Close to 400 people showed up to see Beto O’Rourke in Greensboro today. The presidential candidate made a stop at Natty Greene’s downtown around 1 p.m. for his North Carolina speaking tour. O’Rourke spoke about universal healthcare, climate change, immigration and the need for racial equity amongst other things during the event.
A press released confirmed that O’Rourke came to Greensboro after visiting Charlotte in the morning and that he would be going straight to UNC-Chapel Hill after his talk in Greensboro.
O’Rourke began by addressing an overflowing crowd on the sidewalk outside of Natty Greene’s on Elm Street.
“I am running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America,” O’Rourke said on the Natty Greene’s patio. “No me importa if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, or an independent, or if you cannot vote because of a prior conviction or your immigration status, as long as you’re in this country, one of my fellow Americans, I will listen to you, learn from you and serve you every single day of my life.”
Once inside, O’Rourke was introduced by Ashton Clemmons, representative for NC House district 57 which covers parts of north and northeast Greensboro.
“We are excited to invite Beto to the greatest city in North Carolina, Greensboro North Carolina,” Clemmons said.
While some of the supporters in the upstairs of Natty Greene’s, where O’Rourke spoke, spoke out directly against Republicans like President Trump and Betsy DeVoss, the Texan advocated for a message of unity and cooperation.
“I want those kids of mine, to look back at 2019…and be proud that for every challenge, we came up with a solution,” O’Rourke said. “Not from the Democratic party, not from one man or one woman, but all of this country coming together. Ensuring that the greatest challenges that we have ever faced are not met by half measure or by only half the country. Cannot be urban communities versus rural communities. Cannot be Democrats versus Republicans. It can’t be those who’ve been here for 10 generations versus those who have been here for 10 days. It’s gotta be all of us coming together as a country.”
In addition to advocating for universal healthcare, including mental healthcare, O’Rourke spoke passionately about a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body and rights for those in the LGBTQ community. O’Rourke specifically mentioned the state’s HB 2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” which discriminated against transgender individual’s right to use the bathroom in line with their gender identity.
“We know that transgender kids are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of those attacks and we know that by correcting this injustice in your own state, not only do we bring back the NCAA, not only do we bring back investment, we are bringing back talent, human capital that would have have gone elsewhere that was going to other places,” O’Rourke said.
Among the topics that O’Rourke spoke most passionately and the longest about was how racism affects minority communities and how to promote equity. Throughout his talk, the presidential candidate referred to Greensboro’s A&T Four, who ignited the Civil Rights Movement by staging sit-ins at Woolworths in the 1960s.
“There’s still 10 times the wealth in white America today than there is in black America today,” O’Rourke said. “The disparity in black infant mortality is greater now in 2019 than it was in 1850, 15 years before the abolition of slavery.”
To combat institutionalized racism, O’Rourke proposed ending gerrymandering, getting rid of political action committees and super PACs in elections, enacting same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration for anyone who turns 18, decriminalizing marijuana and expunging arrests for those who have been convicted of possession of marijuana as well as rehabilitating the for-profit prison system.
“Let’s confront the continuing legacy of slavery, of segregation, of Jim Crow and of suppression in our economic life, in our justice system, in our healthcare,” O’Rourke said. “In everything that matters, we have two Americas right now functioning.”
After finishing his speech, O’Rourke took questions from the audience including from a young man who stood in the center of the room who asked how states can ensure that everyone can get a high quality education.
O’Rourke advocated for expanding Medicaid and paying teachers a living wage.
“Now whether they’re a nurse, counselor, a librarian, work in the cafeteria, pick up as a custodian at the end of the day, drive those kids to school as a school bus driver, or are the instructor at the front of the classroom, I want those public school educators focused on those children, on locking their lifelong love of learning after which, there’s no stopping those kids,” O’Rourke. “There’s no stopping us as a country.”
O’Rourke, a Democrat who represents Texas’s 16th congressional district, unsuccessfully ran for the US Senate in 2018, narrowly losing to incumbent Ted Cruz. O’Rourke announced his plans to run for president in March.
A portion of O’Rourke’s speech in Greensboro can be viewed on the TCB Facebook page here.