Congressman Auchincloss Glosses Over SBRHS Students’ Opinions


Franmarie Metzler

Congressman Jake Auchincloss’ congressional portrait. (Credit: public domain)

Ryan Rose, Co-Editor

On April 11th, Congressman Jake Auchincloss visited Somerset Berkley Regional High School to speak with members of Ms. Cabral’s civics classes. Auchincloss has served as the House Representative for Massachusetts’ fourth congressional district since 2021. As a student who is heavily interested in politics, I must admit I was excited for the congressman’s visit. I was sadly let down, however, when I realized that the congressman did not truly wish to hear our opinions and communicate with us. In my personal opinion, this visit was nothing more than a good press opportunity for the congressman.


Representative Auchincloss opened with a message of advice, and he spoke of the need for all of us to help better our communities and build them up. So far, so good. Congressman Auchincloss then spoke on one of the key issues that he wished to hear our perspectives on in this visit: social media use and its impact on teenage mental health. He asked us to share what we felt had the strongest influence on our mental health: gun violence, COVID, or social media. Most students said social media and a discussion broke out. When I got a turn to speak with Representative Auchincloss, I wanted to speak about what I felt the number one impact on our mental health is: the general feeling of insecurity that we young people feel in this nation. 


I opened by stating that one of the things that scare us most is the daily influx of alarming news that we take in. I stated that we see this news frequently, but we never see news of substantial change from politicians intending to counter these headlines. Apparently, this is where Congressman Auchincloss stopped listening to my opinion and started to form his response because he addressed quite literally nothing that I said after this first statement. I went on to describe the state of anxiety we experience each time a school shooting occurs, the fear we have for our futures in a world where living wages are increasingly hard to come by, and the lack of faith that we have in our country as a result from the stripping away of rights that has been occurring as of late: from books bans, to abortion bans, to the expulsion of young black politicians that share our views in Tennessee’s legislature. 


I intended to say that our mental wellness would improve if we had politicians who addressed these issues that actually affect us, and the whole nation, rather than just social media. I didn’t get the chance to, however. Congressman Auchincloss interrupted me and told me that he had to “push back on that a little.” He proceeded to tell me that the news sensationalizes things and makes it so that we only see the bad and irrelevant sides of politics, like radical statements from Marjorie Taylor Greene or other crazy congressional comments, but not the good, such as the small increase in access to healthcare obtained by Congress or legislation to make our drinking water safer. These statements, while true, did not address anything that I said. I brought up real issues that affect us and the Congressman dismissed my ideas as if I had just mentioned one of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s outlandish statements. I truly feel as though Congressman Auchincloss did not listen to what I had to say and purposefully stopped me before I could have made a comment that he didn’t want to have to address. He didn’t want to have to defend Congress’ inaction to save us from school shooters or to protect our American right to abortion. He didn’t want to speak on the issues that truly affect us. He wanted to hear only what he wanted from us, that social media harms our mental health. That’s all the congressman wanted, nothing more.


Representative Auchincloss did not just dismiss my opinion, however; these beliefs are shared by many young people today. While we are appreciative of Congressman Auchincloss’ interest in improving our mental health, we wish he would address this issue in an entirely different way. Joseph Ramos II, another junior at Somerset Berkley Regional High School, puts it this way, “I was appreciative of Congressman Auchincloss’ attention to teen mental health, but I felt he was asking the wrong questions.” Joseph explained this perfectly in an analogy where he related the issue of teen mental health to a raging fire. He says that “social media adds gasoline to the declining emotional well-being of [our] fire, but it didn’t cause it. Problems such as [the lack of] affordable health care, gun violence, and inflation are what started this fire.” To him, the congressman “isn’t putting the flames out by focusing on social media.”


Congressman Auchincloss also did not wish to talk about Medicare for All when I later asked him to. I explained to the congressman the need for Medicare for All and how embarrassing it is that we as a nation are the only well developed country that does not provide universal healthcare to all citizens despite being the richest nation on Earth. I noted that the Congressman does not support Medicare for All and I specifically asked him why. Instead of truly answering my question, the Congressman decided to speak of how great Obamacare is. He did acknowledge the fact that 30 million people in this nation do not have access to healthcare and that is a major issue, but he offered no solutions to this problem. Most importantly, he never told me why he does not support Medicare for All. He completely danced around my question. Why? I can’t tell you for sure, but I can certainly tell you what I believe. The simple answer is that the congressman had no answer as to why we should not have Medicare for All. There is no defensible reason to not give all citizens the right to health care in such a wealthy state. Since the congressman couldn’t come up with a good reason for not supporting Medicare for All, he once again responded to me in a way that did not acknowledge what I had to say.


Once again, I am not the only student to be dissatisfied with the congressman’s visit. Junior Lily Raposo, who was also in attendance, found that the questions of students “were not addressed or answered head on.” She told me that she found him to be dismissive of many of the ideas that students shared with him for civics-based projects that they are currently working on. Lily also noted that Congressman Auchincloss “lacked the ability to listen to the students he claimed to be representing. He didn’t listen to what we wanted [him to], and instead focused on what he wanted to hear, and answered the questions in a way that promoted his beliefs.”


Personally, I am disappointed in the congressman’s dismissal of my ideas, but I am not shocked by it. Politicians have a long history of ignoring the perspective of the people and trying to make themselves look good. What saddens me is that Congressman Auchincloss pretended to care about what we had to say when it was clear he did not. I wish I could have responded to the Congressman’s blatant diversion from what I had to say, but I was not given the opportunity. I may not have been able to voice my opinion in this forum in front of my peers and my Congressman, but I will gladly do so here. While it is highly unlikely, I hope that Congressman Auchincloss can learn from this experience and maybe someday decide to actually hear what his constituents think.