Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cantwell, Obama hold rally calling for wider access to quality education

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Barack Obama appeared together today at Garfield High in Seattle to speak to several thousand people packed into the school's gymnasium about the importance of giving every child in America an opportunity to succeed.

The senators decried the Bush administration's deep education cuts and touted their successful amendment in the Senate Budget for 2007 (which partially undoes these cuts).

"The president wants to gut dozens of programs with a proven track record of success in helping disadvantaged students finish high school and enroll in college," Senator Cantwell said. "Cuts to the TRIO and GEAR UP programs alone would strip $6 million in vital education funds from Washington State."

Cantwell's speech was preceded by remarks from King County Executive Ron Sims and presentations from three different educational programs which are making a huge impact on the Seattle community: Seattle SCORES (an after school program which uses soccer to inspire literacy in elementary school children), Friends of the Children (which providing mentoring to vulnerable kids making a 13-year commitment to each child in the program beginning in kindergarten) and Making Connections (a UW Women's Center program which helps 100 socio-economically disadvantaged students from schools in the Seattle urban area with skills to succeed in high school and strategies for college preparation).

Cantwell followed these extensive and captivating presentations with a speech that was smoothly and passionately delivered.

Cantwell attacked the Bush administration for choosing to ignore America's youth and then praised the many innovative programs that have lifted up some of the community's most disadvantaged students.

"When one third of the president's proposed cuts come from education, we have a serious problem of misplaced priorities. This is the wrong policy for America."

"Too many American students are growing up without the resources, support, high standards, and basic achievement demands they deserve," Cantwell noted.

But before Cantwell could start her speech she was interrupted by a small group of inconsiderate protestors who stood up and unfurled a black banner criticizing Maria's support for the war, which contained a second line: "Don't Barack-O-Bomb Iran".

The protestors didn't seem to have noisemaking devices but they were loud enough to make it hard to hear the Senator, who first waited, and then told the protestors they'd made their point. When this did not shut them up, County Executive Ron Sims jumped out of his chair and grabbed one of the microphones, beginning a loud "Cantwell! Cantwell! Cantwell!" chant that quickly turned into a loud roar which completely drowned out the protestors while they were led away by event volunteers.

Cantwell remained undaunted, delivering her remarks with energy and vigor.

Senator Barack Obama followed Cantwell with a powerful and inspiring speech that was filled with wisdom and common sense. He also condemned the Bush administration's inexplicable, outrageous cuts in education funding.

"[We say we believe that...] every child is special. Everybody gets an opportunity. But our budgets have not reflected that," Obama said.

"A promise of a good education is what made this country work. Today, that idea is in danger," Obama added.

And in a slap at groups like the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (a conservative think tank) Obama emphatically stated, "It is not enough for us to propose an 'either or' proposition for education. We need reform and we need more money."

(The Evergreen Freedom Foundation opposes additional funding for education and insists that the system must be "reformed" first. Their goal appears to be to destroy the public education system).

The event was a huge success - and very exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was joined by fellow bloggers David of HorsesAss, Lynn of Evergreen Politics, Will of Pike Place Politics, and Carl at the Washington State Political Report.

The Cantwell campaign said that all of the nearly 2,000 tickets were distributed yesterday in a little over an hour after becoming available, and the turnout was certainly very impressive.

The press also showed up in force, as did the Garfield High School community.

Robert Jamieson called the event "photo op" for Cantwell this morning for Cantwell in his P-I column, but that's not what it was.

This event was all about taking a stand for public education and showcasing the success of innovative programs in the Seattle area. This event was about showing how disadvantaged kids can excel when they get the resources and support they deserve, and listening to their personal stories. Finally, this event was about Maria Cantwell and Barack Obama making a commitment to fight for wider access to quality education.

Maria Cantwell and Barack Obama care about giving every American child an opportunity to succeed. They believe that everyone deserves a good education - not just the wealthy or the connected. And they share our values.

That's why we need them in the U.S. Senate fighting for us.

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