An evening with Rep. Gottheimer

By Julia Train

Congressman Josh Gottheimer stood at the front of about 80 people in Lynch Adler Hall 202 with a grande Starbucks drink in one hand and a microphone in the other.

After Eden Nadella, a freshman political science major, introduced the representative with a brief biography, Gottheimer began speaking about his journey to where he is today.

“If you’re afraid because you want everyone to love you every hour of every day, you’ll never get anything done. You’ve got to take some risks,” said Gottheimer during his Rider visit on Feb. 21.

Gottheimer, who represents New Jersey’s 5th District, believes in fighting hard for what he believes in and stated he’d be “willing to take or throw a punch.”

The representative was first sworn in on Jan. 3, 2017, and is now in his fourth term in office, serving on two committees, including the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Financial Services Committee. He is also co-chair of the high-profile Problem Solvers Caucus.

The congressman spent the evening fielding questions from Rider students, alumni, faculty and community members from the surrounding Lawrenceville area. 

Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, stood on the right, asking the questions attendees wrote on cards and handed to him, while Gottheimer walked around the podium on the left, standing mostly in the center, closer to students. 

Problem Solvers Caucus

Attention was focused on the congressman as he spoke about a variety of topics ranging from social media tactics amongst politicians and fundraising to enemy countries and combating hate. Every answer was simply explained with jokes intertwined.

Most of what he talked about were subjects relating to his work on the Problem Solvers Caucus, of which he is a co-chair.

The caucus promotes common sense over extremism and works across party lines on key issues such as lowering taxes, protecting the environment, affordable healthcare and national security, among others.

According to its website, the caucus’ aim is “to create a durable bloc that champions ideas that appeal to a broad spectrum of the American people. It is a group united in the idea that there are common sense solutions to many of the country’s toughest challenges.”

Some solutions the caucus created were to problems like COVID-19 recovery and contingency planning, infrastructure, health care, immigration, criminal justice reform and gun and school safety.

Congressman Josh Gottheimer poses with students after the event.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer poses with students after the event. Photo by Julia Train/ The Rider News

One of the principal issues he is working to tackle is getting residents to stay in New Jersey by working on the state’s affordability. 

In order to accomplish this, Gottheimer said he is constantly trying to bring back as much money to the state from the federal government as possible, as well as more jobs, which he said will create more revenue and lower the taxes in New Jersey.

Gottheimer mentioned that even when others in the caucus disagree, they’re still able to work cordially with each other because it’s the only way to legislate and get things done. 

Gottheimer worked at the White House after college, writing President Bill Clinton’s speeches as one of the youngest presidential speechwriters in history. 

After leaving the White House, he worked at the Ford Motor Company, was a senior adviser to the chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, published the book “Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches” and served as senior counselor to the chairman at the Federal Communications Commission. 

Rasmussen kicked off the evening in a peculiar manner, using the famous saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Before the congressman arrived on campus, his press secretary asked to keep his speech off the record, a typical tactic the politician uses when visiting schools and public forums. 

“Generally, any kind of these conversations, it’s better if you can be more free flowing,” Gottheimer said to The Rider News after the event. “What happens if I’m fully on the record, then I’ll just be less relaxed because I’ll be worried that every word could be taken out of context.”

 In order for a speech to be off the record, both parties have to agree. In addition, Rider University’s Media Access Policy affirms a presumption of openness and states that there is no expectation of privacy or anonymity at university group events. In keeping with journalism ethics and the university’s media policy, The Rider News continued to cover Gottheimer’s speech, despite his request.

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