Kamala Harris campaigns at Dartmouth, lauds student activism

by Andrew Culver and Mary Winters | 4/25/19 2:10am

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Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 presidential candidate, spoke in Alumni Hall on Tuesday and spoke on a wide range of topics, including climate change and economic opportunity.

by Sam Hysa / The Dartmouth Staff

2020 Democratic presidential candidate and California senator Kamala Harris spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of around 400 Dartmouth students and Upper Valley residents Tuesday afternoon in Alumni Hall. Speaking on topics ranging from healthcare to racism to President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, Harris spoke about her policies and campaign for about 30 minutes before taking two questions from the audience. 

The most recent polling for the New Hampshire primary — conducted by the University of New Hampshire — showed Harris with four percent support in the state. She trails Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former vice president Joe Biden (D), South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who are polling at 30, 18, 15 and five percent respectively. 

Prior to speaking in Alumni Hall, Harris addressed the overflow of people outside of the Hopkins Center for the Arts who were unable to make it into the event due to occupancy constraints. Once on stage, Harris opened her remarks by commenting on the power of student activism. 

“In the history of our country, some of the most significant advances we have made in our movement towards social justice and equality have been prompted and fueled by the students of America,” she said. 

Harris then assured the audience that she fully intends to prevail in next year’s presidential election.

Harris’ talk focused on the importance of truth in our politics and the importance of always “speaking truth,” even if it may not be easy. 

“If Charlottesville didn’t make it clear — if the Tree of Life synagogue didn’t make it clear — racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia are real in this country and we must speak these truths,” she said, referencing the sites of a 2017 white supremacist rally and a 2018 mass shooting in Pittsburgh, PA. 

Harris then spoke to the importance of supporting America’s teachers and schools. 

“One of the greatest expressions of love a society can extend to its children is to invest in their education, and that means investing in their teachers,” she said. 

Harris also pledged that within her first 100 days as president, she would institute universal background checks, require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to remove the licenses of any gun seller who violates the law and place fugitives back on the list of people unable to buy guns. She promised to use executive power to achieve these goals if Congress refused to act. 

“It’s not like we are sitting around waiting for good ideas,” Harris said. “Those ideas have been had. It’s about people not having the courage to act.” 

Harris also spoke on issues facing the country including access to healthcare, climate change, criminal justice reform, economic opportunity, hate and discrimination and President Trump’s willingness to trust foreign dictators over American intelligence agencies.

 Harris closed with an appeal to the resilience of the American people. 

“One of our greatest strengths of who we are as a nation is that by our very nature we are aspirational,” she said. 

Harris added that while the United States is a country founded on “noble ideals,” the country has much work to do to fully achieve these principles.

“Let this be a fight that we know is born out of love for country and knowing that we are better than this,” she said.

Harris added that moving toward 2020, “the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us. Let’s speak that truth and know it to be true.” 

After her remarks, Harris took two student questions from the audience, the first of which focused on her plan to tackle student debt for college graduates. 

“We’ve got to have real leadership at the top, and that’s why I’m running for president,” she said in response to the second question, which focused on the importance of bipartisanship.

Daniella Omeruo ’21, who attended the event, said she appreciated Harris’ “direct and tough rhetoric” on challenging and often uncomfortable issues. 

“I think we are not really going to get far unless we speak directly and take [these issues] on,” she said.

Marina Cepeda ’21 said she was impressed by Harris’ specificity. 

“I didn’t expect her to be so vocal about issues that were very personal to under-represented communities,” she said. 

The event saw a strong turnout from Upper Valley residents, who comprised a large percentage of the town hall audience. 

“She was a dynamic prosecutor,” local resident Renee Snow said. “She speaks well. I think she articulates well what all of the generations are looking for, not just the under-30 generation.” 

Dartmouth College Democrats president Gigi Gunderson ’21 said that Harris has a “really robust team of students who are working on campus,” and that her campaign is showing signs of strong enthusiasm among students.

“It’s just fantastic to see the energy of everyone willing to skip their 2A to come out and hear [Harris] speak,” Gunderson said.

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