The Executive Tea Sits Down with Congressman Anthony Brown
By: Kayla Pasacreta
Congressman Anthony Brown took office as Representative for Maryland’s 4th District and became a member of the Armed Services Committee this January. Even though it is his first year in Congress, he’s no rookie to the game of politics – he served as Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor from 2007-2015 under Governor Martin O’Malley. It’s no secret that this job is always fast-paced. But, with the chaotic Trump Administration, constant flow of new healthcare proposals, and the increasingly worrisome Russia Investigation, Brown is experiencing a unique first year in office.
As I step into his personal office in the House’s Longworth building, he appears refreshed and eager to start the day. The meeting was slated to start at 10, but he arrived at 9:45. This day is classically busy for the Congressman; he warns me that he may have to leave sooner than expected to head to the floor to vote on a bill.
I’m curious to have a window into what it is like to be a Congressman, so my first question is what a typical day in the House is like? Brown chuckles, and uses words like “busy” and “hectic”. A usual day consists of a combination of committee votes, constituent meetings, and roundtables on anything from affordable housing for his constituents to security. He makes sure to note that despite the craziness of his schedule, he’s honored “to have the opportunity to serve” his constituents.
The Executive Tea (TET): As a Democrat, what would you say is your new strategy for dealing with Republican majorities?
Congressman Brown (CB): Trying to find consensus and common ground is the biggest challenge. I try to focus more on what we all agree on, instead of what we disagree on. I’ve been successful in proposing bipartisan legislation, like working with the Department of Defense to create an office in the federal government to help employees who have been hacked.
TET: How do the needs of your constituents translate to your work in Congress?
CB: Through bill proposals, and legislation sponsored for Constituents.
Mr. Brown went on tell me he often relies on constituents to help make him aware of injustices or issues he doesn’t always know about. There was a particular instance in which one of his constituents asked him to look into the abuse of Cameroonians, and he responded by writing a letter to the State Department, asking them to look into it.
TET: You delivered an impassioned speech on the floor about the death of Bowie State student Richard Collins III, to speak about the hate crime epidemic. What type of response did you get from your constituents and colleagues?
CB: The video of that floor speech, which we posted to Facebook and Twitter, definitely had the most engagement of any of our videos. We received a lot of shares, comments, and retweets on it. We got both positive and negative feedback; a lot of people accused me of playing the race card. In September, we’ll be filing legislation to put a greater responsibility on colleges and universities to take instances of hate speech seriously.
If you missed it, watch Congressman Brown’s call for his colleagues to address the epidemic of hate crimes here. Congressman Brown implored his colleagues in Congress to acknowledge the severity and prevalence of hate crimes within the country, “So today, I’m calling on the Administration - that has repeatedly failed to denounce the hate crimes directed at Jews, members of the LGBT community, or immigrants – to denounce the hate-fueled killing of a black soldier, Second Lieutenant Richard Collins.” If you are unfamiliar about the tragedy of Richard Collins III, read more here.
Though the data points to a rise of hate crimes on the basis of race, religion, and sexuality, many took issue with Congressman Brown addressing the problem. His response to the negativity stuck out to me
With the myriad of views and lack of “political correctness”, Brown insisted that he “can’t legislate what people believe”, but he can try his hardest to legislate implications for hate speech.
TET: Why do you think young people should be engaged in politics?
CB: Young people have more at stake than anyone else. Your views are important. Intergenerational participation is important. When young people aren’t voting or participating, you are denying your generation to opportunity to weigh in. I also believe we have to make room for millennials to participate.
Congressman Brown is right – the policies and laws that are pronounced on every day directly affect our future. After all, young people have always been on the frontlines of movements like Black Lives Matter, the Resistance, and the Women’s March. This generation has the unique opportunity to utilize tools like social media, which make it easier to access information about politics as well as take a social stand in activism.
Congressman Brown’s interview with me further proved he is on the right side of history. A vocal opponent of President Trump, Brown was one of sixty-seven congressmen who decided not to attend Donald Trump’s Inauguration. Negative feedback aside, the move was one that many could appreciate. We often talk about the Resistance Movement in our social corners; Twitter retweets and Instagram posts. To see a Congressman literally acting it out and taking a stand on a problematic administration is extremely encouraging.
Talking to Mr. Brown was a refreshing reminder that despite the hectic and discouraging political environment we’re living in, there are still lawmakers out there who are dedicated to their constituents, activism, and making the right choices for the American people. It’s not politics as usual in Washington anymore, and we need more leaders to take a stand on the issues that matter.