Our Kid Reporter Talks With A Member of Congress

Xander with U.S. Representative Don Beyer, who represents his district in Virginia

United States Representative Don Beyer, a Democrat, serves Virginia’s 8th District, where I live. To learn more about Representative Beyer and his policies, I recently spoke with him at his Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C. 

Beyer was born in Italy, where his father was serving in the U.S. Army. The oldest of six children, he was raised in Washington, D.C.

Beyer has served Virginia in the House of Representatives since 2015. He has an extensive background in business, displomacy, and politics. Under former President Barack Obama, he served as Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. From 1990 until 1998, he was Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Beyer is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence (AI) at George Mason University. 

I asked Beyer about the upcoming presidential election in November and what students need to know. He stressed the importance of learning about the issues at stake, even though kids are too young to vote. “You may be in sixth grade now,” he said. “But you’ll be 18 years old in the blink of an eye. All the things . . . we decide upon are going to affect you way more than they affect me.”

Beyer cited climate change as a top global challenge. “February was the warmest February we’ve ever had,” he said. “Every year, it gets hotter and hotter.” This means an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events, a loss of habitats for wildlife, and a greater risk for floods and droughts.

“My biggest goal right now is trying to make fusion energy happen as soon as possible,” Beyer said. Fusion energy, which is still in development, would be much safer for the environment than the burning of fossil fuels. 

Beyer also cited the alarming number of mass shootings in the U.S. as a big cause for concern. He and many other Democrats support additional gun-safety measures, which most Republicans oppose.  



Beyer said that AI, the science of making machines that can think like people, will bring significant changes in the years ahead. He emphasized the need to regulate AI to lower the risks associated with it, including cyber attacks and a potential loss of jobs.

“AI is going to be very positive for us,” he said. “But we also have to be prepared for the downsides. Bias is one. AI . . . tends to be, at the moment, prejudicial against people of color and women. We have to be careful about hallucinations, where AI gives you the wrong answer, and you believe it’s the right answer. We have to be concerned about the national security implications.” 

As for issues affecting the 8th District of Virginia, Beyer brought up the lack of affordable housing in the area. There’s a need for more housing, he said, which would make homes more available and less expensive.

Beyer encourages young people to remain lifelong learners, an example he sets by studying at a local university. He acknowledged the challenges of balancing coursework with his duties in the House, but stressed the value of perseverance.




Photo courtesy of the author