U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader pays surprise visit to Rosemont Ridge Middle School

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader shakes hands with Rosemont Ridge Middle School student Alex Wilson.The sounds of a band class at Rosemont Ridge Middle School were interrupted Monday when U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader of Oregon’s 5th District paid a surprise visit to personally answer a letter he received from one of the students.

Concerned about the threat of North Korean nuclear missiles and in the midst of a quest to earn a Boy Scout merit badge, sixth-grader Alex Wilson wrote the letter to Schrader about three weeks ago, according to his parents. At most, he expected another letter in response, and the dazed look on his face when Schrader introduced himself showed just how surprised he was.

“I think he enjoyed it a lot,” said Alex’s father, Tony Wilson, who tagged along for the appearance with his wife, Dawn. “I think he really enjoyed seeing the congressman, seeing that writing a letter to him has direct impact. He wrote it, and now look: The congressman came and visited him.”

“They actually do listen to him,” Dawn Wilson added.

Schrader arrived in the classroom at about 9:30 in the morning, just as the band was finishing a number. “Sorry to interrupt,” Schrader said. “You sound way better than I ever could.”

He went on to shake Alex’s hand and tell the rest of the class why he was there. Alex, as Schrader explained, had written to him to express concern about North Korea’s nuclear missiles and asked what would happen if they launched those weapons. Should he be nervous?

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Schrader speaks to Wilsons class about government and North Koreas nuclear missiles, the latter of which Wilson expressed concern about in a letter to the congressman.

“I’m here to say you really shouldn’t be,” Schrader told the class. The reality is that Kim Jong-un “doesn’t intend to do anything. Because we would squash him like a bug.”

Schrader also gave the students a primer on North Korea’s government and how it differs drastically from the way the United States operates.

“They don’t get to pick their leaders,” Schrader said.

That right is a given in the United States, and Schrader underscored to the class how important their voices could be.

“I can’t do my job if kids like Alex don’t engage,” Schrader said.

Schrader, who is in his fourth year representing Oregon’s 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he receives letters like Alex’s quite often and always tries to at least write a response in letter form.

“This one was pretty heartfelt and very individual,” Schrader said. “I was coming back to the district and thought, ‘Well, darn it, I’ll just see if there’s a way to visit.’ ”

Alex wrote the letter in part to advance his pursuit of the Boy Scouts’ Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, but he was also genuinely concerned about the issue — a fact that eluded even his parents.

“We weren’t even aware that he was concerned about it,” Tony Wilson said. “He watches the news in the morning, before I go to work, but doesn’t make any comments about it, so we’re not even sure if he’s just watching because it’s on — but he’s actually paying attention, which was nice for us to see.”

Schrader, for his part, was particularly pleased that a sixth-grader would write in about such a complex foreign policy issue.

“I was impressed that he knew about North Korea and the missile issues that were going on,” Schrader said. “And (I wanted to respond) because he was scared. I don’t want American citizens, especially young children, to be scared. We want them to know that we have their back, and what’s really going on.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Schrader and Wilson.

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