On Thursday, Oct. 27, Congressman Pete Aguilar of California's 31st congressional district came to Redlands East Valley to speak to a few hundred students about his life and his job as a congressman. Congressman Aguilar spoke of his struggles growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood in San Bernardino and his mother's determination to get him through school. His humble roots became apparent when he talked about his college experience at the University of Redlands. As he responded to a question about college tuition and loan interest rates he said that he received a Pell Grant from the federal government and that it allowed him to go to college.
When the congressman began taking questions there was a heckler in the audience who shouted "AguLIAR", a play on words used by Aguilar's opponent in this year's election, Paul Chabot. Congressman Aguilar responded with a gracious, well spoken political response, saying that Chabot was actually helping him get his name out by plastering the 'Aguliar' signs around Redlands.
Aguilar answered questions ranging from the legalization of marijuana to the Syrian Civil War. Many questions that were asked were about local issues such as the Greenspot Development Project and the crime rates in San Bernardino; Aguilar's responses to the questions made it obvious that he cares deeply about local politics and urban development issues. He spoke of his beginnings in politics as a city councilman in Redlands and then as the mayor of Redlands to his surprise victory in the congressional election in 2014 and throughout all of his stories he appeared like an average, down to earth man. Even when he was responding to critical questions he answered in a calm and courteous manner.
I got to speak to the congressman after the event and he told me about his dealings on the House floor with some political adversaries that he considers good friends even though they are on different sides of the aisle. He also told me about when Speaker Paul Ryan approached him on the floor the day after the attack in San Bernardino and offered any assistance that the city needed. Congressman Aguilar's visit to REV was very insightful and it helped paint a picture of what life is like as a congressman and how everyone can dream big.