Concordia’s Center for Civics Education sponsored two town hall meetings with Orange County congressional representatives, Rep. Katie Porter (a Democrat representing the 45th Congressional District) and Rep. Michelle Steel (a Republican representing the 48th Congressional District).
We want students to be better citizens by having a greater knowledge of history and our founding documents.
“This year, the Center is focusing on Article 1 of the Constitution, the legislative branch,” says Center director JoEllen Chatham. “So we invited two members of Congress. We just wanted to hear from them. Part of our project is to have a higher profile in the broader community. It also exposes our students to people who make decisions that affect their lives. They need to know something about them for when they vote.”
Concordia sits in Rep. Porter’s congressional district. Rep. Steel’s district spans an area from Huntington Beach to Laguna Niguel. Both representatives were asked to speak on whatever they wished and then answer questions from students.
“We said to share whatever you want to share. What are your priorities? Your issues?” says Chatham.
Steel related her experience as an immigrant from Korea. She talked about her first foray into politics, which had to do with standing up against onerous taxes on small businesses. She served on the Board of Equalization, then on the OC Board of Supervisors before being elected to the House of Representatives in 2020.
“She’s conservative, for small business, free enterprise, and more local government as opposed to federal control,” says Chatham. “She was very proud of what she’s been able to do in America.”
Porter, who has taught at UCI law school and is a single mother of three, “spent a fair amount of time talking about—and answering questions about—forgiving student loans,” says Chatham. Porter also talked about her work as a consumer advocate in her congressional committee.
Both representatives met with President Michael Thomas and top administrators before the event. They also met with Concordia’s student body president and other students in a get-to-know-you format before the town halls.
The Center is hosting more events, on campus and off, that highlight the basics of the U.S. Constitution and the American system of government.
“The idea of the Center for Civics Education is that we want to enable students and people in our community to be better citizens by having a greater knowledge of history, our founding documents, and how systems work,” Chatham says. “We also want to show them how to have civil conversations.”