The article below was originally published in The Owl, the student newspaper. A video of the event, along with photographs, are also included within this news post.
By Finn Donohue ’19 | Student Writer for The Owl
At the beginning of this school year, Young Democrats and Republicans Club (YDR) Presidents Andrew Ceonzo ‘18 and Gabe Keane ‘18 sought to have a notable public policy expert speak at Regis as part of a planned YDR expansion. On Monday, December 4th, they delivered their plan in historic fashion with an organized visit from Jeh Johnson, the fourth Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States and the first cabinet department head to ever visit Regis. For an hour after school, Secretary Johnson spoke to roughly 250 engaged students and faculty members on a variety of topics, from the functions of the Department of Homeland Security to his place in the presidential line of succession.
The event began with a brief introductory speech by Gabe Keane, who reached out to Secretary Johnson and scheduled the visit back in September. “Initially, I didn’t think there would be as many people—I expected just the majority of the Hearn to be there, but was pleased to be proven wrong. The Regis community’s showing was pretty exciting,” Gabe said. Indeed, crowds of students were abuzz in the auditorium as Gabe left the stage and Secretary Johnson walked to the forefront. Ralph Lamberti ’19, a member of YDR, said of the atmosphere: “It was amazing. I couldn’t believe that the former Secretary of Homeland Security was there to speak to us, and I’m sure many others in attendance felt the same way.”
Secretary Johnson opened with a highly edifying PowerPoint presentation detailing the inner workings and purposes of some of the largest components of the Department of Homeland Security, including Customs & Border Protection; the Secret Service; Immigration & Customs Enforcement; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and his favorite agency, the United States Coast Guard. “It was really interesting. I’d never really considered the importance of the Department of Homeland Security before,” said Christian Garcia De La Jara ’21. After dispensing various fascinating facts about his former post, Secretary Johnson shifted his focus to counterterrorism, pointing out that currently, the most pressing threats the US faces come not from abroad, but from radicalized members of our own communities. Though sobering, his assessment of the threats posed to the US provided an invaluable national security insight many Regians would not have received otherwise.
An unanticipated, yet highly popular component of Secretary Johnson’s presentation was his level of interaction with audience members. At numerous points, he queried students on matters of Homeland Security, US government, and Foreign Affairs. Those quick thinking Regians who answered correctly were rewarded with authentic stationery delivered from various governmental departments and institutions, including the White House. One such student was Jon Singleton ’19, who won a sheet from the National Security Agency after successfully naming the Prime Minister of Canada. “It was pretty cool to see a guy that successful to be really outgoing, down to earth, and personable,” Jon remarked. This sentiment was echoed by many others in the audience who appreciated Secretary Johnson’s warm sense of humor and abundance of charisma. After quizzing students, Secretary Johnson allotted a few minutes for audience questions, prompting queries on such subjects as cybersecurity and the fight against ISIS. Rafael Foncillas ’20 commented, “I was somewhat surprised by how seriously Secretary Johnson took our questions. Instead of treating us like typical high school students, he explained things as if we were adults.”
Jeh Johnson’s visit to Regis was undoubtedly a remarkable success, earning much praise from amongst the students in attendance. Regis can surely thank Secretary Johnson, YDR, and Mrs. Henninger for making this event one to remember.
Watch: Video of Jeh Johnson's visit to Regis is embedded below.