On Oct. 18, Congressman Jim Langevin visited the students on the seventh grade "Phoenix Team" at Park View Middle School, to donate a flag that will be flown from the school flagpole.
"Today, we have a special treat. Congressman Langevin made time in his schedule to meet with you. At the start of the school year we wanted to put a brand new flag in front of our school. When we reached out to Congressman Langevin, he said he'd be glad to donate a flag," said Principal Joe Rotz. "He is responsible for so many initiatives, we can't even mention them all, but one thing he's involved in is cyber security laws at the federal level. We talk a lot about cyber bullying here at Park View, and there are many laws being enacted about that now."
Langevin greeted the students, telling them that the visit was one of the highlights of his day.
"I'm thrilled to come and visit with you," he said, sharing with them something that made his visit particularly special. "Ms. [Liz] Larkin was my sixth grade teacher, I was in her first class. She did an especially good job with social studies.”
Langevin went on to explain to the students a little bit about what his job in Congress entails.
"My job is to work on your behalf to make laws for our government. For example, you have rules at school, like no bullying, no phones and no running in the halls. In our government, people make the rules. A democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people," he said.
He described it as "exciting" that a law can be changed if the people don't like it. He encouraged the students to get involved in politics, even at their age.
"You're never too young to get involved with government and politics. Call me, email me, write to me. It helps me to make better decisions when I'm voting in Congress," he said.
He told the students some of the committees that he works on when in Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
The committee that Langevin discussed the most was the Cyber Security Committee.
"I'm the cyber guy in Congress," he said. "The Internet changed the world. Growing up, there was no such thing. In a lot of ways things are better, but the Internet was created with not a bit of security in mind.”
With that said, Langevin stressed to the students to be careful what they put out on the Internet.
"I want you to remember that whatever you put out there on the Internet will be out there forever once it's out there. Young people too often are preyed upon if their information gets into the wrong hands," he said. "Social media can have very negative consequences. Your future employer may very well Google your name and see what comes up. What you do on the Internet now can impact you down the road.”
He reminded them that anything hurtful they put on the Internet about others is there for good.
"Cyber responsibility starts with each of you. I believe that what you say and do comes back to you. Cyber bullying can do a lot of damage in a lot of ways. I want you to work to stop it,” he said.
He told the students how proud of them he was and encouraged them to do good things with their lives. Langevin also reminded the group that even when they go through tough times and feel alone, that they are not.
"You may be going through tough times, you may feel alone, but you are not alone. You have teachers, parents, friends, all supporting you. These hard times are testing us to be stronger people,” he said. “There are challenges in everyone's lives and we need to rely on our support systems and remember that we are not alone.”
Langevin used his own experience as an example. He told the students about being shot accidentally while interning with the Warwick Police. The incident left him paralyzed, but he has not let that get in his way.
"I wouldn't be on the U.S. Congress if I'd let my challenges get in my way. It's difficult for me to get through every day, but if I can do it, what's your excuse?" he said.
After a question and answer period, Langevin presented the flag that he donated to the students. He took a group photo with the team as well, before leaving for the day.
Rotz summed up Langevin's words for the students.
"The Congressman talked to you about several things: he talked about having the courage to overcome our challenges, and about not having excuses as to why we can't do things. Take his messages with you today,” Rotz said. “Take advantage of opportunities. All of us have problems and challenges and we all have people to help us. You all have people to help you.”
Above all, Rotz reminded the students that he and his staff are there for them during times of challenge in their lives.
"Remember that my door is always open. Your teachers are always there for you. We are all willing to help every one of you."