Stories of Nebraska City, the Arbor Lodge and the conservation efforts of the Arbor Day Foundation will reach school age children and other residents of the UK this week as Suella Fernandes returns home to London after a week-long visit to Washington, D.C., and a weekend visit to Nebraska City as well as the capitol building and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Fernandes, a conservative Member of Parliament in the UK was a guest of Nebraska congressional representative Jeff Fortenberry, at a special breakfast event attended by a group of Nebraska City community leaders, including Mayor Bryan Bequette, as well as Nebraska State Senator Robert Clements of the second district.
The assemblage enjoyed a sun-drenched outdoor breakfast on Saturday morning, shared stories and discussed topics of common interest between residents here and the citizens represented by Fernandes.
Fortenberry introduced Fernandes and said that her visit is part of a United States State Department program that brought a number of members of British Parliament to various locations around the country to develop deeper relationships.
The congressman said he was anxious to show off Nebraska and Nebraska City in particular.
“This area here is one of our historic treasures,” Fortenberry said. “Nebraska City and the Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Foundation really do capture innovation and ideas and forward thinking about how we are going to steward nature’s resources into the future.”
Fortenberry noted that Fernandes was elected to British Parliament in 2015 and re-elected in 2017.
Fernandes opened her talk with a tone of appreciation.
“It’s a real pleasure, honor and delight to be here this morning—to be breakfasting and admiring your beautiful country and wildlife,” said Fernandes. “And it’s a real reminder of the beauty of America.
“My weekend in Nebraska is a real treat,” she said. “I think I have the best destination.”
Fernandes said she felt that the hospitality she received was first rate and noted Nebraska’s potential, its interesting factors and features, its history and economy and the contribution that people here make to America’s greatness in the world.
Fernandes also thanked Fortenberry and his team for the opportunity to visit here and said she has been impressed by the work she has seen from the nation’s leaders in Washington, D.C., as they grapple with complicated issues.
“There are no easy answers,” she said.
But Fernandes also noted that she feels Nebraska is represented in these discussions by a unique politician. During her time in the states, Fernandes said she has heard repeatedly about Fortenberry’s status as a man of integrity, principal and dedication.
“Those are qualities that you don’t find very often in politicians,” she said. “I have been really inspired by my time with Jeff and his team.”
Following her opening remarks, Fernandes talked about issues that the people of the United States and the people of the UK have in common, with those being budgetary issues and national debt, immigration, health care and free trade.
Fernandes said the members of British Parliament, like the Senators and Representatives of the United States Congress, are grappling with the issue of national debt and added that she will be watching the congressional debate about the debt ceiling with great interest.
In terms of immigration, Fernandes said that an influx of skilled workers can be beneficial to a country, but said that she feels that rapid immigration can cause complications including the defragmentation of cultural norms and social values.
Both the U.S. and UK are in the midst of debates regarding complications presented by immigration.
On health care, Fernandes said British Parliamentarians are attempting to balance the needs of their citizens with an eye toward budgeting concerns and an acknowledgment of the complex issues at hand.
The United States Congress recently debated health care with Senators voting to kill a health care bill.
As to free trade, Fernandes said she was one who voted for the Brexit, UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Fernandes said she voted for the Brexit because she felt the UK would have better options for free trade agreements going forward, and, one year after the Brexit, she said she is optimistic about the future and looks forward to the possibility of a trade deal between the U.S. and the UK.
Congressman Fortenberry and Fernandes both agreed on Saturday that free trade agreements lead, not only to prosperity, but also to peace.
In concluding her remarks, Fernandes said she looks forward to working with America in the future.
“I love America and that’s why I trained to be a New York attorney,” Fernandes said, adding that she admires the core values of the United States, which she sees as aspiration, a pioneer spirit, an attitude of enterprise, work ethic and friendliness. “I believe that you are a beacon in the world for good.”
Following the comments by Fernandes, State Senator Clements gave a talk and noted that the state of Nebraska, much like the U.S. as a whole and the UK as well, has been facing budget issues.
Clements said agriculture commodity prices in Nebraska are low and, as a corollary, so are tax revenues. Clements said the state legislature faced the choice of having to raise taxes or cut the budget.
By working with Governor Pete Ricketts, Clements said the appropriate cuts were made and reserves saved during more robust economic periods were drawn upon so that higher taxes could be avoided.
Keeping with the tone of budget issues, Mayor Bequette jokingly said he would welcome Fernandes to join the city’s budget discussions and noted that the budget of Nebraska City would be mere budgetary dust when compared to those with which Fernandes deals.
In getting back to a more serious tone, Mayor Bequette said the best and greatest assets of Nebraska City are its residents. No matter what comes up in Nebraska City, the mayor said someone always seems to find a solution.
“I’ve learned that, at the right time, it seems the right person comes along in this town to get the job done,” he said.
The mayor told Fernandes that the city’s biggest issues were to preserve a vibrant rural life while attracting new businesses, finding workers for those enterprises and then providing good housing for those workers.
Bequette concluded his talk by noting that he was proud of having served alongside British forces on two occasions as a member of the United States Army.
Bequette gave a gift to Fernandes, that being a copy of Images of America, Nebraska City, a book written by Nebraska City’s Tammy Partsch. Senator Clements gave a gift to Fernandes as well, that being a medallion from the Nebraska State Capitol commemorating Nebraska’s 150th birthday.
Following breakfast, the group took a tour of Arbor Lodge and enjoyed a wine tasting and tour at Arbor Day Farm. Fernandes said she knew of two headmasters at schools in her constituency that were very interested in horticulture and who would be keen to learn more about Arbor Day Farm.
Following the conclusion of their tour in Nebraska City, Congressman Fortenberry and Fernandes were to continue their Nebraska travels in Lincoln.