As you know, many winters ago a small mouse named John lived under the strong roots of a sycamore tree on the bank of the St. Francis River. Wrapped in whatever spare cotton fiber he found in the fields, he lived quite comfortably with his family in peace.
On the 16th of January, his cousin, a city mouse, came to visit. John loved his cousin from the city and so spared nothing he had. Across the table he placed the peanuts and rice from his fall forages in a hearty spread. But his city cousin shook his head at this modest meal and said, "I don't understand the way you live cousin, the things you eat, it's all so bare and plain. Come far away with me to the city, and I'll show you what it truly means to live well. Once you've experienced it, you'll never want to come back to your sycamore tree."
So off at once they went, John scurrying after his cousin, and they arrived in the city the next day. "I should expect you must be quite hungry after the journey," his cousin politely said, and led John into the living room where they found the remains of an absolute feast. Rich meat and sweet pies covered the table. But no sooner had they begun to eat than they heard great growls and the clicking of paws. At that very moment, three enormous dogs burst through the door while John and his cousin ducked for cover. "What on earth was that?" John asked. "That's only the dogs," his cousin replied.
Cowering under the table cloth, John told his cousin that he was sorry but that he must return home. "Back to your tree already?" his cousin asked. "Yes I am," John said. "I prefer my peanuts and rice in peace than your pies and meat in fear."
Many differences divide our nation, but the needs of rural Americans contrast sharply with the desires of city dwellers. Our country's Congressional Districts are so varied, and each has its own specific demands. Some districts are as big as or bigger than our own 1st District of Arkansas, stretching from Mountain Home near the Missouri border all the way down to Eudora close to Louisiana. Some, like those in New York City, are only a few city blocks.
Fairly serving the interests of both presents a challenge to Congress, a challenge we can't navigate quickly, or quietly. Highways and roads in our district connect rural communities and provide much needed transportation for transcontinental trucking and farm equipment. Our roads keep families in touch, get people to work on time, and help grow and transport the food that feeds America. Enormous overpasses and fast-moving rail systems in the larger cities move millions upon millions of citizens back and forth from restaurants, offices, and factories every day. How can we as a nation fairly serve such different needs?
I believe the answer lies in doing what Americans have always done best, respecting each other's differences while at the same time staying true to who we are. Every day I join together with other rural Congressmen, from Georgia to Montana, and we fight to represent and protect the districts we seek to serve. We communicate our message as best we can, but we must also listen carefully to the voices of Congressmen who don't understand us or have different needs. Through the dialogue and often heated debate that follows, we constantly try to keep America moving forward, as diverse and wonderful as it is.