Congressman urges students to get involved, make a difference

Above: U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler meets with students in WCU's Teaching Fellows Program.

Above: U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler meets with students in WCU’s Teaching Fellows Program.

“It’s your generation that is going to decide the future of this country,” Shuler said Tuesday, Sept. 2. “It’s your generation that is going to make a difference. It’s right at the tips of your fingers. Don’t wait for members of Congress to do it.” He told an overflow crowd in the theater of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center that it takes an average of seven years for legislation to go from an idea to an enacted law.

One way that students are helping to make a difference is by going to college in the first place, Shuler said. “I bet some of you are the first in your family to go to college,” he said. “What kind of positive role model will you be for your family and your community, and what kind of precedent are you setting?”

Shuler also reminded the audience that the United States continues to lose ground to other nations in important areas of higher education, and that the country that once led the world in the number of college graduates in mathematics and science is now lagging behind. “We can’t allow any country to be ahead of us, but we have the opportunity to make changes, and it’s going to start with you guys.”

There’s reason for optimism, Shuler said. “More college students voted in the last primary than at any time in the history of our country,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what political party. What matters is that you guys got out there and voted.”

A Democrat from Waynesville, Shuler spoke at the invitation of members of Western’s Political Science Club, fielding numerous questions from students, including campus journalists.

While on campus, he also toured WCU’s new $16.7 million Campus Recreation Center, with 73,000 square feet of exercise space, and met with students from Western’s Teaching Fellows Program, which provides state-sponsored scholarship assistance for teacher education majors who agree to teach a minimum of four years in the state’s public schools after graduation.

Prior to his public remarks, Shuler received a football helmet from Chip Smith, WCU’s director of athletics, and members of the Catamount football team in recognition of his assistance in helping a shipment of new artificial turf for Bob Waters Field through the customs process en route from its manufacturer overseas.