-Jonathan Halabi is a New York City teacher, union activist and blogger at JD2718. I will be reposting his daily reports from the American Federation of Teachers convention in Minneapolis. It runs through Thursday.
AFT Convention 2016. Day 2 is about to start. I’ll write a post each day I’m out here in Minneapolis. Here’s Day 1:
Came in during the preliminaries, registered as a visitor, made my way into the hall, Larry Carter, UTNO president, now Louisiana Federation President, was the first to say hi. Cool. I met Larry 8 years ago, as an AFT volunteer in New Orleans. They got it tough in NOLA, and they keep fighting.
I met up with Lisa and Gladys from MORE in New York City, and began watching. Randi Weingarten was giving a meat and potatoes speech, nothing stood out, except her applause line for Hillary Clinton only got about half of the room standing, and not very loud. She asked for a warm welcome when Clinton arrived.
I checked in on Twitter. I don’t tweet well, but my volume is not bad: about 40 tweets yesterday. You can follow me @jd2718x if you really want to.
And then there were committee meetings, and nothing for non-delegates to do. I got my press credential (blogging).
Met other people I hadn’t seen, mostly in two years. Penny from the summer volunteer program. Tom who went door to door for Obama with us in Philly in 2008. Kombiz. Bobbie who disagrees with me about politics, but who’s really on the same page when it comes to geometry, and so on…
Found the other MORE people: Gloria, Jia, Norm, and Arthur. Arthur needed a real delegate to “vouch” for him to get his visitors pass – Manhattan HS DR Alice O’Neil helped out. And then the three of us, me, Norm, and Arthur, went around towards the press entrance. The whole audience was getting scanned, airport style. But the three of us? Personally searched, scanned and frisked by friendly secret service agents.
We entered the huge hall, and it was empty. We took seats with an obstructed view – the other press section was even further away. And we chatted. And wrote. And fidgeted. It was maybe 2:30. Slowly the room began to fill. The 4:30 start time came, and passed. And around 5:30 the show got going.
There were a series of warm-up speakers. Steve Zimmer, president of the UTLA school board (Los Angeles) did a nice job revving the audience up. (I couldn’t help thinking he looked like Peter Russo from House of Cards).
Al Franken was funny. He got into the weeds a bit, on education policy – but he knew what he was talking about. NCLB and ESSA, and testing. He had a nice riff on mental health in schools (but when I tweeted it, Susan DuFresne from Washington replied, nice stuff, but where’s the accountability from congress)
Arthur was worried about how hard it was for Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota’s senior senator, to follow Franken. No need. She’s been doing this a long time, has followed him, Al Franken, many times. She’s a top flight senate Democrat, and as of two weeks ago there was some Klobuchar Veepstakes speculation.
Klobuchar told stories about kids. Good speech stuff. She was funny – not as funny as Al Franken – but funny. Best line was about Wisconsin: “We love Wisconsin, because in Minnesota we can see Wisconsin from our porch.” Tell me she’s not interested in the VP slot! Delegates ate her up, applauded and cheered. But her second best response was when she thanked the Bernie Sanders supporters in the room – the cheering drowned her out, but leveled off when she thanked them for working for Hillary. And her biggest line was the wind up as she closed, asking for a commitment to work for Hillary.
Weingarten spoke. She’s just not a very good speaker, but at least this wasn’t embarrassing, like in LA two years ago. The delegates loved that Walter Mondale was in the hall, and gave him a standing ovation as he waved.
And then came Hillary Clinton. It must have been 6:30 or so that she went on. “Four and a half hours” Arthur said – “but it barely seems like three” I answered. There was no “half-standing ovation” this time – the crowd roared approval for her as she began. I made no attempt to capture the whole speech – here’s a few notes:
- When Clinton mentioned Philando Castile, the Black man killed here by police two weeks ago, protesters began a “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” chant. There were maybe a dozen protesters, and for a few seconds they distracted the audience, but Clinton kept speaking. A woman shouted “stop the deportations.” But the initial organized response was to out-shout them, which seemed more disruptive than the protest. Eventually they surrounded the protest signs with Hillary signs. The speech rolled on.
- Charters. Instead of the longer spiel she gave at the NEA, this was just one line, delivered quickly and with no pause so that there was no room for reaction: “Where there are great public charter schools we will learn from them.” You know what? It’s still bullshit. I’d like someone to show me what a good public school has copied from a charter school. Even better, since I know UFT people will have a response, how about one public school that has copied one thing from the UFT’s charter school. I’m not holding my breath.
- Progressive policy I – Free college tuition at public universities for families making less than $125k
- Progressive policy II – Constitutional Amendment to end Citizens United
- Progressive policy III – Universal health coverage. Is this new ground for her?
- The anti-Trump lines were among the best received.
And that’s it. A political speech. A little of who she is. A lot of what the audience wanted to hear. She does speak quite well.