Toronto, OH 2/24/15 – From the emerging oil and gas industry to the threat posed by ISIS, students from Toronto Junior-Senior High School had plenty of questions for U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, during his visit to the Monday.
Johnson, who met with students in a government studies class and spoke with the student senate during his visit, said meeting with young people was one of his favorite activities as a congressman.
He briefly described his role in government as, “You don’t work for me – I work for you.”
The congressman said one day soon their generation would be voting for the next president and other leaders.
“You will have one more presidential election before it’s your turn (to vote),” he said, adding it was up to the individual who he or she would vote for. “You will need to make the decision, and that’s what makes it work. It’s important that you’re engaged.”
Johnson discussed a wide range of issues when questioned by students, including:
Johnson told students he was the representative in the U.S. Congress for the Sixth Ohio District. He also lamented many Americans don’t understand the basic fundamentals of how their government works.
“We become apathetic and not engaged in the process. It boggles my mind how few Americans know how our government works, and that’s sad,” Johnson said, adding he was just one of many, and anyone could become involved in the governing process. “I’m not just a big cat who sits in an office. One day I’ll walk out of that office, and that will be that. If I can do this, you guys can do this.”
Johnson told students that he grew up on a farm, and spent 26-and-a-half years in the Air Force. He said those years shaped his philosophy of governing along with how representational government works – slowly, he added.
“Things move very, very slowly, but it’s important work,” said Johnson, who also criticized the media’s obsession with the 24-hour news cycle. “The American people have rightly become disgusted with politics. I don’t even like to refer to myself as a politician. I’d rather refer to myself as a statesman.”
Johnson also lamented how polarized politics had become in Washington, D.C., and while the founding fathers had the right ideas they couldn’t have anticipated the 24-hour news cycle and how it’s impaired the ability for Washington to govern.
“It’s a different balance now,” he said. “I try not to let politics drive my decisions. I try to do the right thing.”
“I believe life begins at conception,” Johnson said, adding he held that view “unashamedly.”
He also discussed how his daughter became pregnant and how she decided to have the child.
The future of coal
“(Companies associated with coal) always have something they are working on,” said Johnson, adding he believed coal would be cleaner in the future as technology developed. “We’ve got so much of it.”
Johnson said the country had no choice but to rely on coal for the time being, adding 45 percent of the country and 70 percent of Ohio’s electricity comes from coal-fired plants. He also said it was important to balance coal’s use with the environment. Johnson said there currently were so many federal laws restricting coal that companies didn’t have the funds for research and development to come up with new technologies for cleaner-burning coal. He also said 700,000 jobs depended on coal, and 200,000 jobs tied to coal were in jeopardy because of over-regulation.
The oil and gas industry
Johnson said the emerging oil and gas industry had the potential to make Ohio the new Saudi Arabia.
“We have an opportunity to make Ohio the dominant leader in (liquid natural gas),” said the congressman, adding exploitation could lead to 45,000 new jobs and increased wages for American workers. “Coal can’t do it alone. We still import a lot of our energy.”
Johnson said the country could lesson its dependence on foreign energy as well as developing an export market for “friends and allies. We can sell that gas and oil to our friends and allies, so they don’t have to buy it from countries that don’t like (us) very much.”
Johnson didn’t mince words when asked if ISIS posed a threat to the U.S.
“It’s a very real threat,” he said, adding the Islamic fundamentalist movement was based on a seventh-century ideology, where extreme violence was a day-to-day occurrence.
He added containment wouldn’t work, citing Europe’s appeasement of Hitler in World War II, which he said failed to prevent the Nazi threat. Johnson said ISIS doesn’t believe in compromise and wanted to dominate the world and mold it into the movement’s image.
He added recent atrocities committed by the movement showed, “We must meet them on their terms. We kill them, or they try to kill us.”
Johnson said while governing officials should do what it could and the president was the commander-in-chief, it should ultimately be up to military leaders how to proceed to defeat terrorism.
He added a warning many wished the U.S. ill will.
“All across the world, many wake up thinking, ‘How many Americans can I kill today?’” he said, adding America traditionally stepped into gaps when the rest of the world was uncertain.
“America is being asked to lead in the global war on terrorism. Our sovereignty is my most important job.”
He added while Congress should have a say, military planning should be the responsibility of military leaders.