Having been a Council Rock School U.S. history teacher for the past 23 years, some of the activities I incorporate in the classroom involved Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.
During January students learn how Alexander Hamilton solved the nation’s first debt problem. Students then analyze today’s massive debt problem, currently exceeding $23 trillion. Students research various potential solutions to today’s debt problem, then write letters to their Congressional leaders, presenting practical researched options. I hand-carry these letters directly to Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office where he actually reads them all, usually numbering well over 140, treating each idea seriously. During the course of his congressional duties, he routinely presents these letters as exhibits during House Committee budget meetings. He often went so far as to record video footage of the process and proceedings to share with our students and his constituents, documenting his sincere interest and seriousness in their legitimate ideas and concerns. I then invite the Congressman to address the students at a school assembly regarding their letters. He presents a one-hour power point explaining the merits of their ideas and the congressional process, then answering all resulting questions. Congressman Fitzpatrick did this for many years during his term.
During June I usually lead students on a day-long field trip to Washington DC. Thanks to the outstanding work of Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office, the highlights of the trip include inside tours of the White House and Capitol Building – a very rare treat for 8th graders. Upon arriving at the Capitol Building we are always welcomed and met personally by the Congressman. He personally escorts our students throughout the Building, all the while providing historical significance and answering questions.
Of the thousands of other visitors going through the Capitol Building at any one time, Congressman Fitzpatrick ensured our students experienced the additional privilege of entering the House Floor and Chambers, where all are able to occupy the Congressional members’ seats. He presented an approximate 20-minute history lesson covering the significance of the US Capitol Building and the Chambers.
As our tour progresses he continually points out other interesting facts to students. Once reaching the Rotunda, he points out other historic facts regarding the statues, paintings and the ceiling painting of George Washington. I know the treatment my students received is rare and will last them a lifetime in their special school memories. This student trip also required a lot of the Congressman’s time, but he always did it willingly from the goodness of his heart and love for young people who will benefit from the educational aspect of how their democratic government functions. I do not know of any other Congressman so dedicated to students.
This yearly trip is not an easy event to plan because of the significant coordination required for the Congressman’s scheduling and the White House visit specifically, both of which are particularly extremely challenging. Because the actual itinerary is not coordinated until at least two or three weeks in advance of the trip, somehow, the Congressman always schedules time for our student trip.
Last year while attending a function in Southampton, I ran into Mike who asked if he could help me chaperon this year’s Washington, DC trip. Even though he was stricken with debilitating cancer, his love of our country’s youth was so genuine, it did not prevent him from volunteering yet again, for this tedious trip. This remarkable willingness to help, is a true testament of his care and concern for our young students.
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, on behalf myself and the thousands of students you’ve interacted with, we thank you for your service to our grateful nation. You are an inspiration and may your personal example taking care of this country’s youth be modeled and emulated by others. We will miss you!
Joseph Fabrizio; Major, U. S. Marine Corps (retired); 8th Grade History Teacher; Holland Middle School; Council Rock School District