Presidential Candidates Make Their Pitch at PUSH Convention

As she stood on the pulpit of a Bronzeville church, Senator Elizabeth Warren seemed less like a Democratic presidential candidate giving a stump speech and more like a pastor at a revival meeting.

“The sheep are being divided from the goats,” Sen. Warren said, holding up a King James Bible and explaining a passage from Matthew. “Just so y’all understand, the sheep are going to heaven, the goats most definitely are not.”

Her invocation of faith and service set the tone  the Massachusetts senator’s speech on Saturday as she spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the Apostolic Faith Church as part of the annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition convention.

Joining her that day were two other Democratic presidential hopefuls: Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Amy Klobuchar.

During her fiery 20-minute speech, Sen. Warren invoked her experience as a teacher and public official, while making her pitch to the crowd of mostly Chicago southsiders on how she plans to help their community.

“As I travel this country and I hear from the American people, they share their struggles, they share their fears, and they share their concerns,” she said. “But the people know what is right and they are ready to act. I am here today to say that none of us is alone in this fight. When I am president, we will answer this call together.”

Among her proposed policy initiatives were free public technical school, community college, and four years state college, as well as funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

”We can level the playing field and put $50 billion into our historically black colleges,” she said to the applause of the crowd. “And we can cancel student loan debt. We can begin to close the black-white wealth gap. I have a plan to fund black entrepreneurs. Let’s close the entrepreneurship gap.”

Later, speaking to the Defender, Sen. Warren outlined her vision on how she would address the issues surrounding black unemployment in Illinois. Her plan involves strengthening current labor laws while relying on unions.

“Unions give workers a chance to be heard,” she told the Defender.“When people have their voices collectively heard, then they can negotiate and they can negotiate both to protect their jobs and make sure that they have a living wage. I also have a plan for 1.2 million manufacturing jobs here in America. This is not a problem we can’t fix. We can fix it. We know what to do and it just takes the courage to get out there and do it.”

Sen. Warren’s appearance was part of Rainbow/PUSH’s five-day long series of speakers which included many Democratic presidential candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke.

Sen. Klobuchar spoke first on Saturday morning. During her speech, she recalled her time in Chicago for law school — while drawing comparisons with President Obama’s time in the city as well.

“I lived here for three years during law school,” Sen. Klobuchar recalled. “I lived in the southside in Hyde Park, which is good for presidential aspirations, right?”

The Minnesota senator also shared stories about her family’s blue collar background as well as how she got started in politics in order to fight a rule in hospitals that kicked new mothers out of their rooms after 24 hours.

She also shared her impetus for joining the wide field of Democratic presidential candidates. While disparaging President Trump, she offered her hopes to promote “economic justice” for America’s poorest citizens and eliminate the issue of childhood poverty throughout the country.

“Here in Chicago, one in every four children lives in poverty,” she said. “They’re children for whom the only meal is their school lunch. They’re children who fall asleep at their desk because they can’t get a good night’s sleep. As president, I will cut child poverty in half in 10 years.”

After Sen. Klobuchar, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard took the stage. The Iraq War veteran told the crowd of her time serving in a dangerous area of Iraq nicknamed “Mortar-itaville” for the constant barrage of mortar bomb attacks.

“I’ll bring a soldier’s heart to the White House,” Rep. Gabbard said. “Bringing values of service above self, and principles of respect and honor, integrity, and courage to the presidency so that our White House can be a beacon of light that it must be for every single American.”

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition was founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1971 in order to promote social justice, racial equality, and political activism. Each year a convention is held to celebrate and elevate these ideals. This year’s theme was “400 Years Later: Repairing the Damage Done.”

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