Photos by James Novello
On October 28th, Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine held a rally at the Oglesby Union Ballrooms at Florida State University. Alongside Kaine were Gabby Giffords, former congresswoman from Arizona known for surviving a 2012 assassination attempt, and her husband, former US Navy Captain and astronaut, Mark Kelly. The latter were touring across the country on their “Vocal Majority Tour,” which advocates an end to gun violence. This issue is especially close to home for the couple as Gabby Giffords made a remarkable recovery following a terrible gunshot wound to the head in 2012, and she now devotes much of her time to promoting safe gun ownership in the United States. This became one of the main topics addressed during the entirety of the rally, but there was another strong theme – that of standing up for minority and women’s rights.
A number of speakers opened the rally before Giffords, Kelly, and Kaine. The first was FSU student, Inam Sakinah, who spoke about the importance of this election for minorities and women, and the Power of We diversity and inclusion campaign here at FSU.
“Our gathering here today celebrates the power of diversity. It recognizes the potential we have, the possibilities we create, when we embrace the power of the collective. The Power of We. As a young woman, a child of immigrants, and a Muslim American, I’m captivated by the notion of ‘We the people.’ When those sacred words were inscribed in our constitution, they weren’t referring to me. They weren’t referring to many of you. They certainly didn’t include our current, or our next president. Yet those words … are the reason why I can stand before you today as a proud citizen of this country and as a proud supporter of that woman who is about to shatter that final glass ceiling.”
Mayor Andrew Gillum also opened for the main speakers, delivering some jokes about Donald Trump’s visit to the city last week, and then more earnestly urging the ballroom full of students to go vote.
“In a democratic society like ours, there are certain things that level our society and make us equal, and we take great pride in the fact that on election day and the days leading up to it, the early voting process, it’s the one opportunity where everyone, regardless of what side of town you live on, how much money you may have, how much intelligence (or lack thereof – Donald Trump) you may have, we’re all equal and we get to demonstrate that at the ballot box. It’s urgent, and we need to demonstrate the urgency of this moment because of what’s at stake in this election.”
Returning to the topic of gun safety and its importance in this election, Mayor Gillum also shared his perspective of the shooting that happened at Strozier Library nearly two years ago.
“Two days before I took office as mayor of the city of Tallahassee, there was an incident that took place here on Florida State’s campus in Strozier library. It wasn’t just any incident, it didn’t take place at any time, it happened at the height of you all’s testing season. So Strozier was literally full, bursting with hundreds of students that evening, studying and preparing, when the gunman came in. Thankfully, there was quick action by law enforcement. … When the legislature had their opportunity to intervene and to say something about what was happening at Florida State University, when they had their opportunity to make our community more safe, the first thing that they wanted to do with their policy and legislation was to equip every student, teacher, and anybody else under the sun with a gun.”
Mayor Gillum finished by welcoming to the stage Captain Mark Kelly and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, whose lives have been greatly impacted by guns. Captain Kelly spoke first.
“Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are the only candidates in this race that have – get this – the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, the record to prove it, and a plan to create an America for our kids and grandkids that is safer from gun violence … Donald Trump talks a lot, about a lot of things. He likes to talk about the military, about military strategy. How he knows more than the generals. You know, I served in the US Navy for 25 years. I know a little bit about military strategy, and I would never assume that I know more about military strategy than our admirals and generals. One of the things you never hear Donald Trump talk about is the responsibilities that come with the right to own a firearm. The responsibility of keeping guns out of the wrong hands. And in a country where we have 30,000 Americans shot and killed every year, and where felons and domestic abusers can buy guns without a background check, that’s really important. He should talk about these things and he doesn’t.
Look, I’m a gun owner, Gabby’s a gun owner, senator Tim Kaine is a gun owner, and take it from us: we don’t want anybody to repeal the second amendment. This isn’t about the second amendment, and we don’t want the government coming to take our guns. I certainly don’t want that. But we do want a president and a congress that will do more to make sure that felons, domestic abusers, and even terrorists don’t get easy access to firearms. That’s just ridiculous.”
His wife, Gabby Giffords, whose attack left her with a severe brain injury, delivered a powerful statement of her own.
“[Hillary Clinton] will fight to make our families safer. In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby. That’s why I’m voting for Hillary. Speaking is difficult for me, but come January I want to say these two words: Madam President.”
Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine himself was finally welcomed to the stage, and, regardless of one’s political beliefs, the man’s public speaking skills cannot be denied. The crowd was extremely engaged for the entirety of his 45-minute speech.
He began by telling us, from a politician’s point of view, how vital Florida truly is to a successful Presidential candidacy.
“Florida is checkmate. Did you guys know that you’re that important? You should change your name already from the Sunshine State to the ‘Really Close Election State!’ During elections, we just kind of feel like you’re toying with us and like to keep it really suspenseful. … If Hillary Clinton wins Florida, Hillary Clinton will be president.”
Kaine also spoke on the various things that Donald Trump has said throughout this election, debunking them with both facts and his own personal experiences. In the most recent presidential debate, Donald Trump made one comment on the election that has received a lot of attention from both Republicans and Democrats: that he would not accept the results of the presidential election if Clinton wins.
“Donald Trump said during the debate he would not agree to accept the outcome of the American election. I lived in Honduras for a year – it was a military dictatorship. There were not free elections, there was not a tradition of accepting the results of elections, there was not a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. People prayed for the day when they could live in the society where they choose their own leaders and have a system they can trust. We know what we’re doing in this country.”
Kaine also touched on another highly publicized Donald Trump quote: that the US military is a disaster, sharing his very personal reasons why he disagrees.
“Donald Trump has said that the American military is a disaster. He went after John McCain, he went after the Khan family. He said he knows more than the generals about ISIS. When American troops and Iraqi forces started to move toward Mosul (because we are now moving first to take back Mosul from ISIS, then to take back Raqqah, Syria from ISIS, this should be something that if you don’t like ISIS you would be pleased to see that this progress is underway) Donald Trump tweeted that this is a big failure, that the resistance is more than we thought it would be. … I’ve got a boy who is in the marines, who is deployed overseas right now for the second time and I’ll tell you how I feel as a military dad. When we hear a guy talk like that about the military, that they’re a disaster. Oh really, a disaster? Two million young men and woman volunteer to serve in a time of war and they risk their lives … and they do it out of patriotic love for their country, they don’t have to, it’s all volunteers. One percent of our adults volunteer so that 99% of us don’t have to volunteer. And you’re going to say the American military is a disaster?”
Kaine’s speech then moved forward to social issues, especially student loans and minority and women’s rights. When speaking on the debt that students face, he did not only address the problems it may cause for those individual students, but he also addressed how more affordable and accessible education can improve society as a whole.
“You shouldn’t have to mortgage your future in this country to have a future. More and more students have more and more debt on their shoulders. That restricts what jobs you can take, it restricts whether you can buy a car or your first house, and then that affects the entire economy. So Hillary has a basic plan, with three pieces to it. First, we’re going to make the promise that this country will be a place where there can be debt-free college; not free, there’ll be skin in the game for everybody, but you should be able to get out of college and work without having debt on your shoulders. Second, if your family makes less than $125,000 a year, then you ought to not just be debt-free but tuition free.
Education is not just for individuals – it is for that, but the more educated a workforce, the city does better because your workforce does better, you attract more jobs, and the state does better. … The third piece of our plan, because the first two only work for those coming into college, is if you’re coming out of college with debt on your shoulders, we want to make it easier to refinance that. Here’s the funny thing about our country: it is easier in this country to refinance the debt on a yacht, on a private jet, or a vacation home, than to refinance debt on a loan.”
Following this, Kaine delivered an extremely memorable sentiment on minority and women’s rights in America, giving the audience a “story of the United States of America in less than two minutes,” by comparing how each generation has stood up to defend the rights of marginalized people, and how our generation is no different.
“When Jefferson put down that phrase, ‘All men are created equal,’ … there’s a contradiction. All men are created equal? Right from the beginning, we’ve had a nation that’s had this challenge, but it’s also a cool thing about our country, which is that even though our framers were not living equally – not for women, not for whites who didn’t own property, not for immigrants, not for Indians, especially not for slaves at the time – there wasn’t equality. … Here’s the story of the United States of America in less than two minutes. Every generation wakes up and they say, ‘Well we said it was about equality but – slavery? How come we have slavery?’ Bloodshed, war, rewrite the constitution because we want to live more like who we promised we would be. Years later, another generation wakes up and says, ‘Wait, equality – but women can’t vote? How can that be?’ Change the constitution to live more like who we said we’d be. Fifty years later, it’s the 1960s, people who are minorities can’t get housing or jobs or they can’t vote equally, and the generation says ‘Wait a minute, we said it was about equality, we’ve got to change this.’ Civil Rights Act passed. You guys have been the generation that came up with the epiphany: ‘We said it was about equality, but what about LGBT people? Shouldn’t they be entitled to be treated equally?’ … So we keep making changes to orient toward that value that was a timeless value that was set out.”
He then addressed how the United States has been severely lacking in electing women to office, and why a Clinton win would be remarkably historical.
“Hillary is trying to do something that’s never been done. If it had been easy for a woman to be president, there would have been a woman president. In the United States right now in Congress, 19% of Congress is a woman. That’s the most we’ve ever had – that’s 75th in the world, below the global average. Iraq is 26% in their national legislature, Afghanistan is at 28%, Rwanda is usually number one, they’re at 64%. … We are bad in this country at electing women to office.”
Overall, the entire rally was greatly focused on the pushes for greater equality and embracing diversity that have become central focuses of this election. No matter who wins the presidency or control of Congress in next Tuesday, the impact of the current political debate cannot be understated. Marginalized people across the country have found a voice, which becomes evident during rallies like this one. Senator Kaine delivered a very well-executed balance of facts and statistics combined with appeals to democratic students’ passions, while Gabby Giffords and Captain Kelly offered a very personal perspective on the issue of gun control that hits close to home in Florida. Regardless of individual political beliefs, rallies like this serve an important purpose in driving young people to vote and to take part in important elections like this one, especially in the country’s most crucial swing state.