Payton Clark, Assistant News Editor
From Capitol Hill to Bison Hill, it is important to be well informed in the world of politics.
This Wed., Nov. 2, Congressman Steve Russell of Oklahoma’s District 5 will be speaking to OBU staff and students about his career and Congress. The session will be hosted at 2 p.m. in the Tulsa Royalties Auditorium in Bailey Business Center.
In a unique opportunity for students, Congressman Russell will be discussing his time in Congress, as well as his trips to Syrian refugee camps and his service in the US Army in relation to the capture of Sadam Hussein.
Students will have the chance to ask Russell questions and learn more about his role and the role of Congress.
“He plans to speak some on topics of his own choosing,” assistant professor of political science Dr. Christopher McMillion said.
“It’s a great opportunity to go hear some of what he has to say just in general, and to ask questions of him for Shawnee and about what the role of a congressman is, what he anticipates in the upcoming legislative session, what his own priorities are and how he looks to advance the interests of the Oklahomans he represents.”
According to professor of history Dr. Glenn Sanders, Russell’s position as a national figure makes the event even more special and important to attend, considering they can speak directly to their representative.
“Given the schedules of national representatives, it is rare that OBU students get to talk with and hear from their U.S. congressional representatives,” Sanders said. “Congressman Russell’s running for reelection, so the students will have a chance to communicate their ideas and concerns to this district’s representative.”
Students should arrive with ideas in mind, McMillion said.
“I would encourage students to come thinking of questions that they might be interested in asking if they had the opportunity,” McMillion said. “General topics could include what Congress has been doing for its last session, during Russell’s term or what he specifically has done for the people of Oklahoma in Congress.”
McMillion also said he believes the event would be a good chance to ask Russell about the functions of Congress and its position.
“More broadly you might be interested in what he makes of Congress’ role in our nation today and the kind of leadership that he wants to exercise in his position as a US Representative,” McMillion said. “Or you might just be interested in some nuts and bolts of details about how things work on Capitol Hill.”
There will be multiple chances for OBU students to hear from Congressman Russel on Wednesday.
“He’s meeting with a small group of students at 1:00 p.m. then a large group at 2 p.m.,” Sanders said. “The small group will include Political Science majors and students from my course on civil discourse, and the second meeting is open to the entire OBU community.”
While some students are required to attend a private session with Congressman Russell for different classes, other general history classes like Civ are offering extra credit for attending.
“I recall several occasions when certain guest speakers would come to campus and professors would offer their class to meet there or extra credit for attending, participating in discussion or writing a paper on the event,” Russell’s staff assistant and OBU grad Cecilia Perez said. “In some occasions several classes from different departments met up at Bailey or Shawnee Hall.”
The idea for the event was created by Perez, who works as a staff assistant for Congressman Russell, as well as several of OBU faculty members.
“Perez…contacted us to see if we would be interested in hosting a member of congress, which of course we are,” McMillion said. “We decided we wanted to make sure it was an event that was open to the entire OBU community, so that everybody has a chance to benefit from his visit, which is also why we’ve chosen to do this particular speaking format.”
McMillion believes that speaking with a congressman is beneficial to students, even if he represents a district other than their own.
“It is an opportunity to see a local representative in action and get an idea for what the person who is in charge of representing the interests of Shawnee and Oklahoma City, is looking to do in Congress and his plans and projections for congressional actions in the future,” McMillion said.
A chance like this doesn’t come around every day, McMillion said.
“This is not something that happens on an annual basis; it’s a fairly unique opportunity that doesn’t come up all that often, which is, again, one of the benefits for students, faculty and staff,” McMillion said. “It’s not just a colleague or member of the Congressman’s staff talking; it is a chance to hear from and talk to the representative himself, which isn’t something you can just do on a regular basis.”
Along with the main session with Russell, select students or interested parties will have plenty of other opportunities to hear from him.
“There is another event available for students to attend, but it is a more limited preselected list for a closer conversation,” McMillion said. “The Congressman will certainly be doing other events around his district as well.”