Kinzinger visits RCHS students

Marney Simon
Staff writer

Students at Reed-Custer High School got a chance last week to ask questions about government and leadership to someone in the thick of beltway politics.

Illinois 16th District Congressman Adam Kinzinger made a visit to the school on Thursday, Oct. 19, getting a tour of the facility by Principal Tim Ricketts and visiting with several classrooms and members of the Student Council.

The House Republican, a Major in the Air Force who was elected in 2010 after he returned from Iraq, talked to the students about the importance of learning to lead, and knowing how to handle the difficulties of taking on a leadership role.

The congressman told the students they need to know not just their own limits, but the limits of those they hope to inspire.

“You do your best to make people feel like they’re part of a team, and understand that everybody comes at things from a different perspective,” Kinzinger told members of the Student Council during a brief Q and A session in the high school library. “In many cases, if somebody is really difficult to get along with, it’s not you, it’s not them, it’s something inside. And then at some point, you have to understand that there is only so much you can do, the old saying of leading a horse to water, you can’t make them drink. It’s the same thing with leadership.”

Kinzinger told the students that the current atmosphere is rough in Washington, D.C. But, he said, the difficulties swirling about in the nation’s capital are also an opportunity for leaders to step up.

“I’m in a really bad business right now, it is very divided in my own party,” Kinzinger said. “People are angry, in the other party they’re angry, and everybody is mad and yelling and screaming, and there has to be a point at which you say… I’m going to do the best I can and at the end of the day, you’re not going to make everybody happy. You’re not going to be able to successfully bring everybody to a good conclusion.”

Kinzinger told the students to live boldly, and not be afraid to stand against the majority.

“I’ve taken some pretty difficult positions that some people in my own party don’t like,” Kinzinger said. “But my thing is, I don’t need this job. I could give it up and that would be fine. But it’s being able to look at yourself at the end of the day and say, you did your best.

“Even on the level of Student Council, it’s looking back, this is a training ground for you. Whether you go into politics or not doesn’t matter, you’ll always have an opportunity to lead. Leadership is basically the art of compelling people to a vision. It’s about getting people to willingly do [something], and ultimately understand that there are some who just won’t, and it’s not on you.”

Kinzinger told the teens that he didn’t have any specific plans for the future in politics, but hopes to eventually get married and have a family, and serve the country in whatever capacity he can.

“You can plan your future, and it’s good to plan your future, but you’re never really going to know what your future will look like until it happens,” Kinzinger said. “I think wherever I can make an impact, that’s what I’ll do.”