visit by working together to come up with questions. They picked out the best ones, practiced reading them in class, and then offered them to the senator, with students taking turns reading them. Twenty-two of the group’s 25 questions, Kaftan said, wound up being asked and answered.

     “I didn’t help them develop question ideas,” Kaftan said.

     The first one asked Grassley how he felt about the recent women’s marches.

     “I feel very good about it, because in America, it’s protected by the constitution,” Grassley replied. “People were exercising their constitutional rights, and they were exercised in a very peaceful way.”

     Asked about the nation’s division, Grassley said that is not a new thing, but that it is caused, in part, by social networking.

     “The country is not divided because of President Trump,” he said. “The country was divided before President Obama, and maybe even before President Bush.”

     Asked how the nation can be brought together, he said, “What it boils down to is, we have to have respect for each other’s point of view. If we do, we’re going to be a stronger nation.”

     Regarding the appointment of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Grassley said she shouldn’t, and won’t, have an effect on how education is conducted in Iowa, nor on where students go to school.

     “We want to leave as much decision-making as we can, here (in Iowa),” he said. “New York City’s problems aren’t the same as we have here in Iowa.

     “Only you and your parents are going to decide where you are going to school,” he said. “So there’s no way the secretary of education in Washington, D.C. can say to your parents, or to your school, what the situation is. The constitution won’t allow her to do that. The primary decision is in the hands of the parents, and that’s where it should be.”

     On agriculture, Grassley said farmers have a safety net, and that will be maintained. He also said the market will continue to determine prices.

     The senator spoke in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

     “It will help out Iowans in two ways,” he said. “One, it’s cheaper to transport raw petroleum from a well to a refinery by pipeline than it is by train. Doing it by pipeline is also environmentally safer than using the railroad.”

     In the media session following the assembly, Grassley answered a question about President Trump’s proposed border wall.

     “Securing our border is such a major thing, for keeping terrorists out, and to make sure that our immigration laws are followed. Secure borders are also important for quote-unquote sovereignty of your nation,” Grassley said.

     He was also asked whether he was surprised by Trump’s election.

     “I believe I was one of those doubters,” Grassley said. “I very much wanted him to be elected, because I didn’t want a third term of Obama, but I thought it was a real long shot, and it was. He had to carry three states that hadn’t been carried by Republicans since 1988.

     “He had a message that nobody else had, talking to people who normally sit out an election.”

     Afterward, Kaftan said she was happy about the event.

     “I was very impressed with our students’ behaviors and attentiveness,” she said. “Regardless of anyone’s political affiliation, it was a great experience.”


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