By Bob Dickson

United States Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon visited The Master’s College campus in Santa Clarita on Monday and engaged members of the student body in a one-hour question-and-answer forum.

In visiting TMC’s campus in Placerita Canyon, McKeon (R) returned to the city that helped launch his career in public service. The 74-year-old served as one of Santa Clarita’s first city councilmen when the city incorporated in 1987 – a post he filled until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993.

For an hour on Monday, McKeon fielded questions from a group of students of topics such as the national debt, social security, U.S. foreign policy and the upcoming presidential election. McKeon, who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, got specific about the need for the next president to commit to a strong military presence.

“Reagan’s approach was peace through strength,” McKeon said. “Mitt Romney understands that. He is focused on us having a strong military.”

McKeon called the upcoming election one of the most important in half a century – especially for college-age voters.

“There are a lot of important issues in this campaign,” he told students. “One of the most important is our national spending. You’re the ones who are going to have to live under the debt we’re piling on you … we can’t cut enough from our discretionary spending to get out of debt.”

Students on hand wanted to know where the congressman thought the nation was heading economically. They asked him about his views regarding the nation’s position on recent events in Libya and Syria. McKeon also fielded questions on U.S. energy policy, reiterating his position that the U.S. must become energy independent.

McKeon was brought to The Master’s College in part through his relationship with the college and in particular, longtime TMC history and political studies professor Dr. John Stead. Stead was delighted to be able to expose students to someone with McKeon’s wealth of political experience. He also acknowledged that the event had made an impact on him.

“When you get a chance to interact with a congressman and hear his answers to issues that you’re trying to expose students to in the classroom, it really broadens my perspective as well,” Stead said. “It helps me do a better job communicating to my students what real world politics is like in the United States.”

Traveling with McKeon was a small handful of current TMC students who are serving as interns on his campaign. Joshua Schonfeld, a senior political studies major, has been working on the McKeon campaign since September.

“I’ve been helping out with all the campaign groundwork,” Schonfeld said. “I’m distributing yard signs, registering people to vote, scanning social media … the idea today is to have a casual Q-and-A with the students, to help raise awareness.”

The sentiment was echoed by Stead, who recognized the value of that kind of interaction as it relates to building on the education that takes place in the classroom. It’s the kind of real-world exposure that produces the one thing that’s hard to duplicate though other means … experience.