Garrett visits students

Published 1:04 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Congressman Tom Garrett spoke to senior students at Central High School last Wednesday about the challenges young adults face, the pressures associated with social media and encouraging them to believe in their ability to create societal change.

John Long, principal of Central High School, said when introducing Garrett that Garrett is the first Congressman to visit and address students at the school.

Alan Hershberger, government teacher at Central High School, said he sent an email in the fall requesting Garrett to speak to his students.

He said he received a response from Garrett’s office two months later.

“I was really excited to see the email in my mailbox,” Hershberger said.

Garrett, who represents Virginia’s Fifth District, spoke about challenges that young adults face.

“You guys have challenges that I can’t even fathom,” Garrett said, citing social media and societal issues.

In discussing these challenges, he spoke about another young adult, Barbara Rose Johns, who took a stand against racial injustice in the school system.

“A 16-year-old girl led a walkout at Moton High School in Farmville, ” Garrett said. “It was the only student-initiated case rolled into Brown v. Board of Education.”

He noted that Johns’ family had to move as they faced death threats by community members.

Also addressing the threats received by Patrick Henry in his stance toward abolition, Garrett said both Johns and Henry stood up for what they believed.

“All of the opportunities that you have, and they’re not perfect,” Garrett said. “But, man, the chances that you have are built on the backs of blood and sweat and tears of people like that.”

Garrett encouraged students that while he did not want to tell them how to think, he wanted them to see their potential to change the world.

“You’re going to face adversity,” Garrett said. “Things are going to be tough, but success is how you define it. Your passions. Your actions. If you want to cure cancer, please cure cancer. If you want to run a corner store and make somebody’s day and may keep somebody from hurting themselves … both of those change the world.”

He took questions by students and faculty about societal issues. Shane Duers asked about Garrett’s stance on gun control, Parental Involvement Coordinator Meri Page Spencer asked on behalf of a student who had to be absent about Garrett’s stance on social media and politics and Samantha Hurdle asked what branch of the army Garrett served.

Describing social media, Garrett said he did not like interactions that social media brings, including receiving death threats via Twitter and expressing frustration at how political figures use Twitter.

“You are the first generation to have to encounter a lot of the challenges,” Garrett said about interactions with social media. “It does matter. It does affect campaigns …”

He said social media has been a force for good. He said social media enabled him to help free several refugees who had been oppressed in Sudan, including two pastors.

Garrett said he had served with the army as a field artillery officer, working overseas in Bosnia, and said the experience had a profound impact.

“There is an existential risk that you may die,” Garrett said about enlisting in the army. “But I will honor and respect you for having the brass to sign your name on a piece of paper that says, ‘some things in my life are worth standing up for.