ST. GEORGE – Dixie High School was among the stops made by Rep. Chris Stewart in Southern Utah Tuesday. Stewart shared his thoughts on aspects of the Constitution while also taking questions from the student body concerning various issues.
“This is one of the fun things I get to do,” Stewart said to a group of over 100 students gathered in a small auditorium. Among the students were members of Dixie High’s Junior Air Force ROTC program.
After a brief introduction, Stewart mentioned the recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hansen which put a halt, at least for the time being, to immigration policies enacted by President Barack Obama via executive order. The congressman said the issue was not necessarily immigration, but more about how it was brought about – namely without the Congress.
“What we’re really talking about here is the Constitution,” Stewart said, and spoke to the concept of the separation of powers between the branches of government detailed in the founding document.
Read more about Stewart’s reaction to the court’s ruling here.
“’All legislative powers herein shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,’” Stewart said, reciting the first part of Article I from of the document as he held up a pocket-copy before the students.
“That’s where we went cross-eyed with this administration,” he said. “We can’t let (legislative) power go from the Congress to the president.”
While he said he doesn’t agree with actions taken by Obama on many issues, Stewart nonetheless stressed how he respects the office he holds.
The Constitution is easy to understand, Stewart said, adding that the Founding Fathers intended it to be that way. A person doesn’t need a degree in Constitution studies to understand it, he said.
Stewart also spoke to the value of hard work, saying it was how he was able to survive officer and pilot training after joining the Air Force.
Other pilot-candidates in the program were much smarter than he was, he said, yet they were washed out by the flight instructor one after another. Afraid he would be next, Stewart said, he resolved to work harder than the rest and graduate the class.
In the end, Stewart said, he graduated at the top of his class because he worked harder. This ultimately resulted in his becoming a B-1 bomber pilot and his 14-year career in the military.
“You can do whatever you want in life as long as you are willing to the work,” he told the students.
Questions asked by the assembled students ranged from what the government was doing to fight the Islamic State terrorist group to how Stewart’s being in Congress affected his family life.
“This is an incredibly heartless, evil organization,” Stewart said of the Islamic State.
As a member of two subcommittees under the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Stewart said he is briefed regularly on ISIS/ISIL and other potential threats.
“It would scare you what they are doing and what they are capable of,” he said.
Obama has issued a request to Congress to create an Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, against ISIS which would give the president the associated war powers to deal with the group.
Stewart said Congress would like to pass an AUMF, but did not like the idea of restrictions Obama placed in his request, such as a three-year limit on military operations, along with other potentially restrictive measures – something Stewart said he doesn’t agree with.
“We could defeat them if the president wants to,” he said. “We’ll see what he decides to do.”
Other concerns students expressed related to continued political gridlock in Washington, D.C., as well as poverty.
Steward said two things he felt were big issues right now were national defense: “It has to be the one thing government cannot fail on,” and the national debt: “You guys are going to have to pay for it,” he said.
On a more personal note, a student asked Stewart how being in Congress affected his family.
“Every week I’m in D.C., except one week out of the month, maybe,” he said. “It stinks for your family.”
However, his not being home was also how things were while he was in the Air Force, Stewart said.
Among the items Stewart said he wanted the students to take away from their meeting included the resolve to work harder than anyone else, and the understanding that the upcoming generation will have to continue the fight for the Constitution.
“You are going to have to fight for our Constitution because there are people, and powers and organizations that exist today that would destroy our Constitution if they could,” Steward said. “And they’re hoping that you guys will let them.”
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