Representative Sam Farr Visits UCDC

By Bryan Steele and Brana Vlasic

California News Service

WASHINGTON – Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, encouraged UC students to pursue public service even as he apologized for the shutdown which has left some students without internships.

“Thank you for being a part of this process,” Farr told a group of UCDC students.  “It will make you much better change agents of this great nation and this we will certainly need.”

The 11-term congressman joked with students who have been furloughed:  “Congratulations on being shut down – that’s every student’s dream.”

In a talk with students and faculty at the UC Washington Center on Monday, the Central Coast representative spoke on issues ranging from health care and immigration reform to congressional  gridlock, which he blamed on uncompromising Republicans.

Farr extended his sympathies to the out-of-work students and said he had never seen such hostility between the parties in his two decades in Washington.

“I’m scared to death. The pressures are out there are more than they usually are,” Farr said, describing the Republican effort to repeal or delay Obamacare as a “radical, misconceived way to bring the government to its knees.”

Farr, whose legislative history includes policies ranging from animal rights and the environment to health care policy reform, advised students interested in pursuing public service to not go into it for the flattering title.

“Don’t run for public office unless you want to use it as a tool to fix something. If you want a title — go to Harvard. But if you want to fix something that’s broken and you find that the tool to fix it is in politics then you have a reason to go in,’’ he said.

“There are too many people that want the title but have no idea how to use it constructively,” Farr said.

Farr reminisced about his days as a college student when President Kennedy inspired young people to get politically engaged, and said he was hopeful that Obama’s election would serve the same purpose for today’s students.

Instead he sees an environment of cynicism and disrespect toward public service which he blamed on Republicans.

“What is so discouraging now is this demeaning of the government and belittling it as so much of the right wing and Tea Party campaign is all about. I don’t know what this is doing to poison the sense that I had on Obama’s election night,” Farr said.

Farr drew from his own experience during his time in the poor barrios of Colombia, where he served in the Peace Corps, as his inspiration for politics and public service.

He described his tragic encounter with inadequate healthcare when his sister fell off a horse while visiting him in Colombia. She died on a makeshift operating table many miles from a hospital.

“I realized that if you didn’t have access to healthcare, you didn’t have a chance,” Farr said.

Farr accused Republicans of dismissing a program that many of them don’t even understand, pointing out that most Americans support the basics of the law when it is broken down for them.

He further blamed the news media for failing to explain the measure’s complexities, focusing instead on the contentious political debate.

Farr localized the shutdown, explaining that 4,000 federal employees in his district will not receive their paychecks on time.

“Those groceries tomorrow and rent due are at risk,” Farr said.

On immigration, Farr said he is disappointed that the push for reform has seemingly gone nowhere.

“Until about a week ago, I thought that if there was anything we could pass it would be immigration reform. I think it’s the most broken out of all the things, particularly for the west,’’ he said.

Farr, whose district includes a large population of agricultural workers and an estimated 89,000 undocumented immigrants, is a strong proponent of immigration reform.
He said it is important to provide a path to citizenship, noting that the new health care law excludes undocumented immigrants.

“We’ve got to pass this,” Farr said.

Though he called the current era the “dark age of modern day politics,” Farr still encouraged students to get involved and learn more about the political system in order to accomplish their goals.

 “At one point in time you are going to need to ask the government (for) something, and you are either going to ask in a state of fear or in a state of ‘Hey – this is my government and I know how it works.”’

He also recommended that students keep a journal of the current political turmoil.

“You’re experiencing history being made,’’ he said.

The California News Service is a journalism project of the University of California Washington Center.

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