SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Fourth graders at South Plainfield’s Roosevelt Elementary School welcomed Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (18th L.D.) on Oct. 6. Diegnan, a lifelong resident of the borough, spent close to an hour speaking with the students on a range of topics, including but not limited to the upcoming presidential election, voting, and his role as a state senator.

 “We are a democracy, a place where everybody gets to vote [and] the right to vote separates us from other countries,” Diegnan told the fourth graders and offered to provide them with voter registration material to bring home. “The right to vote is one of the most important things in the world. Go home and tell you parents to vote…It is so very, very important.”

In speaking about next month’s presidential election, Diegnan was s impressed by the show of hands indicating many of Roosevelt’s fourth graders had watched the first debate. The senator also noted that, in addition to electing the country’s next president, voters this year also have the opportunity to elect representatives for other state, county, borough, and even board of education, this November.

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Diegnan, a member of the Democratic Party, has been involved in New Jersey politics for the past 14 years. He was first elected to represent the 18th L.D. in the New Jersey State Assembly back in 2002 and last November, was re-elected to his eighth consecutive term. In May 2016, Diegnan was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate and, as a result, must run this November to fill the year remaining on the seat. If elected, he will have to run for his own, four-year term in November 2017.

“If you set you mind to it, you can be anything you want to be. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t,” Diegnan said.

Last Tuesday’s program was organized by Roosevelt teacher Alyson Oller who, along with the other fourth grade teachers, provided students with some background on their local senator prior to his arrival. “Ms. Oller thought it would be good idea for a local representative to come in and talk to the children about government and civics,” said Roosevelt Principal Robert Diehl. “It was a great idea because it provided an up-close-and-perform touch, especially with the election coming up.”

During his visit, Diegnan also shared personal stories and accomplishments from his personal life and political career as well as answered a variety of questions ranging from ‘have you ever met President Obama?’ and ‘what does congress do?’ to ‘have you ever attended a national convention?’ and ‘are you really the youngest of seven children?’ He also encouraged the students to go visit the state’s capitol in Trenton and, with the assistance of representative from the Middlesex County Board of Elections, ran a mock election using an actual voting machine.

“The kids were outstanding, they very polite and attentive,” said Diegnan following his visit. “I think it is very important that they learn about our democratic process and it was very refreshing to see how informed they are.”

Added Diehl, “The fourth graders are old enough to understand and be excited about the process and having Senator Diegnan here was a win-win. Not only is he a local senator but he also lives in South Plainfield so it is someone who can they relate to.”

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