BLUE HILL — U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith shared insight into his life in Washington Tuesday during a visit to the Blue Hill High School.
After a short presentation, he opened the floor up to questions from the high school students.
Smith said one of the main challenges of his job is balancing work with his family life. With two young children, he and his wife often travel together, splitting time between homes in Gering and Washington. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and being outdoors.
Every Wednesday, he meets with other representatives from Nebraska for a breakfast that is open to fellow Nebraskans visiting the nation’s capital. He said Nebraska is the state with the longest standing tradition of keeping that meal going.
The rest of his working time in the Capitol is split between voting duties and committee hearings.
Smith, a Republican, said the priorities of the Biden administration are not popular among many Nebraskans and there is a lot of concern about the direction of the country. When an issue is before him, he said he asks himself how issues he’s voting on will affect the future of the state and country.
“We have to focus on the future of our country, and sometimes that’s not easy,” he said.
One of the highlights of his career has been the ability to invite a person to attend the State of the Union address. His first guest was a favorite government teacher, who he was able to introduce to President George W. Bush.
Asked about his political future, Smith said he appreciates voters electing him to the position and doesn’t really have time to focus on anything past Congress.
Smith answered several questions about the current turmoil in Afghanistan. When asked if President Joe Biden should be impeached for his role in the turmoil in Afghanistan, Smith said they need to get Americans home safely first.
“Right now, I’d rather focus on how to protect our people in Afghanistan,” he said.
Besides, he said, a successful impeachment would leave the Vice President Kamala Harris in charge, which also is a concern.
“I wouldn’t be more comfortable with her as president,” he said.
He was also asked how he would handled the situation if he were president. He said the responsible course would be to keep a close eye on the country. The military has a presence in other countries and those positions are being manned without the same violence seen in Afghanistan.
“Maintaining a presence there doesn’t mean we’re engaged in conflict,” he said.
Another questioner asked if Smith supports a push for the COVID-19 vaccine. Smith said he was impressed by the innovation it took to develop the vaccine so quickly, but supports people’s rights to decide for themselves if they should take it.
He was asked about athletes kneeling during the National Anthem.
“I support their right to do that but disagree with the decision,” he said. “I don’t like the message kneeling sends to the families of people who were lost in military service.”
Asked if he thinks politicians are out of touch with real world America, Smith said no.
He said there is a lot of polarization in politics and representatives are looking at the interests of their respective states.
He said the push to make college free is a type of disconnect because it fails to recognize that making college free will devalue the experience.
He discouraged students from taking out more loans than necessary, saying that as student loans have become easier to obtain, the cost of college has increased.
He encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities provided through the public school system. At an average cost of more than $12,000 per student each year, he said, taxpayers want students to succeed.
“They want to see you do well,” he said. “No matter what the activity is, we want you to do well.”
When asked for advice for anyone considering politics, he said there are many opportunities to serve, be it at the local, state or federal level. He encouraged students to seek out ways to help their own communities in local government, with nonprofit organizations or a company investing in the community.
Despite the struggles in Washington and across the country, he said, the United States still is the best place to live.
“We still live in a country that offers more opportunities than anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Also during Tuesday’s visit to Blue Hill, Smith recognized student Libby Macklin for winning the Congressional Art Competition for the Third District, which means her submission will hang in the U.S. Capitol for one year.