Bill Johnson talks about importance of leadership

Congressman visits students at Union Local High School

T-L Photo/DYLAN McKENZIE Congressman Bill Johnson speaks to a group of selected students at Union Local High School on Monday.

MORRISTOWN — Students of Union Local High School got the chance to learn a little about the importance of leadership on Monday, as they heard from guest speaker Congressman Bill Johnson.

Johnson, R-Ohio, was at the high school to kick off the school’s Leadership Seminars, a series of monthly meetings for students that includes various guest speakers such as local elected officials, labor and business leaders, and other notable community members. Johnson started speaking at various high schools in his district to help young people realize the part they play in America, something he believes is vitally important that they hear.

“It’s something I’ve been doing for around six or seven years now. Anytime I get the chance to talk to young people, I do, because they are the future of our country,” he said. “They have the responsibility, the challenge and the opportunity to write the next chapter in our history.”

Johnson spoke to a group of about 25 students, selected by Principal Joel Davia. Davia said the students, most of whom he knows personally, were all selected to participate based on the leadership qualities they already possessed, be it in school sports, politics or clubs. The students listened to Johnson speak about the importance of standing up and being a leader in school, their community and the nation as a whole. The congressman said everyone is already a leader of some kind; the trick is to figure out if you are a positive leader or a negative one, and to find out how you are influencing the people around you. Johnson said he knows that right now, these seem like big questions but “the clock ticks fast.”

“Sooner or later, I’ll walk out of my office, and when I do, I’m not coming back,” Johnson said. “And when that happens, it’s your generation that needs to take up th reins of leadership.”

Johnson pointed out that being a leader, especially one in government, isn’t easy.

He said that America has had difficulties from its earliest days, but the people have persevered to help build a great, powerful nation. He spoke about the numerous innovations that Americans managed to come up with in the relatively brief period of time from the end of the Civil War to the end of the 1960s — advances in politics, medicine and technology such as cars, planes, electricity and much more inside only a century. He told students he hopes their generation continues to innovate and learn, taking the lead for America in the modern age.

“I really enjoyed listening to him, and I think the students did, too,” Davia said after the program was finished.

Johnson said all of the students were “wide-eyed and attentive.” He said he’s always grateful for a chance to speak to young people, and he hopes to revisit the school in April to see the group again after they have had other guest speakers and “have a different discussion” regarding leadership.

“It’s important that they know now that we value them and their leadership,” Johnson said about the students. “I saw a lot of wide eyes, so I remain encouraged about the future of our country.”