U.S. freshman congressman Ro Khanna, a Democrat representing the 17th District of California,
opened his Town Hall meeting in Santa Clara on Feb. 3 by bragging about the district he represents, which encompasses the cities of Cupertino, Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, San Jose, Alviso, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.
“Representing this district…I try to make a case to my colleagues that if you care about our nation and our nation’s success in the future, if you care deeply about our being the most innovative country in the world, if you care about our leading the 21st century and continuing to be the economic leader and the technology leader, then you would want a district like mine,” said Khanna.
He got a laugh when he recounted a question he had been asked by an unnamed reporter: “Do you guys do the Pledge of Allegiance in California?”
“We do the Pledge, we’re patriotic,” Khanna said he tells his colleagues in Congress. “But guess what? We steal the best and brightest ideas from around the world….People come, they bring their best ideas. We make them American ideas…We get all the greatest ideas from every culture…. They become part of the American story. Why wouldn’t you want that? Why would we not want to add to the American story?”
Khanna said that the ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids that “tear families apart” are “pure inhumanity. It is not the American way.”
Few seats were empty in the 240-seat Santa Clara University Music Recital Hall, where Santa Clara Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe opened the meeting, introducing Boy Scout Troop 394, which presented the colors and, yes, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Khanna was introduced by Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
Khanna held up the diverse district as a model for the nation and answered 20 questions about national issues, posed by concerned constituents in just 90 minutes:
Earned income tax credit, the Nunes memo alleging FBI abuse of its surveillance authority, infrastructure funding, the government shutdown, climate change, HR 2925 regarding Medicare coverage of wigs for medical conditions, the protection of minority opinions on social media, immigration law, financial aid for higher education, the budget deficit and national debt, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, sexual harassment, Jeff Sessions and cannabis, impeachment of the President, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, Social Security and the assault on civil liberties.
View the entire Town Hall meeting and hear Khanna’s positions on each topic (in the order listed) at www.facebook.com/RepRoKhanna/videos/740834696116252/.
By their applause and thanks, Town Hall attendees seemed encouraged and reassured that their congressman was representing District 17 well in Washington. Khanna shared that a prior Town Hall meeting had been called “therapy for the district.”
“We’re a youth obsessed culture. We’re a future obsessed culture…People don’t want to be labeled a part of the past…Our district is the future. We’re talking about the future of jobs, the future of the economy. We look like what America’s going to look like in 10 years,” said Khanna, born in Philadelphia to parents who immigrated from India.
Khanna visits other parts of the country to put his finger on the pulse of people outside California.
“They don’t care that I’m an Indian American,” said Khanna. “They care that I’m a Californian….and they feel this country has forgotten them….We need to build a common American identity.”
Sunnyvale resident Judi Pogue had an unasked question: “What can we—Ro’s constituency, citizens, voters, we the people—what can we do to address the fact that our democracy is being destroyed?”
“The way to counter what the President is putting out there, is to say [that] that’s a vision of the past. It’s not even a good vision of the past….We’re representing a vision of the future. We’re about having people come and be the country that we’re going to be and look to us as their model,” said Khanna, perhaps touching on Pogue’s unspoken question.
Khanna’s next Town Hall meeting is scheduled March 28 in Sunnyvale.