Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton spoke and accepted questions in the Living/Learning Center’s Heritage Hall Sept. 24.
Locally-based Pennsylvania Democratic Party organizer Kyli Stoner opened the morning by encouraging the room of local student and community supporters to dedicate their votes to presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Let Hillary know you stand with her,” Stoner said.
Stoner gave way to Congressional nominee Erin McClelland, who seemed to burst onto the makeshift stage when she greeted the audience.
“This nation needs a mom,” she said
McClelland said that when higher powers put the weight of the nation’s problems on students, seniors and the impoverished, popular response should be, “This is not how you were raised.”
“A woman’s place is in the House (of Representatives),” she said.
McClelland then introduced Clinton to talk about her mother.
“I am fiercely proud to be my mother’s daughter,” Clinton said.
She mentioned her own children, and spoke about the necessity of being active in politics for their sake.
“Whomever we elect will have a crucial role in the world our kids grow up in,” she said.
“There’s a clear choice whether we should move forward together or go back to a time of divisiveness and segregation,” she continued.
Clinton segued into a discussion of paying for college, bringing up her mother’s school loans.
“I remember the day she paid off her law school loans and how big of a deal it was.”
Clinton noted her mother’s plan for college tuition, which is to include free community college for all and free tuition to state colleges for those in dire need.
Speaking on the loans themselves, Clinton mentioned having a grace period after college before repayments have to begin, counting community service positions like firefighter or nurse as repayment and resetting interest rates to the lowest rate for those with lasting college debt.
“Getting this right is important to whom we are as a country,” she said.
Clinton then spoke briefly about the ongoing ‘drug crisis,’ noting that more Americans were lost to overdoses than to car crashes in recent years.
“We need to invest in prevention at the high-school and college levels.”
She also said her mother’s plan included training pharmacists to recognize those in need of opioids versus those at risk of addiction or those who wouldn’t benefit, as well as making treatment and rehabilitation of addiction more accessible.
“There are really long wait times for those who are raising their hands and saying, ‘I need help,’” Clinton said.
“We are losing ground.”
Clinton then opened the floor to questions, saying that those asking didn’t need to be of voting age.
The very first question asked was by a young boy sitting on the aisle, who asked, “How does it make you feel when Trump says mean things about your mother?”
Clinton’s response was that her mom is tough and can take it. “What bothers her is when he says mean things about immigrants, or when he says mean things about Muslim Americans, or when he says mean things about working Americans.”
“I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t being attacked,” she said, recalling back when her father was campaigning to be governor of Arkansas in the 1980’s.
Clinton said there was a huge disconnect between who she knew her mother was and the person being verbally attacked by her father’s opponents in the race.
Another question came from a local advocate for Johnstown youth, who asked about keeping kids off the streets and giving them activities and recreation centers.
Clinton’s response was that what a candidate has championed in the past could be an indicator of what they will pursue in office. She spoke of her parent’s work on the free- and reduced-lunch programs helping schoolchildren and the development of after-school programs.
She said that an incentive to take school seriously could come from the assurance that real, long-term opportunities will follow.
Clinton also answered a question about her mother’s plan to bring partisan politics back together.
Clinton mentioned how her mother has needed to negotiate in the past to move issues like adoption and foster system programs forward, and that she has experience both finding common ground and standing her ground.
Clinton’s last question from the audience was from a young girl in the front, who asked, “How does it feel when people bash on your mom?”
Before answering, Clinton pointed out that the session’s bookend questions came from those not old enough to vote, saying, “our kids are watching.”
Clinton said that opposing media has targeted her mom and whole groups of Americans.
“We don’t raise an eyebrow anymore. We should always be appalled by sexism, racism, islamophobia and discrimination against the disabled. We’re losing our horror.”
“I will continue to speak and act in a way that makes my daughter proud.”
“I hope my daughter keeps that horror,” she said.