Senator pays visit to Burlington

Blumenthal responds to student questions, speaks about policy


Mrs. Mandel

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., visited Lewis S. Mills High School on Nov. 20. He spoke with students briefly after addressing juniors and seniors in the auditorium.

Sam Dorman, Contributing writer

A leaked surprise found its way into the halls of Lewis Mills High school one recent Tuesday: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would visit the 850-student body of Mills that late-November afternoon. As students settled down in the auditorium, Principal Chris Rau explained the details surrounding the unique visit.

“This is not a political rally,” he explained, detailing that the school was not using the Democratic visitor as an attempt to push political views upon students. Blumenthal, in his freshly pressed suit, entered the auditorium and began speaking about his professional background as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general. A town-hall like forum was encouraged with some pre-written questions submitted to Principal Rau via the social studies department and its classes. Although Blumenthal appears frequently on CNN and other news outlets engaged in sometimes inflammatory and sharp commentary amid political debates, at Mills he struck a more informational and reserved tone.

Mrs. Mandel
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., visited Lewis S. Mills High School on Nov. 20. He addressed juniors and seniors in the auditorium.

Some students’ questions were answered from pre-selected, submitted ones. Other students, such as Junior Nicholas Cavoli, raised his hand impromptu and asked his own questions. Cavoli, a strong gun rights advocate, went head-to-head with the liberal Democratic senator. Cutting off Blumenthal, Cavoli argued that gun owners should be able to freely carry their licensed weapons onto school grounds as a means of protection. He connected it to a story about his father driving a sibling to school the same day of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown and recalling that his father actually had to turn around to stow his gun because the law would have prohibited him bringing it on school grounds. He implied that good people with licensed guns could help by intervening. Blumenthal politely disagreed, mentioning the gun safety bills that he hopes can work their way into United States code. He wrapped up the questions upon a signal from Principal Rau.

While most students exited, several stayed back taking pictures, shaking hands, and discussing questions about everything from health care to college costs with the senator. He welcomed student discussion and pictures, extending his hours-long visit to around 2 p.m. He explained to the lingering crowd that while senators have busy schedules, he attempts to return to Connecticut toward the end of each week before flying back to Washington. The senator’s office had contacted Superintendent Alan Beitman’s office to set up the visit to Mills. Principal Rau explained other public officials have visited the school in the past, and that he thought the visit represented a good opportunity for students to have a dialogue with a prominent politician.

Senior Lucy Gottfried noted that while she may hold conservative views, she appreciated the senator taking time out of his schedule to speak with a small school like Mills.

Senior Allison Rau agreed.

“Accountability to your constituents is an important aspect of any (Congress) member,” explained Rau. She sat front row during the speech, excited and wowed by the senator’s remarks.

“I will definitely cherish the picture I took with him,” she said, smiling.