Sen. Warren speaks on optimism, character and action

By EMILY CUTTS

@ecutts_HG

Published: 04-22-2017 12:15 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — For Sen. Elizabeth Warren, this is the moment the country is being tested.

“It’s a moment about what kind of people we are, what kind of country we are going to build … It’s like a test of character and this is what I believe,” she told her roughly 1,100-person audience Friday. “A country is not the character of its president. The character of a country is the character of its people.”

If democracy is not working, it is as if democracy became a spectator sport — something one tunes into every four years, Warren said.

“The world changed when Donald Trump got elected,” she said. “But let’s be clear, the world changed the day of the Women’s March.”

Warren stopped at Mount Holyoke College Friday night as part of her book tour promoting the release of her newest work “This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.”

Over an hour and a half, Warren read excerpts from her book and answered questions from the audience about health care, the art of dialogue and how to give hope to younger generations.

Reading an excerpt from her book, Warren told the tale of a visitor to her D.C. office by a man named Mike from Douglas, Massachusetts.

The man, Warren said, spoke to her about his diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s and urged her to fight.

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“The story was like a spear thrust between my ribs, reminding me that everything we do in Washington matters to real people,” Warren read. “People who never plan to ask for help, but need it right now.”

After the reading, Warren told the crowd that Mike was in attendance prompting a hearty round of applause and a standing ovation.

Her work, she said, was a book of stories as well as the American economy from 1935 to present.

“There is a lot of tough stuff in this book,” she said. “The book is written out of optimism — optimism that we can make a difference.”

The first to ask a question was a school psychologist from Maine, who was also the mother of a Mount Holyoke student. The woman asked Warren what she would say to give students of all races hope.

“We have to decide what kind of a people we are and what kind of country we are going to build going forward,” Warren said.

America, she said, was built by people of all colors, languages and ideas.

“For our differences, we weren’t made weak. For our differences, we were made stronger,” Warren said. “You’re not only welcome here — you are loved here — and the rest of us are in this fight because we believe your fight is our fight and our fight is your fight.”

“The fight that is going on in Washington right now is truly a fight over who government works for and that really means a fight. Not just over economics, it’s a fight over values — about who we see ourselves as and what we value.

“A budget is not a numbers document,” Warren said. “A budget is a values document.”

For those feeling overwhelmed but wanting to stay engaged, Warren had three steps.

One, she said, was join something.

“Two voices are more than twice as strong as one,” she said.

Don’t just talk to yourself, recruit, Warren urged as a second point.

Third, she said, commit to doing something everyday.

For Amherst resident and Mount Holyoke College alum Jenna Perchak, Warren’s remarks about the character of the country resonated.

“I think sometimes I’m almost a little bit embarrassed by the decision that we as a collective made,” Perchak said. “It’s nice to hear that it doesn’t necessarily represent all of us.”

Fellow alum Charisse Pickorn added it was a poetic way of saying “not my president.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.

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