ROGERSVILLE — On the morning of Sept. 3, 2019, Congressman Phil Roe paid a visit to students in three classes at Hawkins Elementary School.
Roe represents the state’s first district, which encompasses 12 counties in Northeast Tennessee.
Roe was accompanied by his District Director Bill Darden, his Field Representative Daryl Brady, Director of Schools Matt Hixson, Elementary Supervisor Lori Allen and Sheriff Ronnie Lawson.
At HES, Roe visited Dwain Brewer’s fourth grade class, Amy Antrican’s fifth grade class and Lauren Quillen’s special education class to interact with students and give a brief talk on the workings of the House of Representatives.
“There are 435 Congressmen all the way from Maine to California,” Roe told the students in Antrican’s classroom. “The way it is decided is that, next year, your parents are going to have to fill out a census. What a census is, is it basically counts everybody in the country. You’re going to get counted next year, so we’ll know how many people live in the United States of America. Then, we just divide it by 435, and that’s how many people I represent.”
To put this number in perspective for the students, Roe asked if any of them had attended a University of Tennessee football game.
“I hate to even use this as an analogy … because it was pretty painful Saturday against Georgia State,” Roe said with a laugh. “But, you know how big the stadium is. I represent seven UT football stadiums full of people. That’s 725,000 people — a lot of people.”
He also explained that the students live in “one of the most historic districts of America.”
“We’re the only congressional district in America that’s had two presidents,” he explained. “Andrew Jackson was the first person to hold my seat. He was the first person to be a congressman from the state of Tennessee. It was 1796 when we became a state. The second President of the United States (from the district) was Andrew Johnson, and he was from Greenville — not very far from here. He became president when President Lincoln was assassinated. There’s a third famous person that I know you’ve heard of that’s been a congressman from the first district, and that’s Davy Crockett. He was not born on a mountain top like the song said. He was born by the Nolichucky River in Limestone in what is now Washington County.”
Roe then explained what a typical day is like for a congressman as well as his experiences aboard Air Force One.
“One of the questions I usually get asked is ‘have you met the president,’ and the answer is ‘yes, many times,’” he said. “I’ve had a chance to be inside the oval office and fly on Air Force One. Interestingly, the co-pilot on that plane is from Elizabethton, Tenn. One of the stewards on the airplane is from Kingsport, so we’ve got a local connection.”
He then told the students that those aboard Air Force One actually got a chance to try Pal’s famous tea last October when President Donald Trump spoke in Johnson City.
“When we landed here, I told the young man from Kingsport, ‘your tea is pretty good, but it’s not as good as Pal’s,” Roe said with a laugh. “He said, ‘not to worry, Dr. Roe! We’re going to go and get some tea from Pal’s while we’re here.’ I don’t know whether the President got any of it or not.”
Next, Roe discussed an influential law he created that actually saved a Kingsport boy’s life.
“In my previous life, before I got to Washington, I was a doctor,” he explained. “I practiced medicine in Johnson City for many, many years. I know that food allergies, if you have one severe enough, can actually cause people to die. So, I got together with one of the Democrats and said, ‘we’ve got an idea about where we want to have EpiPens …’ so we sat down and had a bill written out … Less than two years after [the bill was passed], we found out that a young student in Kingsport, Tenn. had a food allergy and would have died had that law not been passed.”
On that note, Hawkins Elementary Paraprofessional Lisa Young shared that Roe had actually delivered her nephew 23 years ago on Roe’s own birthday.
When Roe opened the floor to student questions, one asked how people are elected to congress.
“That’s a great question,” Roe responded. “Rogersville’s own Congressman Bill Jenkins retired. When he did, it opened the seat up. We have to run every two years in the House. In the Senate, it’s every six. You just make a decision that you want to run, and you’ve got to go out and get 25 people to sign their name who are registered voters. Send that in to the state election commission, and then you officially are on the ballot. Next, you have to declare whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. Next August, there will be a [primary] election … and whoever wins that will be on the ballot for the general election in November. That’s when President Trump will on the ballot to see if he gets re-elected. Then, if you’re elected, you serve a two-year term.”
After visiting the students, Roe posed for photos with teachers and students before heading to several other events throughout his district.