Congressman Alan S. Lowenthal '62 (D-Calif.) and Congressman Rodney P.
Frelinghuysen '69, L.H.D.'01 (R-N.J.) in the Cannon House Office Building following
a luncheon with HWS students.

Conversations Across the Aisle

by Andrew Wickenden ’09

The 10th anniversary of the annual Day on the Hill program offered not only a strong lineup of panels, speakers and site visits for HWS students, but also new events, including a luncheon with Congressman Rodney P. Frelinghuysen '69, L.H.D.'01 (R-N.J.) and Congressman Alan S. Lowenthal '62 (D-Calif.). We asked the Congressmen about the conversations happening in Congress and with their constituents.

Do you think the two parties are talking enough?

Lowenthal: No, however, relationships in Congress take a long time to develop into trusting relationships. The members simply do not spend enough time together to allow those relationships to develop. As an example of how Congress can work, my relationship with Congressman Frelinghuysen has been a very positive experience in that we listen to each other, we respect each other, and we like each other. He has been a great ally in supporting STEM education.

Frelinghuysen: The parties can never talk too much. Every member of Congress was elected and sent to Congress to get things done for his or her constituents. While the Republicans are in the majority, we have seen clearly that bipartisan cooperation is an absolute imperative for bipartisan action.

What can be done to enhance the conversation across the aisle?

Lowenthal: I believe that a large part of the political process is listening to what others have to say. You have to be willing to sit down and let the other person have their say. I may not agree, but the only way to find common ground is to actually hear both sides.

Frelinghuysen: I would suggest that the rest of the House learn from the example of the Appropriations Committee. Our members understand that differences of opinion and vigorous discussions are to be expected. We regularly debate the most difficult issues and, yet, find a way to move our must-pass funding bills forward.

What topics are dominating your conversations with constituents?

Lowenthal: The main thing that comes up right now is the Presidential Election. Beyond that, my constituents talk to me about the kinds of things that impact everyone in their everyday lives. It doesn’t matter if they are blue collar, white collar, executives or laborers. They are worried about economic security, job security and national security. Will the future be better for my children? These are not complicated to understand. They are issues we all confront every single day.

Frelinghuysen: Despite an economy that reportedly was “recovering,” my constituents are still very concerned about their careers, their jobs, their children’s future and their own investments for the future. They do not feel comfortable or optimistic with the path this nation is on. And of course, they worry about their family’s security in an increasingly dangerous world.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.