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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Suffolk welcomes former members of Congress, gives students insight to public service

Leo Woods
(Left to right) Former Congressmen Fred Upton, Joe Hoeffel, Professor Rachael Cobb and Professor Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber at a live recording of the “Election Connection” podcast.

Suffolk University hosted two former members of Congress for the three-day-long Congress to Campus event, inviting students to engage with the two through participating in classes and various events.

This year, Suffolk welcomed returning guests Fred Upton and Joe Hoeffel. Hoeffel represented Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district from 1999 to 2005, while Upton served as a U.S. representative from Michigan from 1987 to 2023. 

Throughout  interactions with students, two recurring questions seemed to emerge: “How can we be involved?” and “What advice can you give us?” 

The answer was resounding: Do it.

The event, spanning from Feb. 26-28, offered a unique opportunity for attendees to delve into the inner workings of the legislative branch, as well as explore topics surrounding public service, democracy and major legislative issues. 

The former congressmen spoke on a variety of topics, ranging from campaigning to impeachment, and included a live recording of the Election Connection Podcast with Suffolk professors Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber and Rachael Cobb. 

Neither Upton nor Hoeffel initially saw public service in their future. Hoeffel studied at Boston University and first became involved in politics through anti-Vietnam war activism. Upton earned his degree in journalism and worked as a sports editor for The Michigan Daily, with hopes of further pursuing a career in sports reporting.

It was political volunteer work that drew both to run for public office and find their own paths. 

Reflecting on his professional journey, Hoeffel encouraged students who are interested in pursuing politics to get experience in any way they can.

“I would urge students today to understand that they can intern, they can volunteer, they can get involved in campaigns … It’s people to people, you’ve got to have those communication skills,” Hoeffel said.

Furthering the sentiment of communication in government, Hoeffel emphasized the necessity of understanding opposing viewpoints and fostering mutual respect, drawing from his own experiences in political negotiations.

“Try to understand that you must have to compromise for government to work,” Hoeffel said. “It doesn’t mean compromising your beliefs or your values, but you’ve got to see the other guys’ point of view, learn as much as you can about whoever your opponent might be at the moment … and have respect for that person’s position.”

Both former congressmen said they are optimistic about the future of politics in the hands of Generation Z, a mindset bolstered by their interactions with Suffolk students during the visit.

“[Suffolk students are] a talented group of young men and women that are anxious to move forward, and I think they have a great opportunity right now,” said Upton.

Upton further stressed the importance of engagement and involvement among this demographic and encouraged students not to take a passive role in politics, specifically in the upcoming presidential election.

“We need you,” he said. “We need you not to vote uncommitted or not to be involved or to sit home, our nation is too valuable and somehow, we have to reignite that spark to let people know that they can make a difference.”

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About the Contributor
Leo Woods, Photo Editor | he/him

Leo is a senior political science major with a minor in journalism from Clinton, Connecticut. He has photographed political events, protests, performing arts groups and documented Boston Pride for the People for the History Project. Outside of Suffolk, Leo is an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and podcast listener. After graduation, he plans on attending law school and working in politics.

Follow Leo on X @leowoods108

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