Hillary Clinton rallies at Pitt day before voting starts


Hillary Clinton made four campaign stops the day before voting began. | Dagmar Seppala | Staff Photographer

With the towering Cathedral of Learning and a massive American flag as her backdrop, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got the final word at Pitt Monday, capping off a campaign season that’s brought politicians to the area on a weekly basis.

“So, tomorrow is the election, and that is just the beginning. We have to heal this country. We have to bring people together — listen and respect each other,” Clinton said to a crowd of more than 2,000 people gathered in front of and around the stage she spoke from.

The former secretary of state discussed equal pay, free tuition for public colleges and universities and financial planning for those already in debt. She also denounced her opponent Donald Trump’s “hateful rhetoric” and painted a hopeful future for the country in a final attempt to rally voters in Pennsylvania — a state crucial to the outcome of the election.

Clinton’s motorcade pulled in at about 12:20 p.m. to the sounds of the crowd chanting her first name. Mid-speech, Clinton played to attendees’ enthusiasm by invoking her opponent’s argument that she’s been playing the “woman card,” to which both the Democratic candidate and the swelling crowd responded, “Deal me in.”

Most supporters — many of whom waited in a line that stretched from the Cathedral to Heinz Chapel — carried “Stronger Together” signs and dressed in campaign shirts, buttons and hats.

“It’s great to be here at this extraordinary time in our country’s history at this great university,” Clinton said.

Senatorial candidate Katie McGinty and chef Tom Colicchio introduced Clinton, sharing personal anecdotes to support the strength of her character. Congressman Mike Doyle, D-Pa., Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto, Braddock mayor John Fetterman and Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald also spoke at the rally in support of the Democratic candidate.

Clinton’s campaign has touted the celebrity card numerous times throughout the election. Recently, Katy Perry, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Z and Beyonce have all held shows or stumped in her favor.

At Heinz Field on Friday, Clinton was joined onstage by local celebrities: businessman Mark Cuban and Steelers’ Hall of Famers Mel Blount and Franco Harris also came to support Clinton. Actors Bryan Cranston and Steve Carell — both filming a movie in Pittsburgh — popped by the Oakland Clinton campaign office Sunday to support her as well.

The Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has poked fun at Clinton’s famous supporters, saying he doesn’t need rock stars or rappers to win him votes. He also visited Pittsburgh yesterday, speaking at the Pittsburgh International Airport to a crowd of about 6,000.

Both candidates have squeezed in trips to make-or-break cities within the last few days. RealClearPolitics shows Clinton leading Trump by 2.9 points. Nationally, polls show Clinton with 44 percent of the vote and Trump with 41 percent. In Pennsylvania, Trump is trailing Clinton by 2.4 points.

Behind Clinton on stage, Pitt students from various student groups around campus held vibrant blue “Stronger Together” signs. Michael Meehan, a first-year master’s student in health, physical activity and chronic disease, was one of those supporters.

For Meehan, a Trump victory would mean a regression in the progress that President Obama has made for members of the LGBTQ+ community during his two terms.

“Many of the LGBT rights Obama extended to federal employees and contractors was done via executive order, which means that a President Trump could undo it all at 12:01 [a.m.] on the day of the inauguration,” Meehan said. “Given what we’ve seen Donald Trump say and do, I worry that we’re going to be taken back to square one.”

As statistics become more relevant in the final hours, Clinton has spent most of her time encouraging voters to get out and cast their ballot and not be disheartened by long lines.

“Tomorrow, each and every one of you gets to make a decision as to whether or not … you will vote. Because in Pennsylvania, it’s all about election day. Other places around the country have been voting for weeks. I’m here to ask you to vote for yourself,” Clinton said.

Although recent polls have shown Clinton favored to win, Diana Ritze, 67, from Butler, Pennsylvania, and her husband, Gene Ritze, 68, were at the rally Monday and worried she might not have the win secured.

“Anything could happen [tomorrow]. I feel pretty confident — but not absolutely until it’s over,” Ritze said.

Albert Tanjaya, a first-year student majoring in computer science, was still unsure which candidate would be better for the country when he came to the rally Monday morning.

“I haven’t finalized my vote, so… this rally and hearing her speak has really helped me make a decision,” Tanjaya said. “Her speech was more of a unifying speech rather than a policy-based speech, and I think that really helps wrap everything up in the end.”

Clinton’s talk was mainly centered on unifying Americans and making it to the polls. She did not mention any clear plan for health care reform or Obamacare, which was a disappointment to some attendees.

After attending a Trump rally two weekends ago in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Janice Smallwood, 66, from Johnstown, was unsatisfied with his vague notion of “obliterating Obamacare.”

“As a recipient of social security benefits, I want to make sure that 10 years from now I’m still receiving those benefits,” Smallwood said.

In the face of this uncertain election, Clinton reminded the crowd that they will be voting for not only for themselves but for future generations as well.

“When your kids and your grandkids ask you in the future what you did in 2016 when everything was on the line, you’ll be able to say you voted for a stronger, fairer, better America where we build bridges, not walls,” Clinton said.

Clinton had three more stops before today’s election. After leaving Pittsburgh, Clinton headed to Allendale, Michigan, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina. She left Pittsburgh with a message of togetherness.

“We don’t have to accept a dark and divisive vision for America,” Clinton said. “Tomorrow, you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America.”

Leave a comment.