Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) dominated a discussion on millennials this morning at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center in downtown Washington. The Atlantic and National Journal hosted the event that was underwritten by Microsoft. Moderating the interviews were Ron Brownstein, editorial director for Atlantic Media, and Steve Clemons, editor-at-large for National Journal and The Atlantic.
Schock was the final interviewee and perhaps the most memorable.
Clemons asked Schock a question that made him carefully weigh his answer before he spoke.”Are you feared by our elders?” he asked. “You’re on Instagram and Twitter. Are you respected for surfing in that realm?”
Schock, who is known for taking a selfie or two, replied, “Um, what I would say is this. It’s a very delicate balance. Part of it is you sharing your perspective. Obviously I did not join this body to become what I call are the old crusties. But I also can’t be successful as an island. Yeah, if you go surfing or post a photo that an 80-year-old wouldn’t, you get a chuckle.”
The lawmaker arrived to Congress when he was only 27. He surmises, “When you come in young, you didn’t do it by following all the rules.”
He intimates that the same is true for succeeding in Congress. “I’m not going to become them,” he said, apparently referring to his crusty colleagues.
Schock compared Congress to high school, saying there are the jocks, nerds and party animals. When you get to Congress a few things happen: “You look around and you say ‘how did I get here?’” he said. “Then you look around and say, ‘how did they get here?’” (The packed room of mostly millennials laughed.)
The lawmaker says something that bonds him to Gabbard is their mutual “disdain for the status quo.” He cracked on some of his colleagues saying that they “should have more wisdom.” But instead, “they prefer to stand up and hear themselves speak.” Referring to Gabbard, he said, “We both ran for Congress because we wanted to make stuff happen.”
Gabbard said this about their mutual interests: “Aaron and I became friends because we started talking and we had the same frustrations, she said. “We respect each other, we like each other, so we want to work together.” They’re also both frustrated on a lack of movement in a comprehensive immigration bill.
Asked about the “me” reputation of millennials and how accurate that is, Gabbard told The Mirror, “I think there are parts that are true, but you have to ask why. The millennials want tangible results.” She said the rep is less selfish than it sounds.
In the opening speech of the session, Fred Humphires, VP of U.S Government Affairs at Microsoft, expresses some tough love. “One thing, just keepin’ it real, [is that] millennials are sometimes about me. It’s gotta be about us.”
He insisted that in order to move the system forward, you have to cast tough votes and be willing to be unpopular.
In dealing with the media, Schock says it comes with the job. His philosophy is, “Don’t complain, no one will feel sorry for you.” He reasoned, “Everybody has a smartphone, everyone is a reporter.”
Speaking of which, how does Schock feel about serving in an era when a lawmaker’s every move and every flick of ear wax is watched. He said lawmakers having one-on-one time is tougher, with so many eyes watching. Schock somehow hadn’t heard about his colleague, Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), picking and eating his own ear wax. His senior advisor, Benjamin Cole, quickly brought him up to speed, handed me his card and said they needed to leave.
With Schock so well-versed in social media, I expressed surprise that he hadn’t heard about his ear wax colleague. Cole cracked that thanks to The Daily Caller (which didn’t break the news) the incident, picked up by C-SPAN cameras, went far and wide.
“Send me a link to your story,” he remarked, closing in on his boss with a blond female aide, prepping Schock for his next interview.