Elizabeth Warren holds event at FSU: Addresses recent political climate, encourages change

[Erin Fitzmaurice]

Sen. Elizabeth Warren hosted a town hall event in DPAC on Friday, March 24 for the town of Framingham and the FSU community.

DPAC was filled down to the last seat and some people were standing in the back. The line before the event stretched from Dwight to the Whittemore Library and some people were turned away at the door because DPAC had been filled to capacity.

Warren addressed issues surrounding health care, Supreme Court nominees and the nation’s budget. She also took questions from the audience. She ended the event by taking photos with audience members –  the line wrapped around the entire auditorium.

She encouraged Americans to vote to make change happen and to use their voices by calling representatives and senators and showing up to town hall meetings.

“If you think it doesn’t matter, look at what happened in Washington,” Warren said, referring to the health care repeal bill being pulled from the house floor hours before. “On one hand, I want to say thank you. The other hand, do not let down your guard. They’re still coming.”

Warren said Republicans are “hell bent” on repealing the Affordable Care Act. “What will they accomplish with all that? A tax break for millionaires and billionaires. That’s not health care reform. That’s about doing the one thing Republicans have been working for years now, and that is to make this country work better and better for those who are rich and powerful and kick dirt in everybody else’s face, and that’s why we’re fighting.”

When an audience member asked what can be done to keep Trump from winning reelection, someone shouted, “Warren 2020!” and the crowd applauded.

She added the only way to fight back is “to stay engaged and be in this fight.”

Warren said progressive values, such as affordable health care, raising the minimum wage, reducing student loans, investing in jobs, protecting and expanding social security, expanding regulations for Wall Street banks, having the rich “pay their fair share” in taxes and protecting the environment are American values.

She added, “We believe in science. We want a world in which you can breathe the air and drink the water. We have a moral responsibility to pass along a planet to our children and our grandchildren. … These core values that shape what it means to me, to be a Democrat, are core values that are widely shared across this country.”

Another audience member asked how the Democratic Party will appeal to the many citizens who voted for Trump.

Warren said, “A huge part of America lives today just one pink slip or one bad diagnosis away from complete financial collapse. Donald Trump found the anger and did a really ugly thing. He gave a story to it. He said, ‘You have a right to be angry, and it’s their fault,’ and fill in the ‘their.’ … It was this toxic stew of hatred and bigotry and genuine, legitimate anger about a country and a government that is no longer working for the people, and he put those two together and he rode them all the way to the White House.”

Warren said the way to make a difference is to talk about progressive values and to show leadership.

She said Trump is also still in his first 100 days, and encouraged people to “stay focused on right now and our fights right in front of us,” referring to the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s budget and the upcoming 2018 elections.

“If we can get back a majority in the House or Senate, everything changes at that point,” she said. “We have to show we are willing to fight every single day. We’ve got to fight smart. We cannot shoot at everything that moves.”

She added one of Trump’s “best weapons” is his use of distractions, adding, “We’ve got to hold him accountable not for what he has said, but for what he has done.”

Warren said Trump’s inauguration is a day she doesn’t want to forget “because it keeps me getting up early in the morning and still working late at night.”

She said she focuses on “the day after – the day that women, and friends of women, got out there and said, ‘We’re going to fight for what we believe in. You’re going to hear our voices.’”

When asked by a Gatepost reporter about her thoughts regarding Senate Leader Mitch McConnell efforts to silence her, Warren said, “I think women have been told to sit down and be quiet for far too long and a lot of us have just had enough, and that’s why women are fighting back.”

On Feb. 7, Warren attempted to read on the Senate floor Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter condemning Jeff Sessions, who was then a nominee to be a federal judge and now is Trump’s attorney general.

She was told to stop reading the letter and stand down after McConnell said she violated a Senate rule against impugning another senator. McConnell said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” This has become a rallying cry for women.

Warren addressed Trump’s proposed budget and said, “A lot of people think it’s just a bunch of numbers, but a budget is about our values. The point we’ve got to make, and make strongly, is that we want a budget that aligns with our values.”

A former FSU student told Warren that he attended college for one year but couldn’t come back because he couldn’t afford it, and asked her what can be done to make college more affordable.

Warren said, “We’ve got an uphill battle to stay where we are,” adding Trump wants to eliminate all Federal Pell Grants and cut the education department’s budget.

“I’m in the United States Senate today because a generation ago, Americans invested in education, and the idea that a pathway forward, that set of opportunities, have narrowed and narrowed and narrowed on our watch is fundamentally wrong. It is not who we are as Americans. … I wish I had a more immediate answer,” she said.

Another audience member asked Warren about strengthening public education and the recent approval of Betsy Devos as U.S. Secretary of Education, to which the crowd booed loudly. Warren said she “thought we were going to have somebody better. … But, Donald Trump named someone to be Secretary of Education who does not believe in public education.”

She added the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association sent her a letter following Devos’ nomination that said, “‘Block that woman.’”

She added, “The reason they did is because she has advanced the notion that you take public funds and put them in for-profit charter schools with almost no regulation and we will end up destroying education, not just for the kids in public school, but basically for all our kids, and that is a complete disaster.”

Warren said the use of oversight “is not perfect” but will help, adding, “You better believe I’m picking up every tool I got, hammer and tongs.”

SGA senator Adam Scanlon said he attended the event because he is passionate about education. “I appreciate Senator Warren’s work on giving as much federal aid for K-12 and higher education, and I just wanted to come out and see what she was working on and see if there’s any light at the end of the tunnel for our public schools.”

Warren also criticized the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch and said he has “made it clear” that he will pick corporations’ rights over those of women, employees and consumers.

“This is the lifetime appointment – no appeals beyond this, no one who has any way to stop a Supreme Court Justice. That means it’s got to be someone who can attract 60 votes, and that means people from both sides of the aisle that say, ‘This is someone that we can support.’ … My view is, if you don’t have a nominee who can attract 60 votes, change the nominee, not the rules,” she said.

The ongoing investigation by the FBI of Trump’s election team’s connection to Russia and the confirmed Russian hacking with the intent to influence the presidential election was also brought up by an audience member.

Warren said the problem with the ongoing Trump investigation is that it is being conducted “behind closed doors.” She believes, instead, there should be a special prosecutor who is nonpartisan and whose job is to investigate in a transparent way.

FSU President F. Javier Cevallos and SGA President Ezequiel De Leon introduced Warren.

Cevallos said the University was “delighted” to have Warren, adding she “is a prominent national figure, and her visit brought hundreds of people to campus and also gave us national exposure.”

De Leon said he was honored to introduce Warren. “I was thinking to myself, ‘I wonder what it is about her that got her to where she is?’ … because that’s something that I want to work on, too, and honestly it’s her character. She has a very definite sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, and when you have that it guides you.”

He added, “It was cool to see the community at Framingham State because I feel like we have so much to offer to the MetroWest community and they have so much to offer to us.”

Junior Brian Leonard said, “I thought that it was amazing that she chose to speak at our school. It’s something that I definitely didn’t expect to see.”

Senior Maggie McNeill said she was excited to see Warren. “Seeing her speak was both inspiring and a restoration of my faith in politics.”

When De Leon said they had run out of time, the audience responded with boos and someone said, “Two more questions!” to which the crowd applauded.

Warren said moving forward, “We have got to keep bringing this back to that central theme” of Trump working not for everyday people but for billionaires.

She added we need to “make lives better for hardworking people in this country and to talk about student loans. To talk about social security. To talk about retirement. To talk about wages. To stay focused on them. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

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