Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visits Carnegie Mellon
On Wednesday March 6, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a campaign rally in Skibo Gymnasium. The space was filled to full capacity, holding over 1,500 people in the gym with many others left outside in a line stretching well around the block. Clinton addressed the large crowd that was stuck outside before giving her speech. Meanwhile, inside Skibo, a selection of songs, including Kelly Clarkson’s “I’m a Survivor,” played in the background for the waiting crowd.
The event started with Julia Eddy, Chair of the Carnegie Mellon Graduate Senate. Eddy spoke about Carnegie Mellon’s potential for excellence, which she highlighted by asking students to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. She additionally spoke about the success of the democratic process based on the turnout of so many students at the rally.
There were several other highlights from Carnegie Mellon students, including performances by senior drama major Avery Smith who sang the national anthem and the a cappella group Soundbytes which performed two pieces. Two campaign organizers, a second generation immigrant and a woman, made brief comments about their support for Clinton before Clinton herself took the stage.
Cheers of “I’m with her!” filled the gymnasium as Clinton made her way to the stage with the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto. Peduto gave several remarks praising Clinton, saying that “others talk of building walls, but Pittsburgh is a city of bridges.” He stated that many progressive mayors like him around the country are endorsing Clinton as a unifying candidate to create an “America for all.”
Clinton began her speech by talking about Pittsburgh as a “great American city,” praising its ability to adapt into the future, and stating that one can have “resilience if you are resourceful.” She also subtly criticized Republican front-runner Donald Trump saying that “diversity is an asset” and, referring to his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, stated that she wants to “knock down every barrier preventing [all American citizens] from achieving their God-given potential.”
She organized a large portion of her speech around three tests a president should be ready to face, tests that she claimed prove her to be a progressive who has and will continue to make progress. These tests were “Who have you helped?”, “Have you kept us safe?”, and “Can you unify us?”
For her first test, she discussed her plans to help the working class, including creating a national infrastructure bank to fix our infrastructure. Additionally, she called for $10 billion to invest in research for new technologies to begin exporting from the United States. She took the opportunity to share how the Carnegie Mellon Robotics team is a leading example of how America can bring its manufacturing industry into the new century.
Clinton went on to discuss her plans to combat climate change, such as bringing half a billion more solar panels into the United States by 2020, and by overseeing a North American climate agreement. “I actually listen to the scientists,” she said, adding that Carnegie Mellon could help teach Republican climate change deniers. Discussing her experience as a fighter for climate agreements in the past, she relayed an anecdote about her and President Obama’s mission to “stalk the Chinese and the Indians” at the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen. According to Clinton, she and Obama successfully snuck past bodyguards and joined the “secret” meeting of the Chinese and Indian officials who had been avoiding them. Clinton also hailed the results of the most recent Paris Climate Conference in 2015. Although some have criticized the conference as not taking enough action, Clinton said “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Clinton then spoke about her economic platform, proclaiming her support for a livable minimum wage, equal pay for women, and small businesses of the type that often begin at Carnegie Mellon. “The economy does better with a Democrat in office,” she said, calling back to the federal government’s balanced budget and surplus under her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency as well as President Obama’s accomplishments while in office. “[Obama] doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” she said, to widespread applause, while Republicans continue “peddling the same economic snake oil.”
Although Clinton did not specify her position on how much the minimum wage should be raised, The Tartan asked Mayor Bill Peduto after the rally to address the possibility of a higher minimum wage in Pittsburgh and nationwide. According to Peduto, Pittsburgh is “on the path” to phasing in a $15 minimum wage over several years until 2019, with UPMC recently joining a two-year discussion. He has focused his efforts to raise the minimum wage on the local middle class and service workers. “Pittsburgh built the middle class,” said Peduto, and the city can “look at the same model again” as “part of a new economy.” Peduto expressed his support for a national minimum wage of $15 if it can be comfortably phased in over several years.
Clinton pledged to fight against the privatization of social security, to fix the Veteran’s Administration, and expand the Affordable Care Act. She also said she would “end Citizens United” and its attempt to make “more money equal more speech” in the federal government.
She promised to work toward universal pre-kindergarten and debt-free college education through refinancing and complete debt forgiveness after 20 years. We must “end the government making money off lending money,” she said.
She asserted her commitment to the pro-choice movement, marriage equality, equal voting rights, “common sense” gun regulations, and immigration reform with a “path to citizenship.”
To answer her second qualification of security, she called on her experience as Secretary of State. Clinton said that as president she would ensure that national security was “not an afterthought.” She mentioned her role in the military operation that killed terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, as well as her successful nuclear arms negotiations with Russia that lessened the “biggest immediate threat” to national security.
Clinton expressed her discontent with her Republican contenders, saying that she was running an “issue-oriented” rather than an “insult-oriented” campaign.
With a Republican in the presidential office, she said, “we will not recognize our country.” Trump in particular she called “deeply disturbing” in his attempts to “incite prejudice and paranoia.”
Finally, she portrayed herself as a uniter of the party. She contrasted herself with obstructionist Republicans in the commitment she has demonstrated in her career to “go anywhere to meet common ground.” For her entire adult life, Clinton said, she has stayed “in the trenches” and has done the “boring but necessary kind of work.” Thanking the crowd once again and urging them to vote, Clinton exited the stage to the sound of “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten.
At a booth across the street from the rally, several supporters of fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders were less enthusiastic about Clinton. One young man said that there are “lots of people who are undecided” in the primary race, and they “don’t know they have a better option.” While attendees for the Clinton rally waited in line, the Sanders supporters campaigned for their own candidate and solicited volunteers for his campaign. They described their efforts as “really successful,” claiming that they answered people’s “legitimate concerns” about their candidate and that many attendees “turned to Bernie on the spot.”
Attendees of the rally called it “surreal” and “wonderful,” and described Clinton as a “down to earth” woman who has “made a real difference in people’s lives.” One college student said that it was his first rally and he was “happy to get in” for an event that “really did touch [him].”
The Pennsylvania primary is on April 26.