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"The Express" article on Rep. Tonko's visit to the Jr/Sr HS Library

Congressman Tonko Delivers Books to MHS Library

Mechanicville October 17-In this day and age, when electronic devices dominate our everyday lives, it’s refreshing to see a group of high school students who still like the experience of reading a real book, one they can hold in their hands and flip the pages.  To that end, Congressman Paul Tonko and three staff members came to Mechanicville High School’s library on Wednesday to present $500 worth of real hands-on books from the Library of Congress. There to meet with him were Librarian Beth Kuzmich and seven 8th graders from her junior high school book club.  Ms. Kuzmich says that she has a high school group as well and the students meet each week to read and discuss the books they’ve read.  They are also now into what they call “Read the book, see the movie”, in which they follow up their reading by watching the movie made from the book and analyzing the transition from one to the other.

Congressman Tonko told the club members that the Library of Congress, an incredible library in Washington, D. C., has a huge collection of all kinds of books, and they give away 20,000 each day to various entities.  This program gives congressional representatives the opportunity to share the surplus books with the people of their districts. Ms. Kuzmich heard about the program from a fellow librarian and applied for books for her students.  With the congressman on that day to present the books to Mechanicville’s students were Katy Greenberg, a Clifton Park native who works in the Library of Congress; Marilyn Smith, his Economic Development Liaison who connects with the librarians in his district who request books; and Colleen Williams, his District Manager.

Sitting at a table in the library with the students, the congressman asked them what issues concern them as junior high students.  The boys and girls brought up a variety of issues, including greenhouse gases, bullying via social media, climate change, renewable energy and mental health issues.  The congressman replied that he is working on those issues, serving on a variety of committees in Congress that address many of the important issues of the day.

“What we don’t do now will haunt you in the future,” he said.

The students in turn asked Congressman Tonko why he got into government.  He replied that as a youngster, he was much impacted by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and he was enthused that in Kennedy’s time he had started the program to put a man on the moon and established the Peace Corps. He was much inspired, he said, by his grandmother, an immigrant who was so very proud when she was able to vote after getting her citizenship papers.

Congressman Tonko told the boys and girls that he graduated in an era of poor economy and ongoing protests against the war in Viet Nam.  One reason he got into politics was because he thought we needed a better energy policy. He has been in government for 35 years, with the Montgomery Board of Supervisors, the New York State Assembly and now as a congressman.

They asked if he was comfortable being in such a position when first elected. He replied that he was a little intimidated at first and he hated public speaking, but he believed in what he was doing, so he pushed himself to do it.

“It’s not about being comfortable,” he said, “it’s about doing all you can.”

They asked him what his job is like as a congressman.  He replied that it’s early starts and long days and that it’s important to get out and meet people and hear from people about their concerns for our country.  He works on many committees, including being the leading Democrat on the environmental subcommittee. He also works on budgeting and puts in a great deal of time facing the important issues of our times. He attends lots of meetings, and meets with numerous groups and societies and professional groups.

“It’s all about community,” he said. “We can’t conquer everything at once, but we can make an impact.”

Joining in the gathering were Superintendent of schools Dr. Michael J. McCarthy, Junior High School Principal Craig Forth and High School Principal Kevin Kolakowski.

Ms. Kuzmich asked the congressman what is his favorite book of all time?

“Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I’m reading it for the second time,” he replied.  Ms. Carson’s iconic book was the first popular volume to sound the alarm on the environmental crisis.

When she asked him if he has any words of wisdom to share with the students, Congressman Tonko said, “Be true to yourself.  Do what you want to do. Use your gifts, put them to work. Go with whatever you’re good at. Life is searching for where we can do the most good.”


Sandy McBrideTonko's Library Visit