It is all too often that I encounter the jaded political soul. Every day I hear a variation on the theme of distrust of all politicians.
“They’re all liars,” “I hate all politicians” and “None of them care about anyone but themselves.”
It is easy to think that way and, I must admit, I have become callous about many candidates and elected officials through my work with and for them in varying capacities. So when I was granted the privilege of meeting US Senate candidate from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, I was awestruck.
This woman is the truth.
Fall River is where I met her. This past Friday night, she was in town at the Kuss Middle School with Joe Kennedy III and Representative Bill Keating. Both men gave their own brand of well crafted rhetoric and warmed the crowd of locals before Elizabeth Warren took the stage.
She stuck to her message of growing the American economy from the middle class out and ensuring that women had a defender in Washington. She gave a summary of facts about the shortcomings of her opponent’s voting record on the same issues. I’m sure the readership of this site is well versed in Mrs. Warren’s platform vs. that of her opponent, Scott Brown’s, so I won’t rehash the details. Suffice it to say, her words hit home with the audience and the enthusiasm was electric.
However, It was after she spoke that I was most impressed with Mrs. Warren. Anyone who has followed her campaign for Senate knows the white hot spotlight that has been shined upon her by the media and by her opponent. This, of course, is part of the price one pays for running for such an important and strongly contested office. Of this Mrs. Warren is aware and spoke about it at the end of her speech, saying that in spite of the physical and emotional drain, each day she will work and fight from before the sun comes up until long after it sets.
I assumed following the raucous applause that she would spend a few minutes for photo ops with a select group of people chosen strategically to demonstrate her commitment to the young, the old, the working class, the students, etc. Then she would be whisked away through a back exit to rest or prepare or possibly meet in a quieter setting with other politicians or important benefactors. But she didn’t. Instead, she stayed and posed for every snapshot requested by her fans. She shook every hand in the room. She met everyone’s eye and listened – truly listened – to every single bit of praise or concern brought to her attention.
And after that, she stayed even longer.
I was there with my wife and eight-month-old daughter and an enthusiastic group of labor organization members. As soon as Mrs. Warren finished speaking, we pushed our way to the center of the flood of people and managed to get a group photo. Then the tide rose, tossing us to the outskirts where I was grabbed for an interview with a local newspaper and various sales pitches from other local pols.
Then I collected my family and we began to make our way to the exits. But as we said some final goodbyes, a nearby friend saw an opening and handed me a smart phone to try and snap a last minute photo with Mrs Warren. I agreed and took the snapshot. It was then that she walked over to us and hunched down to eye level with my daughter, Audrey, held by my wife, Michele. She hunched because she is taller than one would expect. She took Audrey’s feet in her hands and talked to her, then to Michele. She said mothers and daughters were why she was fighting so hard and why she would never stop fighting.
I saw tears in her eyes and in my wife’s eyes as well.
This was a moment I will never forget. This woman took the time to speak with strangers after the cameras stopped flashing. She put in the voluntary overtime to speak with a working family, rather than rest or fundraise or strategize against the onslaught of personal attacks launched by her opponent. Furthermore, she spoke with a family of Rhode Islanders who can’t even vote for her.
My job, as of late, has placed me in Fall River for most of my working hours. I travel the streets and speak with residents and I can say with confidence that the city has fallen on some extremely difficult economic times. In fact, Fall River fell into recession long before the rest of the country and sunk even deeper when the nation’s economy tanked. And, while I see a few Scott Brown signs tied to fences and tacked to businesses, the overwhelming sentiment is positive for Warren. But the commonwealth as a whole is a very different story.
Elizabeth Warren has a fight ahead of her. She is on a tear through Massachusetts in a final stretch attempt to rally as many supporters as possible for her November 6th showdown with Republican incumbent, Scott Brown. Mrs. Warren is using a grassroots approach to counter Senator Brown’s negative mailed literature, sponsored by super PAC America 360. The super political action committee funded the attack ad flier to the tune of $200,000 and I suspect many dark and stormy television ads with the same grim, grainy, anti-Warren message are to follow. Like many in his party, Brown seems to relish in truth avoidance when it comes to his own record, his party’s platform and his opponent in general.
But to see and hear Elizabeth Warren is to understand that she is more than just words. She is warm. She is honest. She is committed to her message in a way that instills hope in those like myself who understand too well the loud and greasy engine that powers the sleek and shining sports car of politics. In spite of her opponent’s portrayal of her as the elite, distant, wealthy professor, she came to Fall River and took the time to touch everyone who showed up.