Hillary Clinton campaigns at CMU

By Dale Shoemaker / News Editor

After touring a robotics lab and meeting a grieving family, Hillary Clinton took the stage at Carnegie Mellon University to tell Pittsburgh voters that the future belonged to them.

And as for herself, Clinton said she takes “a backseat to nobody.”

At a campaign event at CMU that started at 6 p.m., Clinton’s sights were focused on the journey ahead —  hers, Pittsburgh’s and that of the college students she spoke to at a campaign stop at CMU.

“This election is about your futures,” Clinton said. “I want us to believe that we can make the future.”

In the Skibo Gymnasium, Clinton came out to chants of her name and outlined some of her plans to invest in infrastructure, fight climate change and make affordable education, from pre-kindergarten to college, more available to students. Behind her, the numbers 2016 and 45 — referencing the United States’ 45th president — shone from the gymnasium’s scoreboard.

Decked in Clinton’s campaign gear and CMU T-shirts, about 1,900 students and community members attended Clinton’s hourlong talk.

Clinton’s appearance at CMU was her first official stop in Pennsylvania this year, a state where she leads Sanders by more than 17 points, according to Real Clear Politics. The event also comes about two weeks after her campaign opened its first office in Pittsburgh, and exactly 20 days before Pennsylvania’s primary.

Clinton was the third high-profile politician to visit Pittsburgh in the past week, following Sanders last week and Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday.

Weaving together the economy, education, climate change and jabs at the Republican presidential candidates, Clinton highlighted her plans to boost the economy and make it easier for college students to pay off their loans.

“I want to give families and students the opportunity to get to college without drowning in debt,” Clinton said. “Right now, it’s not fair.”

John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

Clinton said she wants college students to be able to refinance their debt — just like homeowners can refinance their homes — so they can save thousands of dollars.

“We’re going to get the nagging bill collectors out of your life and make sure the government isn’t making money on your debt,” she said.

Prior to her talk, Clinton said she visited with the family of a high school student who was an adamant supporter of hers. According to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Caileigh McDowell was a student at Woodland Hills High School who dreamed of voting for Clinton. McDowell died of Crohn’s disease earlier this week.

“I wanted to mention her because she won’t be able to fulfill her dreams,” Clinton said. “But we can help other students fulfill their dreams.”

For former Woodland Hills High School teacher Sylvia Martinelli, Clinton’s tribute to McDowell was especially meaningful because Martinelli had taught McDowell’s mother when she was in school.

“The fact that [Clinton] went there before coming here,” Martinelli said, “it meant a lot. It really meant a lot.”

Clinton’s plans to bolster infrastructure in the United States resonated with Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who applauded Clinton for building bridges, both physical and metaphorical. Clinton said she plans to invest $275 billion in infrastructure projects over five years, putting $25 billion of that into a national infrastructure bank.

Clinton’s infrastructure bank would allow the federal government to give states loans to pay for new roads and bridges.

“While the other candidates are talking about building walls,” Fitzgerald said, referencing comments from Republican candidate Donald Trump, “we know Pittsburgh is a city of bridges, and Hillary is someone who builds bridges.”

Standing on the same stage he saw the band The Clash play on in 1982, Peduto said Pittsburgh has come a long way in the 34 years since the concert, and said he was backing Clinton because she could see Pittsburgh’s future.

“[In the 1980s] we were looking down the abyss of economic collapse, we were looked at as a city that had lived its life,” Peduto said. “[But Clinton] knows where we’re at, knows our past and has a path for our future.”

Beyond education, Clinton also spoke on the importance of fighting climate change, a call that resonated with several students in the audience. Clinton said she cares about climate change because she “actually listens to the scientists.”

“Ask the Republicans, they’ll say, ‘Well, I’m not a scientist,’” Clinton said. “I bet Carnegie Mellon could help teach them.”

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

From the college next door, Pitt sophomore Anoop Reddi said Clinton’s calls to reduce greenhouse gases and setting up more solar panels stuck out to him because he thinks investing in techology to combat to fight climate change is essential.

“We’re getting all of this technology — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat — but we’re not getting much for climate change,” Reddi said.

For other voters like Jennifer Yoder, 33, of Morningside, Clinton’s calls for equal pay for women and equal treatment for all people regardless of gender or race affected their nonheteronormative family directly.

“For me, it’s how deeply she believes in social justice and how hard she works for equality,” Yoder, who had Clinton sign their copy of Clinton’s memoir, said.

During her speech, Clinton highlighted the wage gap for women and women of color.

“When you go to the cash register, the cashier doesn’t say, ‘Oh, you only have to pay $0.78 on the dollar, or $0.68 on the dollar if you’re a black woman or $0.58 on the dollar if you’re a latino woman,” Clinton said. “Last time I checked, there was no women’s discount.”

Jalon Alexander, a Pitt law student who said he arrived at the rally at 10:30 a.m., said it was these calls for diversity and inclusion that pushed him closer to a vote for her. Alexander, who also attended Sanders’ rally last week then snapped a picture with Clinton Wednesday, said he was 50-50 between the two candidates but liked both.

“I think you need inclusiveness [in this country],” Alexander said. “When you don’t have inclusion, you don’t have diversity and when you don’t have diversity, people feel excluded.”

Alexander, who said he wants to follow Clinton’s footsteps in politics some day, said Wednesday’s event showed him a different side of her.

“[The media] portrays her as a robot, but now I see she’s a lot realer than that,” Alexander said. “I left feeling that we’d be in good hands.”

Leave a comment.