Located across the Tidal Basin, away from bustling crowds at some other historic monuments on the National Mall, the Jefferson Memorial can lend itself to moments of peaceful reflection about citizenship, history and the country’s future.
Freshman U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-Blair – in his early days as a congressman – has found himself drawn to the site that pays tribute to the United States’ third president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence.
“Probably one of my favorite places to go – for just a few minutes of quiet – is the Jefferson Memorial,” Joyce said during an interview, following a recent tour of JWF Industries in Johnstown. “I find it to be very peaceful to me. It’s a beautiful memorial. It’s off of the mainstream. A lot of people go to the Lincoln Memorial, which I absolutely love, or go to the Washington memorial.
“But the Jefferson Memorial, in many ways, allows me just that quiet moment to realize what an incredible position I’m in at this point of my life.”
Joyce, 62, joined the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3.
A year earlier, he was a dermatologist and small business owner who had never run for elected office.
But longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican, announced he would not seek re-election in what was then Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District.
Then, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declared the commonwealth’s district map to be unconstitutional and redrew the lines. Blair County was brought into the new 13th Congressional District, along with all of Somerset and Bedford counties, eastern Westmoreland and part of Cambria, including Johnstown. Joyce emerged from an eight-candidate primary with 22 percent of the vote and then convincingly won a general election in a district that was rated Republican+22 by the Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index.
Since then, he has lived the life of a congressman with packed schedules, separation from family and friends, and late-night studying of issues.
“There has to be sacrifice involved,” Joyce said. “You have to recognize that. I would never had done this job if my children were young. My children are adults. And I have a granddaughter that many people recognize from the ads from the campaign. I didn’t miss a football game, a basketball game, a swim meet. I was always there.
“And I’m proud of that. I’ve been able to participate in my children’s lives. I’ve served our community as a doctor. This is my time to serve at a different level.”
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Joyce lives in an apartment about a mile from the U.S. Capitol and his office in the Longworth House Office Building.
He walks to work every day, providing him a few minutes to be outside in Washington, D.C., before spending most of his time in meetings and hearings.
“It gives me a chance to walk up the hill, to pray, to understand that my responsibility is to be one of about 10,000 people that have ever had the opportunity to do what I’m doing,” Joyce said. “And when the framers of the Constitution – when they were looking for the people’s house, the House of Representatives – they looked for merchants, for farmers, for businessmen and – yes, in my case – I think even doctors to be able to reach out, listen to the people and work for the people.”
Joyce said he is still filled with a sense of “awe every day when I walk up and look at the Capitol going to work.”
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Joyce spent about two hours talking with the leaders of JWF Industries and then touring the facility, located on Iron Street, where the company manufactures products, including for the defense industry.
The visit was part of the congressman’s week that he spent visiting businesses and meeting with chambers of commerce in the 13th.
“The week that we spent touring different factories, like here at JWF, and listening to what people’s concerns are and seeing how important that working for them is, it empowers me,” Joyce said. “It makes me want to work harder.”
JWF Industries owner Bill Polacek found Joyce to be “very personable, very humble, very forthright” and connected with the congressman’s pro-life, pro-Second Amendment positions.
“For him to want to make a special trip, to tour our facility and talk to the guys on the floor, he is very interested in what we’re doing,” Polacek said. “And you could tell it was genuine. He wanted to know what are the issues I have as a business and what are the issues in the community.”
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During his first three months in the House, Joyce has joined the Small Business and Homeland Security committees, backed completion of U.S. Route 219, supported legislation for the dairy industry and frequently backed President Donald Trump’s agenda.
He plans to soon co-sponsor legislation that would make permanent the changes for individual and small business filers that were enacted with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Joyce has also learned firsthand about the political climate in Washington, D.C.
“It has made me understand that we can maintain civility and achieve things, that it’s not as acrimonious as you think when you look on the news, that there are people on both sides of the aisle that want to work together and achieve a common lane to work for the constituents,” Joyce said. “I feel that strongly.
I feel that my personal charge is to work for Democrats and Republicans who are throughout south-central and southwestern Pennsylvania. That’s what I take very seriously.”