Guest Columnist

Reflections on my visit to Davis County High School


“The Mustang Robotics Club was kind enough to ask me to join their meeting. In this photo we’re watching a video stream of the robotics competition that they’re preparing for,” said Jeff Shipley.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF SHIPLEY “The Mustang Robotics Club was kind enough to ask me to join their meeting. In this photo we’re watching a video stream of the robotics competition that they’re preparing for,” said Jeff Shipley.

I spent my Friday at Davis County High School speaking to junior and senior students in American Government, Economics, Sociology and Conflict in American Literature classes. A full day.

Being invited into classrooms is one of the most delightful privileges of serving in elected office. I’m so thankful for Mrs. Ricci Herr for making the day possible. As soon as I stepped into Mrs. Herr’s classroom, I knew I was in an exceptional learning environment.

The day unfolded spontaneously, with each class period uniquely different than the one before. Students had prepared questions and I enjoyed replying and asking questions back.

I asked students what’s most important to them. What do they love about school? What do they find challenging? What were their plans for after graduation and what life goals have they set for themselves?

I told students that the state of Iowa is investing a lot of money to make sure that they’re prepared for the challenges of the real world, and equipped to live their best, most meaningful lives. So we need feedback.

Issue after issue

Over the course of the day, we talked about almost everything. Abortion, 2nd Amendment, Trump and “the wall,” healthcare, mental health, substance abuse, climate change, water quality, education etc ... We talked about social media, celebrity culture, bullying, extracurriculars, social life, alcoholism, student debt, standardized tests, and so much more.

I got to speak about political activism, what it takes to run for office, and the dynamics of any given election. I was asked about my background, my inspirations, ambitions and personal life including: “Have I ever done anything I regret?” Oh my goodness, what a fun question! Short answer yes, but I’m clever enough not to elaborate in writing.

I was asked about Wikileaks and the difference between snitches and whistleblowers. Snitches are selfish whereas a whistleblower is selfless. It was also wonderful that many students are already learning to be skeptical of commonly held assumptions on topics of historical significance.

Skeptically questioning the government and the media is the most important skills these students will ever learn, so somebody is doing a good job.

I did my best to explain that their daily habits and decisions will set the trajectory for the rest of their lives, and that my position today is a result of decisions I made in high school and college.

I did make the mistake of saying that voting didn’t really matter, but I corrected myself to say that voting is only the bare minimum of civic engagement, and there is a lot of power being involved beyond voting. I made the point repeatedly that our cherished Iowa caucus provides them a chance to affect the conversation nationwide. One voice, when leveraged correctly, can be heard around the world.

Transportation equity bill

I was also asked by three separate students about my vote on HF 307, the transportation equity bill. My political career likely hinges on my explanation of that vote, so I was glad to have the chance to practice on the constituents that matter most, our students.

I explained that I view our world and our government holistically. I explained that in my view there are entire government agencies that we could do without, and that there are potential solutions that could really transform huge budget items like healthcare and criminal justice, (why is law enforcement confiscating CBD treatments?), and that there will inevitably be a financial reckoning from unfunded pension liabilities and debt at all levels of government and society, and that it’s their generation that’s inheriting that debt.

Endless war

And worst of all, I explained, the United States has been at war and occupying foreign nations for their whole entire lives, and that’s ungodly expensive. Let’s just use our imagination for a second and think about the blessings of peace. We’re still paying off debt from wars a century ago. Let’s imagine what it would be like if our country has $22 trillion in the bank instead of $22 trillion in debt.

And that, I explained, is why I can’t in good conscience vote for additional spending until we have a real wake-up call on our priorities.

The students vocalized understanding of my position and reasoning.

I want to say a big thank you to Davis County School District, especially Mrs. Herr. I hope I can come back for more in the fall semester.

Finally, I want to recognize Dayton Rysdam for demonstrating outstanding student leadership in the area of politics and government. There were other exceptional students too that deserve recognition and were quite impressive, but Dayton is the sort of young man that can really make us feel optimistic about our future.

Wishing the Mustang Robotics Club success as they prepare for their annual competition in two weeks, thanks so much to Ezra for the invitation to visit your meeting.

As always, it’s an honor to serve as your state representative. Thank you again for this opportunity.

- Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield) represents District 82 in the Iowa House of Representatives. The district includes Davis and Van Buren counties, and the western two-thirds of Jefferson County, including Fairfield. He can be reached at