Visiting Mikie Sherrill


Justin Chin, Guest Writer

Jim Lent

As I nervously raise my hand in the air to ask Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill a question, I look around at the sea of other hands raised amongst the hundreds of constituents gathered at this town hall meeting in Parsippany. Feeling anxious because the question I wanted to ask her was already asked, I knew it was now or never to have my voice heard. I caught the eye of one of Congresswoman Sherrill’s staff who walked towards me with a microphone. As I stood up to take the microphone, I could feel the crowd and the hundreds of eyes looking up at me including the congresswoman herself. Feeling a new sense of confidence, I looked down at my notebook and at the hastily scribbled question I had thought of minutes before. I locked eyes with Congresswoman Sherrill who gave me a warm smile, and I began to speak.

Flashback to the week before the town hall: I’m in AP U.S. Government and Politics, taught by Mr. Schwartz. We were discussing the upcoming town hall meeting with newly elected Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair). Originally, the town hall was supposed to take place in our town’s recreation center on Tuesday, but the event was pushed back to Sunday and moved to the Parsippany PAL because of the government shutdown. This gave our class extra time to prepare questions for the congresswoman, as Mr. Schwartz had assigned a paper on her first month in office.

The day of the town hall I felt confident and excited- since I knew exactly what I wanted to ask the congresswoman. As I walked into the PAL with fellow classmates Sarah Bernstein, Julia Levis, and Tommy Adamiak, the room was filled with hundreds of people from the 11th Congressional District. We were lucky and found four open seats to the side of the room, conveniently two rows behind where Mr. Schwartz was sitting. The town hall started soon after, with a reenactment of the Congresswoman being sworn in by a local judge. After giving her opening remarks it was time for her to answer questions from the audience. After hearing other people ask questions on a variety of topics including immigration, gun control, healthcare, and the shutdown I was ready to ask my question about military spending. That is when a man sitting in the row next to me stood up and asked the same exact question I was going to ask. After feeling frustrated and disappointed with myself I came up with a new question and didn’t feel confident in asking it. Tommy encouraged me to raise my hand and I gained back my confidence.

I stood up with the microphone in my hand, avoided the glances of the crowd, the flashes of the cameras and looked directly at the congresswoman. I heard my steady voice coming through the speakers and proceeded to read my question. I start by introducing myself and that I was a student at Whippany Park High School (with a quick shout-out to Mr. Schwartz). I then went on to explain that although I volunteered for her opponent, Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), in the 2018 midterm elections, I had great respect for Congresswoman Sherrill’s many years of public service in the Navy and as a federal prosecutor. I also went on the congratulate her for being the first woman to represent the 11th district. This was met with loud applause from the audience, which gave me the confidence to then continue and ask the Congresswoman what she planned to do to ease the political tension during this divisive time in our country. After receiving another round of applause and acknowledgment from the Congresswoman I sat down with a sigh of relief. The adrenaline had worn off and I was glad to finally be out of the spotlight; I was excited to see how she would answer my question. Congresswoman Sherrill explained that as a veteran, she would be reaching out across the aisle to work with other veterans on the issues. I thought this was a very good answer because as the Congresswoman put it, nothing unites us more than a love of serving your country.

After the conclusion of the event, everyone from our class congratulated me for being the only member of our class to ask the congresswoman a question. I was having a conversation with Mr. Schwartz when a man approached me and asked if he could talk with me. He introduced himself as a reporter with Politico, a journalism company that covers politics. The reporter wanted to know more about my experience working in the election and what I was learning in my Government class. After talking with the reporter, he explained that I may be included in an article he was working on about Congresswoman Sherrill, and how she won her seat representing the 11th Congressional District of New Jersey in the House of Representatives. After experiencing this unique opportunity of interacting with my elected representative and being interviewed by a reporter of a nationally syndicated company, I had the honor of actually meeting the Congresswoman. Sarah, Julia, Tommy, and I got in line to meet with the congresswoman after the meeting. She thanked me for my work during the campaign and contributing to our politics. After taking a group picture, we invited her to come to speak with our class. She graciously accepted our invitation and encouraged us to talk to her staff. She explained to us that she is very open to listening to our ideas and is encouraged by students taking an active role in our government.

Speaking with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and asking her a question during her first town hall meeting will be an experience I will never forget. I look forward to meeting with her again when she visits Whippany Park in the future, and I also look forward to seeing my name in a Politico article on the congresswoman. I hope to report on these future developments for Wildcats Roar soon.