(l to r) American Government teacher Travis Guthrie, Mia Moore, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Great Mills H.S. Principal Jake Heibel

Great Mills, MD — Rep. Steny Hoyer quickly responded to Great Mills High School student Mia Moore’s request. Moore was one of a group of student invited to participate in the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, AL. She accompanied Rep. Hoyer across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and participated in events March 6-8 not only in Selma, but also in Birmingham and Montgomery (see the Bay Net story: http://www.thebaynet.com/articles/0315/local-student-joins-obama-hoyer-in-selma.html )

Moore asked Hoyer to come to her school to join her in talking to her classmates about the trip. On Thursday, March 12 he did just that, touring the school with Principal Jake Heibel and meeting with more than 80 students in Travis Guthrie’s American Government class.

Before speaking to the class, Rep. Hoyer [D: 5th District] stopped by Debbie Bowen’s Advanced Placement (AP) Biology class. He told the students, “When I graduated from high school there was no question in any senior’s mind that they were all going to get a job and there was no competition with America.” That is not the case today he told them, what with competition from all over the world, especially China. “The bottom line is, we need you,” he said.

In the Great Mills auditorium, Hoyer told Guthrie’s class that Moore was a terrific representative of Great Mills High School. In a short prepared speech Moore called her trip to Alabama “the experience of a lifetime.”  She reminded her classmates that because of what the marchers did in Selma, “We have the right to vote.”

Earlier Hoyer had reminded the students of that as well. He told them about his friend and colleague Rep. John Lewis marching for that right and beaten by state troopers. He told them Lewis grew up on a chicken farm in rural Alabama “in a deeply segregated South,” but wanted a better life for himself and others.

He also told the class about Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her spot on the bus in Montgomery, AL that led to the bus boycott there. The students correctly answered Hoyer’s question that it was Alabama law at the time that a black person had to give up their spot in the front of buses for a white person.

Hoyer noted 50 years ago that students went to segregated schools in St. Mary’s County. When he was in high school in Prince George’s County he said the school system was effectively segregated.

He reminded the students that Dr. Martin Luther King said that “talk is cheap.” They were able to repeat back to him that King said what was really important about a person was “the content of their character.”

Hoyer noted that Jefferson wrote in the U.S. Constitution that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” He said that was a radical statement from Jefferson yet “he didn’t apply it in his own life,” because he owned slaves.

The congressman used statistics to show that in Maryland and St. Mary’s County people today don’t follow through on the hard-won right to vote. He said in St. Mary’s County 75 percent of registered voters voted in the 2012 election yet there was a 25 percent drop in 2014. “That made a difference,” he said, in the outcome of the election.

During a question and answer session a student asked Hoyer what accomplishments stood out in his long career? He named three: the Americans with Disabilities Act which he sponsored, his participation in the Helsinki Commission on Eastern Europe during the break-up of USSR, and the Affordable Care Act, which he called controversial but “a very positive piece of legislation.”

Hoyer said he didn’t want to leave the next generation in debt, and that his goal going forward is to get the nation “on a fiscally sound path for your generation.”
Hoyer was joined on the tour by Board of Education President Karin Bailey, Vice President Rita Weaver and members Cathy Allen and Mary Washington, along with School Superintendent Scott Smith.

Contact Dick Myers at news@thebaynet.com