BCHS student Laura VonKampen interviews Sen. Chuck Grassley at the school, Feb. 1.

By Dean Close, Editor

Career advice.

Tips for new farmers.

Thoughts on what America needs most.

Oh, and a little bit of politics.

Those were the topics on Thursday in the auditorium of Benton Community High School, where Sen. Charles Grassley spoke to more than 200 students and teachers at the end of the day.

After a brief biographical introduction, Grassley immediately asked the audience for questions. The first question focused on when Grassley decided on his career path.

Grassley recalled how in high school, he decided he would want to become a state legislature. His career goals at that time did not go beyond Des Moines, he told the students. Elected in 1958, Grassley served until the early seventies. Grassley grew up in New Hartford, where one of his middle school teachers was the late Henry Van Eschen of Vinton. Grassley would stop to visit his former teacher during his stops in Vinton.

In 1972, Grassley told the BC students and teachers, he ran for Congress, trying to replace a man who had retired. He lost in 1972, but ran again two years later, and won. He stayed in Congress until running for the U.S. Senate in 1980. He defeated incumbent John Culver, the father of former Governor Chet Culver. Grassley has spent the past 37 years in the U.S. Senate, where his assignments include being Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

If he had not been elected or stayed in government, Grassley said, he would most likely be teaching government in a high school. He has also been active in his family farm most of his life, with the help of his children and grandchildren.

‘Civil discussion’

Someone asked Grassley what one thing he would change about our country, and Grassley quickly responded.

“I am not sure government can do this, but we are less civil than we were before,” the Senator replied. “We ought to be able to talk to each other about controversial issues and not get mad at each other.”

Saying that he really hates it when people say that it’s taboo to discuss religion and politics, Grassley countered that both have been very important in American life, and that people should be able to share their views and beliefs, and to listen to the views and beliefs of others, without getting angry.

When asked about his views of the younger generation, Grassley had just one opinion to share: “You should get involved,” he said.

Regardless of beliefs or political affiliation, Grassley said young people should get involved. For some, that means just voting, he said. For others, it could mean volunteering with organizations or campaigns, or finding other ways to share their opinions.

After speaking to the crowd for 45 minutes or so, Grassley shook hands, posed for photos and answered many questions in one-on-one discussions. One student asked for advice concerning how to get involved in his family farm after high school. Others mentioned friends or relatives who had known Grassley years ago.

Grassley did answer a few questions about politics.

About President Donald Trump: Grassley told the audience that he did not expect Trump to win. Even at 10 p.m. on election night, when the election results from swing states were starting to look favorable for Trump, Grassley said he did not see how Trump could win. The Senator also said that Trump believes he was elected for specific reasons, and that Trump has continued to try to accomplish what he was elected to do.

About immigration: Grassley said he prefers the term “undocumented immigrants” to “illegal aliens.” He does support a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” the children who came here with parents who arrived illegally. He also said that he is concerned that some Democrats are more interested in making the Dreamers a 2018 campaign issue than in solving the problem. Grassley also favors a Mexican border security plan that includes adding 600-700 miles of actual wall, as well as other security measures.

About the Supreme Court: In response to a teacher’s question about the decision not to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Grassley replied that the Republican position that a President should not appoint a replacement in the last year of his presidency echoes what many Democrats had said years earlier. The Democrats, however, never had that situation arise, he said.

Another student asked what Grassley would consider some of his greatest accomplishments. Two he mentioned: Wind Energy and the law requiring laws passed by Congress to apply to Congress. Grassley said Iowa now gets more than one-third of its electricity from wind power.

Grassley has been in Congress during the terms of eight different Presidents: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump. He said that while each new administration brings some adjustments, the job of Congress has not changed much with a new White House occupant. While Grassley, a Republican, says his favorite President is Reagan, he says George W. Bush was the best one to work with on creating and passing legislation.

See more photos HERE.