"When you come from New York, you realize as brilliant as we are, we don't have all the answers."
Highlighting the unique ability of New York area Congress members to collaborate with each other across party lines, United States Representative and St. Francis College alumni Peter T. King '65 (R-NY 2nd District) spoke about growing up in New York City and his career in elected politics to a nearly 200-person audience at St. Francis College on November 18th.
Congressman King, who will retire upon completion of his current term, was a guest in Reflections on a Life of Public Service, a new discussion series between SFC President Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D. and leaders in politics, business and the community.
"You read about how we're all killing each other in Congress and we all hate each other, and to a large extent that's true," said Congressman King, who served nearly 28 years in the United States House of Representatives. "But the New York delegation [to Congress], we work so closely on so many issues...including some hot button issues."
"So we do work together, which is unique. I think it's maybe part of the New York experience."
The Congressman urged young people to stay committed to their principles while also being willing to compromise and accommodate differing points of view.
"You have to be absolutely definite in what you believe in, what you think is right," said Representative King, when asked about working with people across the political spectrum. "Then go into it thinking the other person also thinks he or she is right. Be definite in what you want, but also have an open mind. Also, realize you're never going to get 100 percent."
Representative King credited his St. Francis College education for fostering his ability to work productively with a variety of people.
"One thing I definitely learned from all the history and political science courses I took here is that nobody has the absolute answer and no answer is 100 percent right. If you think you're absolutely right, you're absolutely wrong."
The Congressman, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Sunnyside, Queens, spoke about his young years as being defined by his neighborhood rooted in Irish ethnic identity.
"Life was a lot simpler. We didn't realize it at the time...It was something about New York neighborhoods. Every ethnic group has its own stories about the neighborhoods they grew up in...It was also limited. I mean, I didn't know anybody that wasn't Irish, Italian and Jewish."
When speaking about his upcoming retirement, Representative King said family commitments – not Washington, D.C. political rancor – fueled his decision.
"I'm trying to make plane reservations to meet [my daughter and her family] at Christmas in North Carolina. I can't make those reservations because we don't know what we're going to be doing. We can be voting on impeachment on Christmas Eve, so there's no way you can even make plane reservations to see your grandchildren. I say after 28 years and four days a week down in Washington, maybe God is sending me a message. It's time to get out. But I have no regrets. I enjoyed every bit of it."
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