NARDI: My meeting with Joe



Tom Nardi

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of the leaders of VU College Democrats and planned the event with Congressman Sestak last Monday.)

The clock hit 7 p.m. as I slipped on my sneakers, sitting in my grandmother’s Lincoln. While I was perfectly at ease meeting Congressman Joseph Sestak (PA-07) in just my slippers, Mother Nature sent a bit of a rain storm to goad me into a modest respectability. No matter. I still had my hoodie.

As I trudged from Main Lot to Dougherty Hall, laptop firmly tucked under my arm, I wondered how to best set the room. I knew that the Congressman – or Joe, as he prefers – needed a place to speak up front. But the question that had been bugging me all day was how many students would show.

The College Democrats and College Republicans debate last semester drew 70-80 people, and I knew I had advertised this event more. Thirty students replied to the Facebook event, and I had 50 maybes. I hoped for standing-room-only in the West Lounge, but Villanova’s notorious apathy was making me nervous.

7:30 p.m.: I was done setting up, but no one had come yet. 7:40 p.m.: Tom Meehan walks in. Encouraging, but he’s on the executive board. 7:45: People start trickling in, including a girl who said her professor mentioned it. Note to self: Thank Lowell Gustafson. 7:55 p.m.: There are about 40 people, which is encouraging, but there is still no word from the Congressman.

Just as I was about to tell the students he was running late, I notice a hurried-looking young man come in the back door followed by a smaller one, wearing a brown leather jacket. Ah. Joe Sestak, representative of Pennsylvania’s seventh Congressional District, is in the building.

Before I really comprehend what I’m doing, I’m introducing Joe using conventional wisdom that would, at any other time, make me grimace. No matter, since at least now Joe is talking, and the weight of the event is off of my shoulders.

If you thought the flyers that went around advertising the event were rather non-descript, that’s because Joe came to answer questions, and he was amazing in doing it. After giving a brief introduction of himself and his job, he opened the floor to the students assembled, which you see is more informative for us and for him, he said.

And, in typical Villanova fashion, once he asked us what we wanted to talk about, my worst fear as the event organizer was realized. No one asked anything.

However, that only lasted for a minute. Once the crowd started throwing out questions, it was a sight to behold. On everything from tribal relations in Afghanistan to public broadcasting funding, Joe proved why he’s a great representative: he’s a policy wonk.

For an hour and a half, Joe answered every question with amazing detail, touching on recent meetings with constituents, published studies and Congressional Budget Office numbers. No wonder he endorsed Hillary Clinton, a fellow wonk, for the presidency. It certainly would be nice to have someone who cared about the details in office.

Aside from the depth and breadth of his knowledge, though, one thing in particular struck me about my meeting with Joe.

He cared about talking to us, to Villanova students. He treated every question, from his stance on FISA to what he thought the toughest part of his job was, as if it were the most important thing that could have been asked. He answered to the fullest of his knowledge, and with an amazing ability to call up a vast amount of hard facts on the spot to support him.

Even as it closed towards 9:15 p.m. and his aide fidgeted in the front row to try to get Joe to wrap it up, he kept taking questions. It actually took his aide grabbing Joe on the arm and telling him they had to go. Still, he stayed for 15 minutes after most students left to answer more questions and take a picture. It made me proud to be represented by someone like Joe and proud to be a Villanova student that the event was so successful.


Tom Nardi is a senior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].