CLAREMONT — A hand-painted American Flag backdrop, pocket-sized copies of the Constitution and nearly 100 local residents welcomed U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) to the Claremont Savings Bank Community Center as she hosted a town hall event Friday night.
From the start, the presidential hopeful — one of 18 Democratic presidential candidates still in the run for the presidency in 2020 — addressed the divisiveness that was likely present at most Americans’ Thanksgiving dinners just the day before.
“It is important for us — whether it’s in our own families or in our communities, our jobs, our schools, but most especially within our government — to be grounded and focused on respect for who we are as Americans and what really binds us together as Americans,” Gabbard said.
The four-term congresswoman also spoke on how she would like to reestablish unity within politics to get things done.
“I will build a cabinet and build a team of people not based on one party or the other but based on bringing people together that share this same commitment, who can bring a different and unique background and experience to actually accomplish our goal and objective,” Gabbard said. “Solving problems and delivering results for the American people.”
One question that cited the number of vacation days taken by President Obama in comparison to President Trump sparked laughter rather than silence when the resident asked: “How many surf days will you allow as President?” The former councilor on the Honolulu City Council answered jokingly, saying that she might have “a wave pool put in somewhere in [Washington] D.C.”
Despite the moments of cheer reminiscent of the time of year, most of the night was spent discussing serious issues.
As a veteran who served two tours in the Middle East, a Major in the Army National Guard and a member of the Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees in Congress, Gabbard plans to bring her first-hand experience to the position of Commander-in-Chief.
“Time and time again [politicians say] ‘there is not enough money, there is not enough money, there is not enough money,’ to take care of our communities and serve our people,” Gabbard said. “But somehow there is an endless amount of money and a blank check being written [for war].”
Standing so close to Vermont — the home to fellow Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders — Gabbard made health care a must hit issue in her opening statements.
“You have my commitment that as president in my administration big pharma will have no seat at the table,” she said.
This wasn’t the only thing Gabbard committed to last night.
On the topic of national security, Gabbard promised that in her first 100 days as president she would call a summit to hold discussions to collectively reduce the number of nuclear weapons around the world.
Also the founder of the environmental nonprofit Healthy Hawai’i, the environment is a special topic for her. Focused on reconstructing the nation’s economy, Gabbard believes that it is not impossible to have a strong economy and a thriving environment.
The former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee did not hold back any punches at the committee for its mishandling of debate format and regulations on candidates holding their own parleys.
“I’m honestly not concerned about the democratic party in this. My concern is for voters in this election to be able to make the best informed choice possible. And I think the best role the democratic party should play in these elections is to be able to help facilitate the kinds of conversations and debates and forums that can accomplish that. There are many different candidates, but that is not a bad thing. Voters have choices.”
“I think it’s bringing our party back to its roots… It was a big open tent party that was committed to bringing a voice to the voiceless, that was inclusive and welcoming of people who also wanted to take a stand for the people. And I think, unfortunately, the national democratic party has gotten away from its roots. As president that is what I would do. I would work to bring our party back to where we are open, welcoming, inclusive and a party that is really of, by and for the people.”
Another issue Gabbard discussed with a local resident was quality and affordable education. In an interview with the Eagle Times, Gabbard stated her thoughts on providing reliable education for all Americans.
“I think it is striking that balance between dedicating resources to certain areas like special education and others that can help equalize and level the field for all kids regardless of their needs or abilities to be able to get the quality of education they need,” she said.
To close out the event, TULSI 2020 NH spokesperson Vincent Chevalier shared why he supports Gabbard for president.
“2015 was the first time I heard of Tulsi,” Chevalier said. “I mean, when do you see a politician take the integrity move over the career move.”
Gabbard will continue her trip through New Hampshire this weekend. The congresswoman will be speaking at a town hall in Manchester Saturday afternoon followed by a “Walk with Tulsi” light up parade in Laconia and a house party in Gilford Sunday night.
“We will be spending a lot of time [in New Hampshire]. We will be traveling to some of the other early states like South Carolina in a couple of weeks. But we look forward to spending a lot of time here.”