The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

One of the most important, yet most underappreciated, freedoms American citizens have is the right to petition our government. This freedom allows individuals to speak their minds and share their opinions with their government without fear of reprimand from the government.

I hold my job to listen to the thoughts, ideas, concerns and grievances of my bosses – the people of Iowa’s Third Congressional District – as a sacred duty.

Over the past month the news has been full of constituents exercising their First Amendment rights -sometimes quite loudly and passionately – from Iowa state legislator coffees to the town halls of Members of Congress across the country.

This past week I witnessed this exercise when I hosted my first Coffee with My Congressman town meeting of the year in central Iowa. I host at least one of these in each of the sixteen counties of Iowa’s Third Congressional District each year.

The meeting was attended by over 250 people and, just like all of my Coffee with My Congressman meetings, covered a wide range of topics. We discussed health care, retirement security in the context of protecting and improving social security, our national security, immigration, campaign finance, environmental issues, federal funding for a number of programs and priorities and some of the work of President Trump and his administration in his first weeks in office.

And, while there were disagreements over the best plan of actions on addressing each issue – I appreciated the opportunity of hearing directly from those I have been hired to represent in the United States House of Representatives. I believe the opinion of every person in that meeting deserved a respectful ear and consideration. Even if I don’t ultimately agree with their opinion – thoughtfully listening to it gives me additional input that helps me better represent all the people of the Third District.

This is why I visit every county of the Third District at least once each month, hold regular telephone town halls and schedule personal meetings with constituents who want to have a productive conversation about a wide variety of things important to them. In just the first 54 days of this New Year I’ve had the honor of holding more than 200 personal meetings with over 1,800 Iowans.

One thing has always stood out at all of my meetings and town halls – whether it was with one person or 250: the people of Iowa’s Third Congressional District have a deep passion and concern for their communities, our state and America’s well-being. And, while there are many differences of opinions on what is best for our communities, our state and nation, it is the passion that drives these First Amendment protected conversations that is real and healthy for our democracy.

I am proud to represent all the people in Iowa’s Third Congressional District. I will always work hard to be as accessible as possible to give my bosses the ability to freely petition their government. So, whether you have an idea, a concern, problem with a federal agency, opinion or grievance please know that I will continue to stand ready to listen to you.

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