Amid raucous cheers, handmade signs and cardboard cutouts spelling “HILLARY” waved by enthusiastic unionists, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took to a rally stage in Nashua, New Hampshire, terming her relationship with educators "critical" and pledging to "support, not scapegoat teachers."
NYSUT President Karen Magee and Vice President Paul Pecorale traveled to the Feb. 2 rally from Albany with a contingent of energized NYSUT activists who also took part in phone banking, canvassing in the nearby communities of Merrimack and Nashua, and a special meet and greet with former President Bill Clinton.
The crowd of nearly 1,000 at the Nashua Community College rally included educators and activists from scores of AFT and NEA locals. AFT President Randi Weingarten and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, whose unions have endorsed Hillary, were both on hand. Magee, whose union is dually affiliated with AFT and NEA, said: "Today we heard from an extremely gifted woman who will be our next president. We are proud to support the Clinton campaign."
President Bill President Bill Clinton met with NYSUT, AFT and NEA activists after the rally to thank them for their support. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.
Clinton’s remarks ranged from early childhood to post secondary education. "We need to focus on early childhood education," she said. "Too many students are not prepared to succeed in school." She pledged support for "making college affordable again, debt-free tuition at public colleges and universities, and free community colleges."
Other initiatives she discussed were commonsense immigration reform, improving infrastructure and combating climate change. "We must also raise the minimum wage and guarantee equal pay for women," she said. "That's the fastest way to spur the economy."
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee and President Bill Clinton. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.
President Bill Clinton thanked NEA and AFT for their unflagging support, and termed Hillary "the best change maker I've ever known.
"Her instinct in times of trouble is to ask 'what can I do to make it better'," said Clinton. "I believe she is the most qualified candidate we have."
NYSUT members make strong showing
Albany-area NYSUT members weren't the only ones who traveled to New Hampshire for the event. Carl Pato, a United Federation of Teachers retiree, flew into Nashua last week as a campaign volunteer. "We need to elect a Democratic president," he said of his work. "I worry about my grandkids and the type of world they will inherit."
NYSUT Board member Kathy Taylor, a longtime union leader from Ulster BOCES, agreed. "We're facing some tough challenges, educationally and in terms of workers' rights," she said. "We need someone in the White House who will make sure the needs of public education are met."
Berlin Teachers Association retiree Jacqueline Elacqua traveled from Albany with her granddaughters and daughter, Kerensa Rybak, a former Shenendehowa Parent Teacher Organization president. "We want the girls to see the political process," said Rybak. "We also want them to see the strides women have made, and what we are capable of."
Other event speakers included Lucille Jordan, Nashua Community College president, who highlighted the importance of community colleges, terming them the "Ellis Island of the American Dream."