Virginia Foxx in the News
Foxx speaks to Lees-McRae students
By Thomas Sherrill, Avery Journal-Times
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx spoke about her life, a day in the life in Congress and more to Lees-McRae students on Friday, March 31, in Evans Auditorium.
“I’m really happy to represent Avery County for the first time,” Foxx told the audience. “I don’t know if it’ll stay that way, but I hope it does happen.”
Foxx talked about growing up in Crossnore, noting that she was 14 before having electricity. Then, being convinced to go to college, first went to Lees-McRae, which at the time was a two-year school.
“Lees McRae is a wonderful school and was a wonderful school,” Foxx said of LMC.
Foxx noted that she had to drop out after one semester as she couldn’t afford LMC, and moved to New York City to work as a corporate typist for six months. Upon returning, Foxx enrolled at Appalachian State for a year and a half, then transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill, eventually getting her doctorate.
“I never aspired to work in public office growing up,” Foxx said. “We just wanted to survive.”
After taking some time to brag on her grandkids and their track and field accomplishments, Foxx talked about the day in the life of a member of Congress.
Foxx said she works around 60 hours a week in Washington, D.C. and “is on call 24 hours.” Days start early, sometimes with meetings at 7 a.m., but usually in office between 7:30 and 8 a.m.
“There’s very little time we’re not in meetings,” Foxx said of her days in the Capitol. “Sometimes we’re with constituents, sometimes in hearings, sometimes on the floor voting.”
Foxx said her philosophy is if there’s a constituent in town, she will meet with them, which she said is different than most of Congress.
The day in the office goes to 7:30 to 8 p.m. answering emails and letters and reading the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times.
“I think it’s safe to say I’m the only member of Congress who answers all their own mail,” Foxx noted.
Foxx says her normal day in D.C. ends after midnight and notes that even when away from the Capitol, she stays busy with meetings and speeches.
“I normally sleep right around six hours, though some people need eight hours,” Foxx said. “I’m a six-hour-a-night person and I’m lucky for that.”
Later on, Foxx noted that she has seen her husband, who is spending the winter in Florida, for 36 hours in the last six weeks.
Answering questions, Foxx noted she believes in life experiences being beneficial to work in Congress.
“I don’t like it when people run for Congress and get elected too young,” Foxx said. “You need to know what your constituents are experiencing.”
Foxx told the crowd that they should learn at least one useful thing in every job, noting that she did so, even when working as a janitor while in high school.
Upon being asked what she does for leisure, Foxx said she marks off items on her to-do list that she enjoys.
Foxx said that the most rewarding aspect of her job is helping someone who can’t get help anywhere else.
“I love getting legislation passed,” Foxx said. “I’m the only person that could help my constituents sometimes.”
A “teacher at heart,” Foxx brought up the idea of potentially teaching at LMC after her Congress days.
The top obstacle to overcome, a question Foxx said she has never been asked before, was in her early days getting a degree, because of the ceiling of potential for someone in Avery County and similar rural counties.
“Aspirations weren’t real high in the sense of what could I do after high school because it’s hard for you to imagine what Avery County was like in 1961,” Foxx noted. “There were no jobs, very little you could do, not many teaching jobs.”
Foxx said that young people have more choices than they realize, saying “you’ll never have it as hard as I did. I’m not bragging about it, that’s the way it is.”
In speaking on empathy, Foxx spoke of an acupuncture school in her district that is struggling “because of regulations passed under the Obama administration,” and said that despite having never used acupuncture herself, she can empathize with their issues.
Foxx stressed the importance of knowing her constituents. She also brought up the importance of “losing an election and living” after losing a Watauga school board election in the 1970s.
Foxx also lamented how hard it is to get good people in politics.
“You’re lied about, your family is lied about, you’re maligned. It’s getting more and more difficult to run for public office,” Foxx said. “One problem you have in this job is hearing one side of a story,” Foxx said of challenges. “You need to hear all sides of a story.”
Voting on tough bills was brought up, with Foxx saying “a ‘no’ vote is better than a ‘yes’ vote” when it comes to tough bills.
Foxx brought up what she feels is a current problem of “groups out there quickly drumming up controversy where there is no controversy,” citing the American Health Care Act as an example, saying there were “lies and misinformation” disseminated about the bill.
Foxx spoke about how much diversity there is among Republicans, bringing up the environment as an example, saying the notion that “Republicans don’t care about the environment” was untrue.
“Teddy Roosevelt was one of the greatest environmentalists that ever lived in this country,” Foxx said. “I think he did wonderful things for the national areas in this country for people to use.”
In bringing up how over-regulating the government can be, Foxx brought up the idea that she feels that people running the endangered species list “alienate people who would otherwise be on their side by being so extreme.”
A student asked Foxx about her family, and Foxx brought up how it was atypical of the area, in that it was small compared to larger families.
In conclusion, LMC President Barry Buxton asked Foxx what her best trait was, and Foxx responded “dogged determination.”
“I’m really dogged about getting things done if I feel it’s the right thing to do,” said Foxx, who then told a story about how she was able to dislodge a giant rock out of her garden thanks to her determination.
“Sometimes it takes years to get a piece of legislation passed. Sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time,” Foxx said in conclusion.
Foxx talked to students after the event concluded about a variety of subjects, while a couple of individuals implored the Congresswoman to save the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities.
One of the petitioners, LMC assistant professor of history and program coordinator for history Scott Huffard, held up a sign saying “Save the NEA and NEH,” while another, James Perry of Banner Elk, presented Foxx with a $25 check for the NEA. Foxx asked Perry to instead consider donating to help arts in Avery.