U.S. Representative and Hunter B. Andrews Distinguished Fellowship recipient Robert Wittman (VA-1) visited the College of William and Mary Tuesday. Wittman’s district encompasses Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.
Wittman spent most of the day on campus, sitting in on classes, talking to students, and meeting with College administrators. His visit culminated in an open student forum hosted in Blow Memorial Hall.
“We wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to meet with the general population here, to let people know what’s going on these days in Washington, [D.C.],” he said.
Wittman stressed the importance of meeting with students directly.
“I value the opportunity to meet with [students] and to give them my perspective, but also to take their questions,” Wittman said. “The more important thing is to make sure we understand from their standpoint what their questions are and how they see the development of public policy.”
Wittman addressed the half-filled room in Blow Hall before opening the floor for audience questions.
The congressman first discussed the recent budget crisis and possible government shutdown.
“Luckily [the shutdown] didn’t happen. I think that all folks — [on] both sides of the aisle — decided that it was better for us to operate,” Wittman said.
Faced with such an obstacle, Wittman said his first priority was to ensure continued support for military personnel.
“We want to make sure, going forward, that there are changes in how the government would function in light of a shutdown and make sure our men and women would be paid, regardless,” he said.
Wittman, who serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources and on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force, spent considerable time addressing environmental issues facing such natural resources as the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Chesapeake Bay is an economic engine. It is a job creator,” he said. “Cleaner water means more productive capacity.”
Wittman said increased environmental damage to the bay is resulting in a declining value of seafood and overall productivity. He suggested that increased accountability among farmers and fishermen who use the bay’s resources, as well as a careful analysis of government spending, are possible solutions to this environmental and economic issue.
“Accountability is critical,” Wittman said. “Identifying where every dollar goes is also critical.”
Wittman also discussed his recent trip to Afghanistan, reflecting on the role of the U.S. government in rebuilding the war-torn country.
“Governance has improved, but it needs much more improvement. The big issue with government — there is corruption,” Wittman said. “But the U.S. can’t fix corruption. It has to be the Afghan people and the Afghan government who take on corruption.”
The College first honored the Washington Post political columnist David Broder with the Andrews fellowship in 2001. Since then, the College has used the award to attract notable public figures to campus every year, including last year’s recipient, journalist Linda Greenhouse.
“Every year, we have the Hunter B. Andrew Distinguished Scholar in American Politics, and a political figure is typically selected each year for this,” Office of the President Senior Administrative Assistant Carla Costello said. “It was established for the former Senator Henry Andrews. It’s an endowment [from] his family funds, so we can bring someone like this here.”