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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (1st District of Nebraska)

Milford Jr./Sr. High School principal Brandon Mowinkle waited in the school’s hallway and stared out the front doors. At times his youngest son was by his side, at others he talked with congressional aides in the plexi-glass lined office space just outside of his office.

He anticipated the arrival of Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who accepted an invitation to visit Mowinkle and paid a 35-minute visit. Fortenberry met with two seniors, Makena Stutzman and Abby Houk, to talk about their college plans before greeting seniors participating in Apply2College Day and then speaking to the senior class in the school’s gymnasium. State Sen. Mark Kolterman joined in the visit and also addressed the senior class.

Fortenberry encouraged the seniors to focus on what they want to do and also experiment with what may interest them. He talked about how he wanted to be veterinarian.

“I love animals, I was in 4-H,” he said. “I loved it. But that didn’t mean that I should have been a veterinarian.”

Eventually, Fortenberry said he found the economic and policy-making pathway which led him to government. Fortenberry served on the Lincoln City Council before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives as Nebraska’s First District representative following long-time Congressman and Utica native Doug Bereuter’s retirement in in 2004. Fortenberry is currently campaigning for a ninth term.

Fortenberry told the gathered seniors about his responsibilities and how he works in Washington D.C. on their behalf.

For an encouraging anecdote, Fortenberry shared a fable about how a farmer became locally famous in the combine for his straight rows through the fields. That farmer then guided his son on how to do the same. As the story went, the boy kept looking back to ensure the line was straight and, by doing so, caused wavy rows throughout the field. Fortenberry encouraged the senior class to focus on their future and not on the past.

Before the senior class was dismissed, Fortenberry said what he has enjoyed most about being a Congressman. That gave him an opportunity to talk about how rewarding it’s been to represent Nebraskans and address the political divide.

Fortenberry said he’s built great working relationships with Democrats in Washington and they’ll seek each other’s opinion on policy making.

“Those are the things that you don’t see,” he said. “What you do see is the ever-intensifying proxy. Politics is a substitute for what’s going on across the country.”

He said that it’s harsh and a problem.

Fortenberry’s team of aides recorded Fortenberry’s conversations with Mowinkle throughout the visit, as well as a quick conversation with John Baylor, who was also in Milford that day to speak to students about their educational futures.