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2020 presidential candidate Gillibrand caps N.H. swing at alma mater Dartmouth

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., talks in a town hall-style event at Dartmouth College, her alma mater, as part of her exploratory process for a potential 2020 presidential campaign in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. Hanover was the last stop in Gillibrand's two-day visit to New Hampshire. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., answers a question from the crowd in a town hall-style event at Dartmouth College, her alma mater, as part of her exploratory process for a potential 2020 presidential campaign in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. "To win, you're going to have to bring this country together. You have to heal this country," Gillibrand said. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Freshman Cecily Craighead, center, of the Dartmouth College Democrats, applauds Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in a town hall-style event at Dartmouth College, her alma mater, as part of her exploratory process for a potential 2020 presidential campaign in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. The College Democrats hosted and organized the event for students and the general public. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2019

HANOVER — Though Dartmouth College was the final stop on a two-day, six-location tour through New Hampshire, presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand saved plenty of energy for her alma mater.

On her way to the stage at the Hopkins Center’s Alumni Hall, the Democratic New York senator retrieved a smartphone from an aide to snap a selfie with the more than 400 Dartmouth College students and Upper Valley residents who turned out.

Following brief introductions by another pair of Dartmouth alumnae — state Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H. — Gillibrand discussed her progressive campaign and answered questions in an event billed as a town hall-style appearance at Dartmouth.

Gillibrand also thanked her Big Green squash coach, Aggie Kurtz, who embraced her as a walk-on athlete in the 1980s. Gillibrand credited Kurtz for teaching her the value of persistence and resiliency, lessons she later used to help emerge as Dartmouth’s first female U.S. senator and getting re-elected despite coming from a primarily conservative area in upstate New York.

“I remember once my freshman year, Aggie put me in as a No. 2 against Yale when I should have been a No. 4, 5 or 6,” Gillibrand said. “I got crushed in the first game and came off the court crying, saying, ‘Aggie, she’s killing me.’ She said, ‘Listen, Kirsten, you know how to play squash. It’s just one shot after another. All I ask is that you do your best.’

“I thought, ‘She’s right. I can do my best.’ I still lost, but I always kept that with me and I’ve gone on to learn that so much of what we accomplish in life is what we do in the face of struggle.”

Addressing a question about climate change, Gillibrand called it “one of the most urgent crises facing all of humanity” and said the recently introduced Green New Deal — a nonbinding resolution put forth by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., that lays out a broad vision for tackling climate change initiatives — “is an excellent start.”

“(The U.S. has) the best inventors in the world to implement renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biofuels, but places like China are beating us to next-generation infrastructure,” said Gillibrand, who added that she supports a carbon tax to incentivize energy companies to innovate. “For those people who don’t believe in climate change or don’t think it’s an important issue, I say, ‘Look at all the people who have suffered.’ Think of all the people who died in the California wildfires. Think of people like the woman I know from Staten Island, whose children were washed right out of her arms during Hurricane Sandy. People need to understand the severity of what’s happening right now in our own country as a result of global climate change.”

On a question about protecting those who can’t afford health care, Gillibrand suggested establishing not-for-profit public health care institutions funded in part by 4 percent of taxpayers’ wages. “That’s how you get toward a single-payer system, and it would be one-third as expensive,” she said.

Regarding universal access to education, Gillibrand discussed providing tuition incentives for public service that aren’t limited to the military.

“We should expand that to include teachers, health care workers — all kinds of public service,” she said. “We should reward people whose job it is to help other people.”

Gillibrand also was asked for her stance on immigration, particularly in light of President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration in pursuit of funding for more than 230 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The only emergency is in Donald Trump’s mind,” Gillibrand said. “I went to Texas to see what is happening for myself and it is an outrage. I saw boys being held in a Walmart with no windows that are between ages 10 and 17 — so my two boys would be in there if they were taken from me. ... They go outside for two hours per day and it is run like a prison.”

Gillibrand went on to say Trump’s agenda aims to make U.S. citizens afraid of immigration and immigrants.

“He thinks we should be afraid of our neighbors, but this country has never been afraid of immigration,” she said. “Our country was built on immigration. The Statue of Liberty sits in New York Harbor to welcome the sick, the tired, the poor, all people to our shores.”

That last point prompted skepticism from some in attendance who would point to instances of oppression in U.S. history, including slavery, to argue that the nation hasn’t always welcomed immigrants.

Sophie Frey, a junior from Cornwall, N.Y., said the senator’s central message comes from “a point of privilege.”

“She’s pretty awesome and very passionate about important issues,” Frey said in an interview after the event. “The only thing that makes me a little bit concerned is that I’d like to see a little more intersectionality in her message. To say that immigrants have always been able to find a safe place here just isn’t true. I hope that she can make sure to incorporate all identities into her message.”

Freshman Tanner Bielefeld Pruitt, of Louisville, Ky., plans to continue attending appearances by Democratic candidates.

“I’m not sure who I’m going to vote for yet,” Bielefeld Pruitt said. “She definitely covered all of the biggest issues today, climate change being the most important in my mind.”

Retired educator Frank Fahey, of Claremont, was thrilled with Gillibrand’s message.

“She has a lot of energy and a lot of great ideas,” he said. “I think she can beat Trump.”

Jared Pend ak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

Correction

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's visit to Han over and Dartmouth College on Saturday was part of her second presidential campaign visit to New Hampshire. A headline in the Sunday Valley News misstated how many times the New York Democrat has campaigned in the state.