EAST BRUNSWICK – Forty Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School (MCVTS) students received a briefing on activity in Congress, domestic and international politics and the life of a congressman when Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-Middlesex, Monmouth) visited the MCVTS East Brunswick campus.
Pallone’s appearance on Jan. 14 came just two days after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, prompting an up-close evaluation by the congressman, who had attended the speech.
“I thought it was a great speech, optimistic, inspirational,” he said during a five-minute talk before he answered questions for about 45 minutes.
Saying he didn’t want to appear partisan in his remarks about his fellow Democrat, Pallone had some criticism for Obama.
“He would have been more effective if he reached out more to Congress,” he said. “He doesn’t relate to Congress as he should.”
Pallone remarked on the “drama” of the current presidential race and commented that some of current Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s positions are “totally opposed to everything we believe in as Americans.”
Pallone, who is in his 28th year in Congress and is outranked in seniority by only 15 members, is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He said he spends three or four days a week in Washington, D.C., attending committee meetings in the morning and going to the floor of the House of Representatives in the afternoon. The rest of the week he is in his district, with offices in New Brunswick and Long Branch, dealing with constituent services and helping people with immigration issues.
He visited Eric Menell’s Principals of Democracy class because Menell had interned for Pallone when he was in college. Students from Michael Buonaguro’s Law and Public Safety class also attended.
“I would hope that all of you get involved in politics,” he told the students, noting that most of them would be eligible to vote in the presidential election later this year.
Before leaving the campus, Pallone toured the shop of the school district’s newest career major, Pre-engineering and Manufacturing Technology, where he was greeted by a robot holding a welcome sign.
As the freshman students demonstrated what they are learning about robotics, engineering, computer technology and electronics, teacher Stephen Mercadante and Superintendent of Schools Brian Loughlin explained that the “blended” curriculum is aimed at getting graduates ready to enter the world of advanced manufacturing.
“This is a new venture anticipating the needs of industry,” Loughlin said.
Pallone pointed out that manufacturing jobs have increased in the United States “every year since the recession.”