Congresswoman Jahana Hayes ─ 2019 John F Kennedy Jr. Award and Lecture

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes ─ 2019 John F Kennedy Jr. Award and Lecture


[MUSIC PLAYING] Thank you for coming out,
even though it’s exam period. And we really appreciate
it and we’re so excited to have you all here. Obviously, my name is Rose. I think we’ve all, mostly, met. I’m the former
president of Brown Dems. I’m Zoe. I’m the new president
of Brown Dems. And it’s a very sort
of odd time of year, because technically, this is
under the past boards like, you know, purview, but also
now we have a new board so it’s a whole thing. But in any case, be
so happy to see you, and I have the distinct pleasure
and honor of introducing Congresswoman Hayes today. We’re so thrilled that
she’s here and was able to make the trip
out, and we really appreciate the time that she’s
taking to speak with us today. And we’re so excited
to present her with this award at the
end of the program. Just for a brief outline,
the Congresswoman will speak for a
little bit, we’ll then have a short question
and answer period, and then we’ll be able to
present her with the award. And then we’ll wrap
up by around 3:45, just out of respect for
the congresswoman’s time. So Congresswoman Johanna Hayes
is a first term representative and the first
African-American woman to represent Connecticut in
the House of Representatives. She was recognized by President
Obama as the 2016 National Teacher of the year, hailing
from the John F Kennedy High School in Waterbury,
Connecticut. During her time in Congress,
representative Hayes has prioritized education,
which is one of the main reasons that we invited her today to
accept the John FK Jr. award. This award is named after one
of the founders of the Brown College Democrats,
John F Kennedy Jr. And this award is usually
given to an elected official or someone involved
in politics who is inspiring youth
in political work and also has a youth centered
focus in their advocacy, and that’s one of the main
reasons why we invited Congresswoman Hayes here today. We’re so honored that she’s
come here to speak with us, and we’ll just sort
give her the floor. Thank you so much. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Good afternoon,
everyone, and thank you so much for inviting me. I want to try to leave as
much time as I can for– to have a conversation
and a dialogue, so I’ll just very
briefly say when I heard you talk
about this award and what it means, I’m
not really sure I qualify, because I still don’t see
myself as a politician. I’m an educator. It’s all I ever wanted to be,
and I kind of accidentally became a Congresswoman. And a lot of that is
people talk a lot about I’m in Congress because of my–
in spite of my circumstances, and I think just the opposite. I’m in Congress because
of my circumstances. I think it’s insane
that we still have a sentence
that begins with I am the first African-American
woman to represent state of Connecticut in Congress. Uh, really? It’s 2019. But whatever. We fixed it, finally. But– [LAUGHING] But just this idea of it’s never
been done, it can’t be done, and I seem to think that
the best way to predict the future is to
create it, you know, to decide that we want
something different to happen. And so many people talk about
2018 and leading into 2020– first of all– I’m sorry, I digress. Thank you for inviting
me here and thank you for being Democrats. Let’s just start with
that, because there’s a lot of conversation
about who Democrats are and what Democrats do. And the reason why I
am a member of Congress is because I have a life that
is draped in democratic grace. I can’t really– I never thought I’d
run for any office. This is my first elected office. I’ve never ran for anything,
not school board, not PTA, not anything, missionary
president, anything. So I’m one for one right now. And in a state and
in a district– my district is 73%
white, has never elected a
representative of color. So the fact that I had
no political background, no political experience, and
I was a classroom teacher, people thought, she’s
out of her mind, there’s no way she can do this. But I think– [LAUGHING] But I think that my circuitous
route to get to Congress really is a sobering
reminder of how important it is for regular people to step
up, for good people to step up. You know, I talk a lot about
my story and my journey to Congress. You know, I grew up
in public housing. I grew up in a family that
struggled with addiction. My grandmother raised
my brother and I. I was a teenage mom and
a high school dropout, and all I ever wanted
to be was a teacher. I started at community college,
went back and got a four year degree, went back and got
a master’s degree and then a six year educational
leadership degree, and ultimately, was recognized
at the height of my profession as the National
Teacher of the Year. And I tell this story
often, but it really is indicative of my
journey to Congress. In 2016, there was a transition
in the Department of Education, and outgoing
secretary John King, who I’d worked very closely with
on the Every Student Succeed Act, was leaving and the
incoming Secretary Betsy DeVos was coming in. And one of the first
things she said to me at our first meeting,
at our first opportunity to be together was, I want to
move government out the way so that parents can make the
decision for their children. And I didn’t say anything. And you know, my husband’s
nodding his head and I’m like, husband, we don’t like that. And he didn’t– [LAUGHING] But he didn’t understand why
I had such a visceral reaction to that statement,
because I said to him, what would have happened
to a kid like me? What would have
happened to someone who did not have a family that
had the ability or the capacity to speak for them? Isn’t that your job? Isn’t that the job of government
to stand in intercession until people could stand
for themselves, to provide equitable access to
opportunities so that people can then themselves
be contributors? You know, like I said, I
had been the beneficiary of so much undeserved grace. But it wasn’t just
people who look like me, people who lived
in my community, people who shared
my experiences, it was people who stood
up and used their voice and their platform to
do the right thing, just because it was
the right thing to do, who advocated for
public education. I needed– I depended
on public education. So when you start to
strip away those things and say, we only want
to make the experiences and the opportunities available
for the people who already have the bandwidth to advocate
for them, in my mind, you are excluding
generations of people, and I knew, personally, that
I would have been excluded. And it sounds like a
great story in hindsight, but in the moment,
I didn’t speak up. I didn’t say anything. And that crippled me
for the next 24 months, because here I was,
as an educator, being celebrated at the
height of my profession, as the top teacher
in the nation– 3.5 million public
school educators, and I had distinguished myself– but in that moment, I froze,
because I was so incredibly like just hollowed
out by the idea that anybody still operated
with that value set, that your only responsibility is
to yourself and to your family, but not to your neighbors
and not to their communities and not– no higher level of
responsibility or investment to others. So I didn’t speak up, and
I struggled with that, I wrestled with it. And for the next year,
every time something happened, whether it was
kids in cages at the border, whether it was health care,
whether it was the right to organize, whether it was
the environment, I was saying, I hope whoever is in the room
at that moment is speaking up. And it haunted me. So in– literally,
yesterday made a year since I officially decided I
was going to run for Congress. My campaign was five
months beginning to end, and this is where I need
for you all to sit up. Because I had a group
of kids in California, over spring break in April, and
my Waterbury public schools, Title I, underperforming,
100% free and reduced lunch, but I saw the promise
in those kids potential. And what I said to them was,
no matter how bad it is, you don’t get to complain. What, so what, now what. One minute on the what,
one minute on the so what, the rest of our time is
spent finding a solution to the problem. So this particular
group of kids– about seven years
earlier, I started doing Habitat for Humanity. I started a club
called the Hope Club, and the whole point
of this club was– we started with about 46 kids
and swelled to over 200 kids. The whole point of this club was
helping out people everywhere. So if you saw a problem
in your community, your job was to come up with
a solution to how to solve it, and as a club and as a group, we
would work together to do that. So we raised over $100,000 for
the American Cancer Society, we adopted neighborhoods, we did
city-wide front porch cleanup, we started doing walk
for autism, relay for life, children’s
dyslexia awareness center, after school programs, like
anything you can think of. And people thought this teacher
is just out of her mind. And it wasn’t even me,
it was like any problem a kid brought to
me, I said, I don’t care what anyone else is doing. You figure out how
to do your part. So I had these
kids in California, building houses with
Habitat for Humanity over spring break
of last year, 2017. And I just described
to you my community, because that’s very important. I had kids who had
saw on the news that communities in California
were devastated by fire, houses had burned to the
ground, and they came to me and said, what can
we do about it? We raised enough
money, I took 17 kids on a plane across the country to
build houses for someone else. These are kids who
not one of them came from a family
that owned a home. There is something incredibly
humbling about the fact that these kids were
willing to get on a plane to help someone else. And I said, how is it that
young people are doing this and the adults who are in
the room where it happens are not standing up? And literally, it
started as simple as I had been approached by
some people, and I thought, this is crazy. I could never do this. I’m not a politician. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the bandwidth. I don’t have the network. But then when I
saw these kids, I was like, you don’t
get to do nothing. You know, you do
the best you can. Sometimes it’s good enough
and sometimes it’s not, but to do nothing is
no longer an option. So literally, with a press
release to my local newspaper, I declared I was
running for Congress. And the next day, I thought,
now how do I do this? Because, like I said, I had
never run for public office, ever. Couple that with the fact that
I was the first African-American in a district that
was 73% white, I had not raised a single
fundraising dollar, oh, and then there’s the
fact that I did not have the endorsement
of the state party. And– [LAUGHING] –not only did I not
have the endorsement, they were actively
working against me. And someone said to me, you
can never pull this off, because you don’t
have a network. So then I’m thinking, well,
let me think about this. What do I– who do I know? If I had to start somewhere,
where do you start? And you covet what you see. You first work
within your network and within your community, and
I had three groups, my church family, educators, and students. So I reached out to my
students, literally, a post on social
media, I’ve decided I’m going to run for Congress,
and I need your help. And I had kids that came
back from college from all over the country, I had high
school students, who said, tell us what you need us to do. And my response was,
I don’t really know, but we’re going to
figure it out together. So the first two
months of my campaign, I had just students, former
students, working on my behalf. Literally built my website,
did my social media, sent out the first
tweet that said, I need to collect money so
that I could run for Congress. Learned how to do fieldwork
and canvassing, and all of these things. And I have to tell
you, full disclosure, people celebrate the
fact that I utilized all of these young people
in this amazing way. I didn’t even trust
that they could do it, I just couldn’t afford
to hire anyone else. So it was like,
whatever you’re good at, I need you to figure out
how to make it work here. But it was unbelievable. Their parents started
to come, and you know, people were saying, my– people would say to
me, my granddaughter is in school in
Washington state, and she called me
and said, grandma, there’s this
candidate in the fifth that you need to check out. So literally, it
was the mobilization of young people in real
and authentic ways, not like mailing envelopes
or only canvassing. Literally, it was like, I
need you to build a website, and it was like, we’ve
never done this before. Then I need you to Google
how to build a website. [LAUGHING] And that’s what my team did. And literally, the Smithsonian
Institute reached out and said, we want to archive
your website as a– to capture the temperature
of the 2016 election cycle, because this is as
authentic as it gets. And I’m thinking,
yeah, because we had no money, like literally. I remember, we had to
buy the domain name, and the kids saying
to me, we have to buy your name on GoDaddy. I was like, but it’s my name,
why would I have to buy it? They were like, no,
you have to buy it, otherwise, someone else will. I was like, yeah, but it’s
my name, I already own it. And they’re like, no. So literally– [LAUGHING] –they’re like,
we need a credit card. That was $5 like to just get– But I tell you, so
this idea that you had to have seen it done
before in order to do it is a false choice, it
is a binary choice, and it really is wrong. Because when I tell
you no elected official would touch me
with a 10 foot pole until it looked
like it might work. The only people, when
I tell you– my ride or dies, from day one
to the swearing in, were my students, who
said, we believe in you and, more importantly, we’re
willing to work for it. You know, there were
areas in my state– it’s called the Northwest
corner, the quiet corner, the forgotten corner– where everyone said, there’s
not enough people there to even waste your
time campaigning. I was there two, three,
four times a week. I was engaging communities. I was going out to people
saying, I can’t do this alone, I need your help. Democrats have taken for
granted our electorate. We continue to rely
on the same people to carry us across the line. Unless and until we
expand our electorate, we will not win elections. And by expanding our electorate,
that is registering new voters, engaging old voters, going into
communities that had disengaged with the process. Going into minority
communities and saying to people, your voice
matters and your vote counts, and I need your help. To change the conversation. Every strategist, every
pollster, everyone I talked to, the only way to
win a campaign, is what they said, is
canvassing and phone banking. First of all, it’s
100 degrees outside. I’m not walking,
knocking on doors. And mailers, I had a dozen
mailers on my counter that I hadn’t even read
yet, and they’re saying, you have to do TV ads
and mailers in order to get the word out. That’s the– I was told
that’s the only way to move the electorate. And I’m like, but I know
that not to be true, because I don’t even
watch commercials, and I have a dozen
mailers on my counter that I haven’t even read yet
and I’ll probably throw away before I read, just because
now I have too many. So this unwillingness to think
about elections in any way other than the way we’ve
always thought about them was to our peril as Democrats. So I just moved in silence. I went out, and my
thing would be– people would say,
but nobody knows you, and I said, get me in the room. Just get me in the room. People would say, young
people don’t vote, and I said, give them a reason. Give them a reason. People have to be engaged
and connected to something. Because this idea that
people will always vote Democrats just because
they’re Democrats is not true. It’s not true. And I think your generation
has really reminded people, you have to work for my
vote every single time, and the way you
work for my vote is by zeroing in on the issues
that are important to me. So I went into this Congress–
so fast forward, it worked out. [LAUGHING] We raised money. I had a crowded primary. Like I said, I was not the
state’s endorsed candidate. And we won by almost 29
points in the primary. It was unbelievable. So this candidate from nowhere
that people said can never win. Who does she think she is? It’s not your turn. You can’t just come out of
nowhere and run for office. And I was like,
except that you can. Except that you can. Our democracy doesn’t
belong to anyone. Nobody has been anointed or
appointed to occupy this space. And this idea that only a
certain group of individuals have the right or have
been invited to hold power in this country is just flawed. It’s just flawed. Everybody has a voice
and everybody matters. And unless and
until, once again, our leaders start to listen
to the voices of all people, then we have a problem. So I won the primary,
came out, and literally worked just as hard in
the general election. And now I had all these
experts, I had all this advice. Everybody’s coming in,
they want to take over, and they were like, well, OK,
now you have to up your game. This is a real operation
now, you are the nominee, so you have to– and
I’m like, actually, no. Actually, no. This is who brought me over the
line, and if we’re going in, we’re going together. And people didn’t
understand that. They said I was
silly, I was naive. Why am I giving kids real jobs? And I was like, because
they’re the only ones who believed in me. After the election,
it really has– actually, that
was– part of that was very challenging,
because then you have to build up two staffs,
you have to do all this stuff. And people said, well, are
you going to bring along your campaign staff? They were dynamic. And I said, actually,
they’re not old enough to work in Washington. So I didn’t have anyone
old enough to take. So chief of staff,
all of these people, I had to start at ground zero. But as a legislator,
I am continually reminded of how I won this race. And I say that because,
hands down, the number one issue amongst young
people in every poll that we saw, which nobody
was even paying attention to, was the environment. Was the environment. People would say, kids don’t
care about the environment. I said, who have
you been talking to? Every poll we did,
every town hall we did, every telephone poll, the
environment was number one. And I said– and then,
more importantly, they’re willing to work for
what they believe in. They don’t tap out
because it’s raining or the sun is not shining,
or they had a long shift. I had kids leaving
school, leaving work coming to volunteer. I had a girl, a former student,
drive from Philadelphia, show up at my headquarters
on a Saturday morning and say to me– it was during the Kavanaugh
hearings, everything. She said, in my
lifetime, I’ve never had to defend my rights as a woman. I don’t even know
how to do that. She says, I was up all night
and I didn’t know where to go, so I came here. She volunteered a
full shift, and then was going to get in her car
to drive back to Philadelphia. I’m like, sweetie,
you can’t do that. She said, I don’t even
know how to fight. I don’t know what that looks
like, because I’ve never had to do it. So we really are at this
inflection point in history where all of the people who
think, I’m not into politics, I don’t get– first of all,
we’re all into politics, because everything that happens
in my new job affects you, no matter what letter
is behind your name. Whether you’re
engaged or disengaged, somebody is making the decisions
that will affect your future. You know, I– my very
first piece of legislation was HR 231, which is
a bill to prohibit the use of federal
funds to arm teachers. I never thought as
an educator that I would have to defend my
profession in that way, ever. It never crossed my mind. But when I wanted
to unveil that bill, I said, no, what I’m going
to do is have– they said, we’re going to have
a press conference at the legislative
office building. We have the governor, we
have all these people. I said, so help
me understand, I’m introducing a bill about
schools on behalf of kids, and we’re doing it at 10 o’clock
in the morning at the capitol? Something about that
is inherently wrong. We did it at 3 o’clock in the
afternoon, outside of a school, and my speakers were students,
teachers, and parents, period. This idea that you have
to be invited to the table has really put us
on a trajectory that we can’t pull
ourselves out of. We are at a point where
you have to figure out what you’re good at, and
then decide how you can help somebody else doing it. I have– I went to a pancake
breakfast a couple weeks ago, and I noticed– I was like, all of our
events happen at 10 o’clock in the morning. So I had a pancake
breakfast for dinner and only invited students. Because I’m like, how can
we say I need your help, I need you to come out and
vote, I need you to work for me, but then once I get
elected, I’m good. I’ll see you in two years. I’ll see you in four
years, because I’m going to need you again. But I want you to
ignore the fact that I don’t value what
you bring to the table. So for as much as
young people volunteer and they do internships, and
they’re engaged in that way, I think you guys have
to really leverage the power in your
voice, because you’re capable of so much more
than that, you know? And it’s incumbent
upon you, really, to force adults to listen,
to force leaders to say, there are enough of us. It’s up to decide if you want us
voting with you or against you. You know, there
are enough of us. When you think about the
fact that, two years ago, we couldn’t even have
a public conversation about the environment. Last election cycle, there
wasn’t one debate question about education, not one. And now we’re going
in and you see student debt is at the forefront
of all of our conversations, you see the environment
is at the forefront of all of our conversations, you
see job training and skills training, you see housing
and transportation at the forefront of
our conversation. I used to tell my students,
in every election– because I taught high
school history, civics, and government–
in every election, the concerns of seniors
were always on the ballot. Every politician went
to every nursing home, bought donuts and coffee, bought
pizza, gave rides to the poll, because that is a
reliable voting bloc. If you can identify yourself
as a reliable voting bloc, we will not have
another election in this country does not–
that does not elevate the concerns of young people. You know, I think people
are kind of starting to say, well wait, looks
like they’re here to stay, but what do we do with them,
and not really understanding it. So you are at a point in
history where you can decide, this is what you can do with us,
and if you don’t take advantage of that, if you don’t stay
engaged and stay involved, you’re going to
fall off the map. You’re going to fall
out of the conversation, and it really is
going to shift back to the point in our history
and in our elections where only the concerns of
seniors made it to the ballot, or only people who had
checked all the boxes and lived inside of
the square will even be eligible to occupy this space. We have the most dynamic
and diverse Congress in this country’s history,
this 116th Congress. We have more women,
we have more people from the LGBTQ community,
first time Native Americans, first time Muslims, more people
in this Congress than ever before. And what is happening is the
conversations are shifting. This week when
we– last week, we voted on protecting people
with pre-existing conditions. This week, when
we go back, we’re voting on the Equality Act. We’ve already voted on
HR1 to clean up government and maintain transparency, get
the money out of government. HR8, the first
time in two decades that we had a piece of
gun reform legislation. The people in the room make
the list of priorities. That’s how our
democracy is shaped. It’s not hard to bring a bill
to the floor, you just have to– it has to align with your values
and what is important to you. You know, we have
the Dream Act, HR6, which is dreamers
and DACA recipients. No legislation has happened
on that in almost 10 years. But it’s because–
and I don’t think I even appreciated that
elections have consequences. This is what you get with
the Democratic majority. So we hear all of this
chatter about socialism and all of these, who’s
going to pay for it, but what we have done is
we are being in a position where any policy that
speaks to helping people is labeled socialism. Anything that starts
with, I don’t just care about my family, I also
care about your family, shifts too then, how are we
going to pay for it? I have voted– we have
had military defense spending budget appropriations
bills more times than I can count in this Congress,
and nobody once has said, how are we
going to pay for it? How are we going to pay for it? We can not gamble
away your futures, and that’s where
we are right now. People said to me, and
I’ll close with this, I don’t know if I can vote
for you, because you seem to be a single issue candidate. They’re not wrong. They said, your only
issue is education. I said, unless and until we
begin to invest in education, we will not solve any
of our other problems. Because if we are not
investing in education early, making sure that all
kids from all communities have equitable
access to education, they will hit the system
at some other point, whether it’s the
juvenile justice system, the rehabilitation
system, the welfare system, the prison system. They will hit the system again. We have an opportunity
to decide when. And when people
would say, everything is not through the
lens of education. What I know as an
educator and as a mom, I would fight harder for my
students and for my parents than I ever would– I mean, for my students
and my children than I ever would for myself. And I know every one
of your parents– when I talk to
parents, I’m like, so you don’t make every
decision based on doing the best you can for your kids. And they’re like, yeah,
but that’s different. Except that it’s not. Except that it’s not. When you talk about
clean air to breathe, it’s because you want your
kids to have clean air. When you talk about
securing your retirement, it’s because you want your
kids to have something to fall back on. When you talk
about job security, it’s because you want to be
able to support your children. When you talk
about fair housing, it’s because you want
your kids to have a place to lay their head on a pillow. So they’re not wrong. I view everything through
the lens of children and through the
lens of education. So it worked once. Maybe it’ll work again. And my kids to help me do this. They shared things
on social media. Rep Jahana Hayes,
@repjahanahayes. They shared things out,
they tweeted things, because nobody knew who I was. And they were like, who
is this crazy person who thinks she can do this? And I know better than that. You know, I know
better than that. You know, I always
say, I know what happens when government
works, because I am what happens when
government works, when we make investments
in people who can’t even see it in themselves. So with that, I will open
up to some questions, if you guys want to ask questions. Because I do have
a flight, so I’m really sorry that I’m in and
out, but it just worked out. First of all, thank you
so much [INAUDIBLE].. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. There’s some good
looking Democrats. I was never– I was never
a partisan person, but– [LAUGHING] –I actually had
students who said, we didn’t know you
were a Democrat. Because in my
classroom, I live– my hometown is a very
liberal community, and I spent most of my time
defending Republican policies. And the kids would be
like, you love George Bush, and I says, no, but I wanted
you to critically analyze the other side. And since everybody
in the room was coming with democratic
ideas and values, I really had to fight hard
for the Republican side. I said, but it’s
not about me getting you to take on what I believe. It’s about me teaching you
how to critically analyze information. So I got outed as a
Democrat in this cycle, so– but it’s good. There are a few Democrats here. OK. Just a few. Who has any questions
for Congresswoman Haynes? Yeah. I think just
building off of that, I’m curious to
hear your thoughts about like polarization
within the Democratic Party, especially within some of
the more progressive bills that you’ve been championing
and how that might play out in the next election, or how
that shapes the narrative in your campaign and framing. So first of all, I don’t think– when you’re on the
inside, the polarization isn’t the same as what
you see on the outside. This idea that
there’s this fracture within the Democratic
Party is not true. Democrats have a big tent, and
what I think is happening– I’ll give you a perfect
example of that. Whenever something happens,
a big issue in this Congress was anti-Semitism. It kept rearing its head,
and people were like, well, wait a minute, let’s
make sure that we denounce all forms of hate. And then it was
going back and forth, and the news is reporting like,
Pelosi can’t keep Democrats under control. And we were all saying,
except that these are already conversations that are happening
in our own communities. People are saying, why
didn’t we have an outcry against Islamophobia
a couple of years ago, when they did
the Muslim ban. Why aren’t we denouncing
white nationalism? And so the conversations
that were happening within the Democratic
caucus were conversations that we’re already familiar
with on the ground. So people were
saying, and mostly the freshman class, if we’re
going to talk about it, then let’s talk about it. We need to have some
critical conversations to get some good answers,
because if we can’t even have that information
while we’re legislating, how can we expect it to do
anything once we send it out. So I think it’s a
good thing that you have all of these robust voices,
because the conversations and the discussions are
so much more vibrant. Imagine if you only went
to school with people who thought exactly like you. Then you need to find
a different room. If you can’t find a person to
disagree with you in the room, then you need to find
a different room. And I think the fact
that these conversations are happening before
the legislation is draft means that the outcome
is so much more pure. Because people
are saying, I made sure I spoke up for the
people in my community. I made sure I spoke for– we have had more discussion
about immigration in this Congress than we had
in the last three congresses, because we have people who are
first generation Americans who are saying, it is a
dereliction of duty for me to be in the
room and not speak up. So I’m not at all
concerned about it. I think the product of
such a diverse class is better government. Other questions? So I really– thank
you so much for coming. You’re such an inspiration. But one thing I was
wondering about, in terms like education
policy, is so much of what people will talk about
with like the new reform bills that come out is
that we’re building on a structure of sand,
like on a weak foundation. So no matter what investments
we do to make things better, there’s still some
structural flaws that will prevent true progress. And I was wondering,
what do you think of like the future of education
policy in the country? And maybe for reform plans,
like I really love the community school model, to incorporate
like health care and all these support services into
the school environments. So do you think there is a
potential for opportunities in that direction going forward? When you have teachers
in Congress there is. Because you’re
right, you need all of those wrap around services. And I was in the
classroom long enough to know I couldn’t teach
a kid that was hungry, I couldn’t teach a kid
that had a toothache, I couldn’t teach a
kid that was homeless, I couldn’t teach a kid
who had parents in prison. So all of those things
you have to work back all of those layers before
they even got to me to say, and now I need to
teach you how to read. So this idea that it is
just this sterile laboratory environment where
you take a child and you can move them
along is not true. So– but you also can’t do that
if you don’t see an education as an investment. So the previous administration–
or this administration believes that government
has no place in education, and I know that not to be true. They say this is up to
local communities to decide. But what that does is
perpetuate the cycle of poverty, because the poorest
communities, who are operating their school
systems off of their tax base, will never– I’m from Connecticut,
a state where we have the wealthiest
communities and the poorest communities, a state where
we have the best boarding schools in the country
and the lowest performing public schools. That’s not OK. And it’s a small state,
so literally, you can look across the street and
see a campus that is amazing, when you’re going in a school
with a crumbling foundation, and that’s a problem. So we really have to
look at it differently. We have to connect what kids
are learning to the world they will encounter. So even career training, I had
enough kids in the 15 years that I was in the
classroom to know that college and
post-secondary education is not the only
pathways to success, and it doesn’t
work for everyone. If we are not looking
at this is the workforce that we’re preparing
kids for and begin to craft a curriculum that
matches that workforce. You know, I always talk about
my state of Connecticut talk about jobs are moving out. I’m like, we could be like the
center of clean energy jobs. Like we could create
industry, instead of trying to recreate factories. You know, West Virginia coal
mines, coal is not coming back. And people are not
wedded to mines, they’re wedded to employment. So if we can begin to retrain
people for employment, then we’ve solved the problem. You know, we haven’t done–
we just voted a $100 billion school infrastructure plan out. You have places in
this country where kids are in portable
classrooms that were supposed to be two-year
temporary classrooms, and it’s 30 years later,
where they can’t even regulate the temperature,
where they’ve got buckets to catch water. That’s not an environment to
learn, in 2019, in the United States of America. So this idea that if
you happen to grow up in this community,
then you are entitled to a free and appropriate
public education is wrong. Because maybe it’s a
little egocentric of me, but I wouldn’t have
went to that school. I would have had to
go to the other school and keep moving
the bucket around. So if we’re fixing schools,
I want them all fixed. If we’re talking
about education, I want every school
at every level to be as good as it can be. If we’re talking about
meeting the needs of students with special needs, we
need to fully fund IDEA. So all of these
backdoor conversations these Band-Aid, cyclical, I’m
like, not good enough for me. I want it all, all
the time, right now. I can’t wait five years,
I can’t wait 10 years, because a kid’s primary
education is 12 years. If this is a 10-year plan,
then this kid already aged out. It’s too late. It’s too late. We’re done. We’re done. Like you had your turn,
you tried to fix it, it didn’t work. It’s a good thing we’re here. I don’t know what to tell you,
but this incremental changes to chip away at policy, no. So back to your question,
maybe this is progressive. I don’t think it’s
that progressive to think that every kid
should have an education. I don’t think it’s
that progressive to say that a kid should
be able to breathe. Not that progressive. That’s pretty basic,
if you ask me. I don’t think it’s
that progressive to say that before
you go to bed, you should have a full stomach. Not that progressive. I’m not trying to build
a campus on the moon. So like all of this
stuff that people say, Democrats are out of their
mind, because I want to eat? Like because I want to breathe. Not that progressive. So I am, I guess,
unapologetic in it. And if it makes me a one
term congresswoman, oh well. It is what it is. But this idea that you’ve got
to take baby steps, you’ve gotta wait, because
it’s too much, people won’t know
how to take it. Maybe people should
learn how to take it. Maybe people should– And the one thing I would
say I always said to people, and I say it on my
committee all the time, is this the education you
would want for your child? Don’t worry about my child. Is this school good
enough for your child. And usually, my Republican
colleagues are like, well, that’s not really
what I’m saying. No, no, it’s a very
simple question. It’s pretty basic. You’re saying this
school is good enough. Is it good enough
for your child? And usually, the answer is
no, and unless and until we can say that every school is
good enough for every kid, then we still have work to do. That’s not progressive. I– like I know you guys
are like super fancy, like really smart college
kids, but that’s just simple. Like that– [LAUGHING] Like childhood nutrition
is just simple. Not putting babies in
cages is not progressive. Like I– [LAUGHING] Like when people look at us
like we have three heads, and I’m like, where is that OK? How is that OK? Take me to the community
that thinks it’s OK. So no, I think we
have work to do. And the only way this works
is that regular people say, I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough. Because I’m concerned
about it, so I have to do something about it. Great. Do you want to
get some pictures? Three minutes. OK. Pictures. Yeah, I was gonna say, I’d
love to talk to you all day– [INTERPOSING VOICES] I know, I get worked up. I’m so sorry, I
get so worked up, because I fully
expect for them to try to get me out of Congress. I’m saying everything I can. No, keep going. We’ll keep you there. But no, what you guys can do–
so let’s wrap up with this. Stop limiting yourself
to what you can do. You can do whatever you
want, as little or as much as you want to do to help
out in this electorate to engage people. So many people throw
up their hands, you know, it’s not enough. And even me. Prior to this year,
I’ve always voted, I’ve always registered
people at church to vote, but this time, I
was like, we need to drive people to the polls. We need to grab two
people by the hand. We need to call the
people that we registered and say tomorrow is the day. I had homeless people
coming by my headquarters saying how many more
days till we get to vote? Because they were engaged. I think we really have to
dig deep and say, well, what else can I do? If I’m doing 97%
of what I could do to promote an agenda that is for
the people, what else can I do? Whether that’s sharing
things on social media, whether it’s staying informed,
whether it’s reading articles, whether it’s registering to
vote or registering someone else to vote. Whether it is just
being bold enough to speak up when someone
says something that is so outrageous and
egregious, and just to say, that’s just wrong. Because that was what
led me to Congress. I could say, well
who’s speaking up? And so often we see things– and I feel like every
troll is unemployed and has nothing else to do but
write nasty letters about me and post things on social media. I’m like, would you
like a life or a wife, or do something
and leave me alone. But one of the things we
did on my campaign, we did– we taught a class to
teach young people how to write letters to the editor. Because the letters that
were on the editorial page were so negative,
and I’m like, this is not a true representation
of this community. But those are things–
everybody thinks, well, just ignore that
person they’ll go away. We cannot continue to
ignore that person, because they are multiplying,
they are breeding, they are sending out a message
and an agenda that does not match, not just our democratic
values, not even as a Democrat, but as a country,
our democratic value, this idea that we are
so much better together, e pluribus unum. That’s what like the founding
documents in this country say that we are
stronger together, and we’ve lost sight of that. And even though we know it’s
wrong, everybody in here can think of a moment where– actually, I was going
to stop, but I’ll tell you one more thing,
because my husband always tells this story. We were in the supermarket,
and there was a man who– So in my community,
it’s interesting how when I was National Teacher
of the Year, everyone loved me. Oh, you’re the teacher. Amazing. Hi. We love you. And now as a congresswoman
with a D behind my name, I’m like, no, it’s still
me, I’m the teacher, no? And people– it’s
one or the other. So we’re in the store, and
this person who started– this is during the shutdown. He started with the wall,
we need to build a wall. And it was very apparent
that he did not vote for me. And he kept talking,
and then he got nasty. And then he got nastier. And then he got loud
and nasty, and then he got loud, nasty, and rude. So we’re going and I’m putting
my groceries, and I’m praying, the devil is a liar, you better
go– like just ignoring him. And he packed his groceries. This went on for a good
five seven minutes. And he leaves the store,
and the cashier, the person from the next line,
that guy was so rude. That was outrageous. I can’t believe he did that. And I’m thinking, you
know, what I can’t believe is there’s 20 people standing
around me and I’m in here alone and this angry man is
yelling insults at me, and not one of you, not
one of you says anything. And then it’s like,
(WHISPERING) we support you. I was like, well, I
could’ve used that like three minutes ago. [LAUGHING] So just think about that,
because in the moment, sometimes you hit– like
I think of one person, or two or five or the 20
that were standing around, said it’s OK to disagree on
policy, but that’s not OK. Just to bring some civility
back to the process. We can disagree, in fact,
I welcome disagreement, because it is the way
that we begin to solve problems and have discourse. Actually, ask your
College Republicans to invite me back, because I
am truly interested in knowing, how is your brain operating? When I see kids on the– [LAUGHING] When I see kids on
the plaza and they have like make
America great, I want to say, what– tell me how,
because I really want to know. Because usually adults
talk about the economy when you talk about
this administration. I want to know, as a millennial
who has not even really fully engaged in the economy,
help me understand, because I’m looking to learn. But if we can’t even have a
dialogue without you calling me out of my name, then we’ll
never get any work done. And it’s up to the good people,
because good people definitely outnumber people like
that, on both sides. And I’m saying– I just realized what I said. But there are good
people on both sides. [LAUGHING] All right. It is picture time. [LAUGHING] I’ll get you in
touch with Jimmy. He runs Republicans. [APPLAUSE]

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