Tim Kaine Speaks to Building ‘Community of Respect’ at Ann Arbor Rally

September 16, 2016

The sun beat down on Tim Kaine’s back as he took the makeshift stage, erected in the middle of the University of Michigan Diag. The Senator from Virginia stood before thousands of Michigan Wolverines but showed no hesitancy in grabbing the microphone off of the podium and breezily shouting two words guaranteed to pull applause from his audience: “Go Blue!”

The Democratic candidate for Vice President, who came to speak in Ann Arbor on Sept. 13, was first introduced by Collin Kelly. Kelly is the president of U of M’s chapter of College Democrats, an organization that spreads across college campuses around the country. College Democrats dedicate most of their efforts to electing democrats in local elections. Upon hearing that the Clinton-Kaine national campaign wanted to make a stop at the University that fall day, however, they wasted no time in volunteering to help with anything the campaign may need.

Kelly’s brief address to the crowd ended on the line, “Love trumps hate, and when students vote, Democrats win.”

A few of the speakers following Kelly included Larry Deitch and Denise Ilitch, both members of the University’s Board of Regents seeking re-election in the coming months. Ilitch spoke about a hot button issue in this year’s election, college tuition price, stating “You shouldn’t have to mortgage your future in order to have one.”

After the line of introductory speakers, Kaine walked down to the stage, entering the diag from behind the doors of Hatcher Graduate Library and strolling down to the podium, waving happily at the crowd along the way.

Kaine’s quick familiarity with the crowd and their school pride transitioned easily into the remainder of his speech. He set himself an agenda early on during his address of the crowd: to explain why he was proud to be running with Secretary Hillary Clinton, to speak to the stakes of the quickly-approaching election and to tell the audience how victory could be made possible.

Kaine began with the story of how he was asked to be the Secretary’s running mate. “Hillary called me on Friday, July 22 at 7:32 P.M., not that it was a memorable phone call of course, I get calls like that all the time,” Kaine said, joking with the crowd, microphone still in his hand as he walked casually back and forth along the stage. “And she called and asked if I would join her. And I’m going to tell you what she said because it shows you how she thinks. She said, ‘Look Tim, will you be on the ticket with me?’ I started to say yes and she said ‘No don’t answer, I want to tell you why’.”

He went on to explain why he had been chosen as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. Through such stories, he was able to humanize himself, and more importantly, his running mate, who has been described by voters in a poll from Quinnipiac University as a ‘liar’ and ‘untrustworthy’. Instead, Senator Kaine aimed those terms at the campaign’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump.

I would trust Hillary Clinton with my son’s life, and Donald Trump scares me to death,” Kaine said, after mentioning his son Nat Kaine, who is currently serving overseas in the United States Marine Corps. “Building walls and tearing up alliances will make us weak, not strong,” he added, in reference to Trump’s foreign policy plans to defect from NATO.

Sam Barkee, a University of Michigan student and Trump supporter, protested the rally and responded to Kaine’s attacks. “You know, I didn’t start off with Trump, but he’s our last conservative left standing,” Barkee conceded. “I think that Trump’s plans for this country can put us going back in the right direction, while Hillary’s plans are just four more of the past eight years of failed Obama policies.”

University of Michigan students and faculty were not the only ones in attendance at the rally; Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Superintendent Jeanice Swift and several members of the AAPS Board of Education were able to come and watch as well.

Superintendent Swift stated that she attended primarily to support the Huron marching band, which performed as the kickoff to the rally Tuesday, and declined to endorse any presidential campaign. AAPS Board of Education Trustee Christine Stead, however, did throw her support behind the Clinton-Kaine ticket.

“Hillary’s been in almost every government position one can be in without being president,” Stead said. “She’s probably the most qualified candidate in the history of presidential campaigns in our country. I think in terms of someone who has the kind of acumen to make good decisions, which is that job, you don’t know what’s going to happen on your watch but you want someone in there who is measured, thoughtful, understands how to get things done, and has the kind of acuity to understand the impact of decision.”

Molly Aronson, a member of the campus organization Students For Hillary, used Senator Kaine’s speech as an opportunity to judge the campaign’s consistency.

“I think you can tell a lot from the candidate from how they speak to a crowd, especially how they speak to college students,” she said. “I’ve seen Hillary speak three times, and so I think it’s really important for a campaign to be consistent in the underlying structural messages that they send, and I could definitely get the sense of that today.”

Aronson went on to detail the multitude of reasons she has endorsed the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.

“[This campaign] comes from a place of common sense, compassion, progressivism and experience,” Aronson said. “I think both [Clinton and Kaine] bring really really different experiences to the ticket which I think is really important, but they’re both centered on a history of helping people and moving society forward.”

Kaine acknowledged the topic of advancing society by speaking specifically about women’s rights and political representation. “We [Americans] are good at so much, but we are uniquely bad at electing women to public office,” he said, citing America’s 19 percent female congress (the highest it’s ever been), which places the country 75th in the world. “It’s been 240 years since we said ‘equality would be our yardstick’, and only 96 years since we figured out that equality means women should get the right to vote. It’s time to break that glass ceiling and show the whole word that we understand that equality means equality,”  Kaine stated to the loudest applause of the day.

The theme of Kaine’s speech largely mirrored a question that the Democratic party is attempting to highlight this election season. “Do we want to build a community of respect, or a community where it’s acceptable to disrespect people?” Kaine asked. “If you cannot call out bigotry, if you cannot call out racism, xenophobia, if you cannot call it out and you stand back and you’re silent around it, you’re enabling it to grow, you’re enabling it to become more powerful.”

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Hannah Rubenstein, Print Editor-In-Chief
Hannah enjoys writing, arguing and freaking people out with her surprisingly long tongue. She does not subscribe to the government-propagated myth that sleep is necessary for the continuation of human existence. The most formative moment in her life was when she realized The Office (US), Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine were all written for or created by the same man; she now cares about that man, Michael Schur, more than most people in her life.
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