After Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s speech at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) national convention in Minneapolis, she received a personal invitation to visit a Northside school. Whether or not the former U.S. secretary of state takes up her offer, Brenda Johnson of Minneapolis nonetheless calls her “a real person.”
Johnson, who works with parents and children at Stadium View School and with troubled teens in Minneapolis and Hennepin County, was among several union members and other officials, including Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, who were on stage to hear Clinton and briefly speak with her afterwards.
“It was amazing to be on stage with her,” said Johnson to the MSR Monday evening. She was impressed with many of Clinton’s points made during her speech. “Number one is early childhood education and how important it is for us to get funding for that,” said Johnson. “Number two — criminal justice reform and how she will begin to look at reforming the system. Number three is loan forgiveness for college students. Those three things are relevant for me.”
Clinton unveiled parts of her overall education strategy, including advocating for higher salaries for teachers and educational support staff, calling it her “TLC [teaching, learning and community] plan.”
“I am committed that every child in this country receive a world-class education…no matter what ZIP code they live [in],” she pledged, adding that she also will push for preschool and early education improvements, a student debt reduction plan, and more schools operated by community groups and nonprofit organizations, if elected.
“When I am president, you will have a person in the White House and always a seat at the table,” Clinton promised the educators.
“I am so proud of our union supporting Secretary Clinton so early and with so much energy,” AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker told the MSR prior to the Democratic candidate’s arrival. “She understands our schools should serve every child…every day.”
“I find her comments really inspiring,” said Kimberly Colburn, secretary of the St. Paul Teachers Union. “I think she has a lot of good plans. She shows a heart for students and what we all have to do.”
“She is a real person who works for social justice …small in stature but mighty, mighty bright and brilliant woman,” said Johnson.
Clinton spoke for almost 20 minutes, but a group of protesters interrupted her at the start, chanting protest slogans such as “Black lives matter.”
“She handled it well and kept going,” noted Colburn, adding that Clinton remained composed and continued on after AFT convention members out-chanted the protesters with “Hillary, Hillary.”
“I expect protests at our convention,” admitted AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We have a group of people that at every convention…protests at one point or another. When we were in Washington State, they protested Bill Gates. They protested when [Vice President] Joe Biden spoke. Sometimes they protest when I speak. We always have protests at our conventions, and we have the same couple of people who do the protests every year.”
When the MSR asked Weingarten if Monday’s protesters referred to the Castile tragedy, she responded, “You saw that a lot of people wanted to let the secretary talk, and what the protesters were not hearing her say [was] that she met with the Castile family.”
“His death is our loss,” stated Clinton on the Philando Castile shooting death two weeks ago, telling the conventioneers that she had earlier met with his family. “Our country has been afflicted with tragedy — St. Paul to Orlando to Baton Rouge. These are bad, difficult days for our country and the world.”
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.