Miami University Hamilton (MUH) will be hosting two former congressmen Tuesday, April 20.
MUH Center for Civic Engagement along with MUH senior Megan Casey, the Center’s student coordinator will host Congress to Campus in the city of Hamilton featuring former congressmen, Hon. Gilbert W. Gutknecht and Hon. Romano Mazzoli.
Annie Miller, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, said the Congress to Campus event is open to students, faculty, staff and the entire Hamilton community.
Participants include City Council, Vision Commission of Hamilton, an Immigration Panel, Latin American Studies classes, health care discussion groups, nursing classes and city banks such as U.S. Bank and First Financial Bank.
The series of events began Sunday, April 18 with a welcome dinner at the Riverbank Café in downtown Hamilton.
To get the congressmen to come to MUH, Casey had to apply to be considered for the Congress to Campus program through the Congress to Campus Office sponsored by the Congress established Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership in order to provide programs, such as the Congress to Campus program, to young people promoting public service and leadership in communities.
“We really stressed on the fact that MUH is a very community oriented campus,” Casey said of the application.
Casey said MUH consists of several students of the Hamilton community.
“So that works out really well since they can already benefit from what the congressmen have to say and bring it back to their community and become really involved,” Casey said.
Casey said the congressmen who participate in the program come for the purpose of stressing the importance of community and being a leader within your community.
“The basis of it is they come and talk about not only what they did in Congress and how Congress works but the importance of being a leader in your community, like civic engagement, being involved outside of just voting,” Casey said. “Just really doing stuff for your community.”
Miller said the event and the former congressmen will focus upon the importance of bipartisanship and democracy. Gutknecht represents the Republican Party and Mazzoli represents the Democratic Party.
“They are just going to talk a little bit about how their work has been so far in working with the Stennis Center and how other Congress to Campus events have been run,” Miller said. “But then they will also open it up for any kind of question about federal or local governing.”
Miller mentioned a specifically interesting event within the Congress to Campus program the congressmen will lead. The event, “Achievement Gap,” was during dinner Monday night.
“It is a new way to think about participating in democracy so instead of debate or the town hall style meetings we saw this summer, it’s really communities coming together to make decisions in a deliberative way and in a way where everyone’s opinion is apart of finding solutions,” Miller said of the discussion.
The purpose of the discussion was to give MUH students the opportunity to think about how they want to participate in democracy, see themselves as active participants, and to know they are responsible for participating.
Miller said the idea of bringing Congress to Campus was thrown around during discussion in 2009 with Casey but it was Casey’s final decision to apply that brought the program to Hamilton.
“Megan actually filled out an application and coordinated all of this, we, as a staff in the Center of Civic Engagement, decided we thought this was going to be a pretty phenomenal project,” Miller said.
The program continues through Tuesday, April 20 ending with an informal discussion with the former congressmen’s experience in the U.S. House of Representatives at the Egghead Café in Hamilton.