Keene resembled Washington, D.C. this past week with the many campaigns rolling through campus. Between Tuesday, February 4, and Monday, February 10, Keene State College hosted seven presidential candidates. 2020 hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang all visited Keene to campaign for their run for president of the United States.
On Tuesday, February 4, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren came to speak at the Colonial Theatre in downtown Keene. Warren’s speech was centered around her fight in support of the middle class.
“Over the years, America’s middle class had been deliberately hollowed out,” Warren said.
Warren cited her own family’s struggles with staying afloat after her father was out of work due to health complications and how her mother’s minimum wage job was able to support them at that time, but minimum wage can no longer support American families today. Similarly, Warren discussed the student debt crisis, stating the cost of college has nearly tripled since the 1970s when she was attending college and was able to pay for it more easily than today’s students can.
Warren also addressed the delay in the results for the Iowa caucus being released.
“I think they ought to get it together and release all of the data,” Warren said.
Those results were released later that day, showing Warren at 18.3 percent, trailing behind Buttigieg and Sanders, but ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Wednesday, February 5, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard spoke to the community in the Mabel Brown Room of the Student Center. Gabbard is the first female combat veteran to ever run for President, as well as the first female combat veteran elected to Congress. While serving as a combat medic, Gabbard saw firsthand the devastating toll that the Iraq War had on the soldiers who served in it. She said shaped this experience shaped her worldview and argued that her policy of anti-interventionism is what sets her apart from the rest of the candidates in the Democratic primary field.
One of Gabbard’s priorities as president will be to ease the political divide in America. Gabbard has drawn criticism from Democrats for her decision to sometimes appear on Fox News. Gabbard said she is proud of her reputation for being able and willing to reach across the aisle and work together with the Republican party.
“We need to come together as a country, crossing party lines. We need to recognize how hyper-partisanship in this country is unfortunately tearing us apart,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard stressed the importance of the U.S. Constitution.
“I am a firm believer in the constitution of the United States. I have taken an oath to support and defend it, both as a soldier in the Army National Guard as well as a member of Congress,” Gabbard said.
Also in attendance at Gabbard’s town hall was perennial presidential candidate and renowned libertarian and author Vermin Supreme, who stopped to speak with attendees and endorse Gabbard.
On Thursday, February 6, businessman and activist Tom Steyer came to the Flag Room to address a variety of important topics and issues. Steyer referenced his past ventures in pushing for climate change legislation and fighting tobacco companies as a philanthropist and liberal activist. He touted his success in defending climate laws against oil companies in his home state of California.
“No one wanted to take on the fight because everybody thought, ‘they are too rich, they are too connected, they are too mean, you’re going to waste a lot of time, you’re going to get humiliated,’ and we got 70 percent of the vote,” said Steyer. According to Steyer, Trump will run solely on the economy and this is where Steyer can beat him.
“I can take him down and go through step by step why it’s a lie,” Steyer said. “If there is growth in the economy and all the money goes to the rich people, that’s not success. A booming stock market based on low tax rates that benefits rich people doesn’t hit the vast bulk of Americans.”
On Saturday, February 8, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg spoke in the Mabel Brown Room to college and community members. Actor Michael J. Fox spoke before Buttigieg came out on stage in endorsement of him.
Buttigieg began with addressing Black History Month and how social justice is an issue for everyone. He cited Keene native Jonathan Daniel’s legacy as a social activist in Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights movement. Buttigieg also stressed the importance of all Americans working together to combat issues put forth by the current administration.
“In a particularly divided time for our country, we can’t take the risk of excluding anybody,” Buttigieg said. “I think we’re going to defeat this president with everybody by our side. We’re even more united when we realize what we’re all for. There’s a powerful American majority coming together today.”
Buttigieg discussed how his own life has been impacted by decisions made in Washington and how these elections impact everyone individually.
“The course of my own life was changed by the orders that sent me to a foreign war issued by a decision made in the White House. My marriage, the most important thing in my life, exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Buttigieg said. “That’s what this election means to all of us in a different way.”
On Sunday, February 9, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd of people in the Spaulding Gym. Sanders’ speech focused on the importance of fighting for the average American and not catering to the wealthy.
“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck. Tonight over 500,000 Americans will be sleeping out on the streets or in homeless shelters,” Sanders said. “Over the last three years, the billionaires of this country under Donald Trump saw an 800 billion dollar increase in their wealth, but the average American worker last year saw a one percent increase in his or her wages.”
According to Sanders, the main way to accomplish this is to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, make it simpler to form a union and to guarantee equal pay for equal work. One of the other issues Sanders addressed was climate change.
“My administration will listen to scientists, not right-wing politics,” Sanders said. “Maybe instead of spending 1.8 trillion dollars a year collectively on weapons of destruction, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change. Instead of hiding from the reality of climate change, our job is to lead the world in combating it. Transform our energy system, our transportation system, our agricultural system, make buildings more energy efficient. We are going to create up to 20 billion good-paying union jobs.”
On Monday, February 10, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke in the Flag Room of the Student Center. She stressed the importance of revising the Affordable Care Act and to include mental health care and addiction help within health care.
“The Affordable Care Act, we’ve got to make it better. It is nearly 10 points more popular than the President of the United States right now,” Klobuchar said. “First, we protect it so people don’t get thrown off of it for preexisting conditions. Second, I would build on it with a nonprofit, public option. Right now there are two lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry for every member of Congress. They think they own Washington, well they don’t own me.”
Klobuchar also said how important it is to connect the education system with the economy moving forward.
“We have to make it easier for kids to pay back their student loans. If multimillionaires can refinance their yachts, students should be able to refinance their loans,” Klobuchar said. “In my first 100 seconds, I will fire Betsy DeVos. Then you match the economy with the jobs. We are going to have over one million openings for home healthcare workers. How do we fit the education system with our needs? First of all, fund K-12 and preschool big time. Secondly, fund those one and two-year degrees. The third thing, double the programs to make it easier for students to go to college.”
On that same day, entrepreneur Andrew Yang finished up the string of candidate visits in the Mabel Brown Room. Making sure jobs are secure during a time of extreme technological advancement was a large issue Yang discussed.
“It’s all about the bottom lines of these companies, which is often better served by kicking people to the curb and replacing them with technology,” Yang said. “It’s impossible to solve a problem if you don’t even acknowledge it.”
Specifically, Yang referenced the advancement of self-driving trucks which will take away from millions of truck-driver jobs and also from jobs at truck stops and diners. Better quality automated messages will also deplete millions of call center jobs. One major component of Yang’s campaign is the implementation of a citizen’s dividend, which is a guaranteed 1,000 dollars per month for every citizen age 18 up until the day one ‘expires’, according to Yang.
“This is not my idea and it’s not a new idea. Thomas Payne was for this at the founding of our country and called it the ‘citizen’s dividend for all Americans’. Martin Luther King was for this in the 1960s; guaranteed minimum income,” Yang said. “It was so mainstream it passed the U.S. House of Representatives twice in 1971 under Nixon. Eleven years later one state passed a dividend and now everyone gets between one and two thousand dollars per year. How does Alaska pay for it? Oil. What is the oil of the 21st century? Data, technology, AI… Your data is now worth more than oil. Where is all of that money going? Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, the trillion dollar tech companies that are paying nothing or next to nothing back to our country.”
Yang said that data is how the citizen’s dividend would be paid for and that most of that money would be put back into the local economy, creating a trickle-up economy.
Other than Warren’s town hall, all of these visits were in partnership with the KSC Student Democrats and the American Democracy Project, which is a network of state colleges and universities that aims to make college students more engaged and involved with the political process.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at
Teddy Tauscher can be contacted at
Alex Harvey can be contacted at