Third-graders at Barnett Elementary School grilled 52nd District Congressman Duncan D. Hunter about everything from what congressional committees do to if he ever gets nervous.
Hunter arrived at Barnett for a schoolwide outdoor assembly that started at 7:45 last Friday morning. Before joining the third-graders in teacher Bobbi Hardiman’s class, he presented Principal Shelagh Appleman with a U.S. flag that flew over the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., and joined students in assembly activities such as pledging the flag and singing the school song.
Third-grader Seth Levy’s e-mail campaign against the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that affects children who ride off-road vehicles prompted Hunter’s visit. Seth’s classmates had joined him in writing letters to the congressman about why they think the federal law needs to be changed.
Hunter agrees. The reason for the law is good, but it went too far, he said, adding that the law was written because some things, such as toys with lead paint from China, harm children.
“Kids suck on small toys all the time,” he said, explaining why toys with lead paint are dangerous.
The law, however, has made products illegal that present no health risk to children and threatens the sale of off-road vehicles for children. Hunter is attempting to have the law amended, an effort that he said has support from Republicans and Democrats.
“The law is something it’s not supposed to be,” the Republican congressman said, explaining the value of balance. “...But we will change it to make it better. The bill is good. It’s seeking to protect kids, but it went too far.”
Hunter, who has three children age 8 and younger, has a knack for explaining complex issues in simple terms, Ramona school board member Bob Stoody said after he listened to the congressman’s half-hour discussion with the students.
With Seth sitting to his left, Hunter answered prepared questions from the students, who grouped their prepared questions in three categories: law, government and personal. The students wanted to know how a law is started, where Congress gets its information, what he likes best and least about being a congressman, where he went to school, what his children like to do, if he is still in the reserves, how many times he can be elected and lots more.
Hunter’s answers included information about, among other things, the Congressional Research Service, his military service, his children and their interests, committees he serves on, and what he likes about being a congressman.
In discussing amendments to laws, he said, “words are very important. They can change the whole meaning of the law.” For example, if their parents told them, “you have to take out the trash,” that would be different from “you have to take out the trash right now,” he said.
Before leaving the classroom, the students asked for his autograph. They lined up around him while he wrote thoughts such as “Be good in school and tell the truth,” before signing his name.
While he was in Ramona, Hunter also presented Cal Fire Capt. Schwettmann Jr. with the Ramona Fire Department with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition commending him for his “heroic actions in saving lives at great risk to his own on Oct. 21, 2007.” Schwettmann, who in December received the Governor’s Medal of Valor, was a strike team leader during the Harris Fire when he risked his life to find a firefighter who was missing and presumed dead in the wildfire.
Hunter also visited with the owner of a therapeutic riding center in Ramona that uses horses to help disabled children and injured veterans; he gave an award to Ramona resident Doug Oliver for helping wounded veterans; and he received a tour of Ramona Town Hall and talked with town hall trustees.