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Neal Visits Hoosac Valley, Says Will Attend Inauguration
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
05:34PM / Tuesday, January 17, 2017
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The Springfield Democrat also addressed an assembly of middle school students about the recent election and politics.

Hoosac Principal Jeremiah Ames welcomes Congressman Richie Neal to a student assembly on Tuesday.

CHESHIRE, Mass. — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal says he will attend Friday's presidential inauguration of Republican Donald Trump.

The Springfield Democrat and staunch Hillary Clinton supporter told students at Hoosac Valley High School on Tuesday morning that while disappointed with the results of the election, he felt it important to be at the transition of power.

"What the inauguration represents is the peaceful transition of power and as much as I was for Secretary Clinton, as much as I campaigned for her in New Hampshire and in Pennsylvania … and as much as I was disappointed in the outcome I am going to be there," Neal said. "I will be there with a lot of my colleges … and I feel the institution of the president commands my attendance."

Neal spoke to sophomores and juniors in a history class and then at an assembly for middle school students to discuss the election and answer questions.

Principal Jerimiah Ames said he asked Neal to visit the school after witnessing the disappointment of many of the students after the election and tension between students who supported separate parties.  

"Not unlike many other schools, we were having a difficult time helping kids understand what happened with the election and helping them come to terms with their roles in our democracy in the context of their disappointment," Ames said. "Congressman Neal has visited the school a few times and it is wonderful to see how he interacts with our students. It is clear that he sees them as an active part of his constituency."  

Some 60 Democratic congressmen have indicated they will not attend because the president-elect launched a Twitter attack on civil rights icon John Lewis, a Georgia representative, after he questioned Trump's legitimacy.

Neal said that although many have decided not to attend the inauguration, past presidents will be there including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He added that even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes, she will still attend the inauguration.

He, like many of the students, was unsettled by the election results and the entire campaign.

"I think the charges that went back and forth were very personal and I have not seen anything like it before," Neal said. "I also thought a candidate's goal should be to raise the aspirations of the American people ... and now we see the coarsening of the dialogue and the harshness of the rhetoric and I think it is amplified by social media."

He added that he hopes debate honoring the 1st Amendment is preserved and deliberation going forward is not tainted by the rhetoric heard during the campaign.

"I still like complete sentences, finished paragraphs and deliberation and I don't think you can tweet your way or insult your way through complicated solutions," Neal said. "The cornerstone of our constitutional system is the 1st Amendment in its genius guarantees a second opinion. It is my right not just to say something, but it is your right to hear and vice versa."

He also provided the students with some perspective and noted that in our history controversial inaugurations are nothing new and pointed to the election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams and Adams did not attend the inauguration.

"In his wagon on his way back to Quincy, Adams came to that conclusion that Alex Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had successfully stolen the presidency of 1800 from him," Neal said. "So, this idea that all of the sudden that there is controversy in the presidential inauguration is I think a bit overcharged."

Neal also noted the 2000 election when Al Gore won the popular vote by almost 600,000 but lost the electoral college to George W. Bush. He said although the Florida recount was drawn out for seven weeks, there were no "tanks in the street."

He added that during the campaign many promises were made and it is important for the president-elect to come through on these.

"I think that elections ought to have some certainty because the two major party candidates do offer a view of where they will take America and there is a contract you make during the campaign with the American people," he said.

Neal also spoke to fake news and noted that many who consume fake news or opinion believe it to be fact. He said voters need to be able to determine the difference and put the effort in to make sure they are properly informed.

In answering students' questions about his thoughts on the electoral college, he explained its history and reason for its creation but said he felt it may have outlived its usefulness.

Neal was asked about the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and he explained people favor many of its components and now 22 million more people are insured.

"I have taken aggressively to the airwaves and to anyone willing to listen," Neal said. "I know something about ObamaCare because I helped develop it and when you break ObamaCare down to distinct parts, it works quite well."

He said there are improvements that can be made to ObamaCare but taking insurance away from millions will cause problems. He added that he was troubled that the republicans have yet to provide a replacement plan.

"We have the president elect's plan that we don't know what's in it other than 'you are gonna love it' and there is a Republican plan that we haven't seen," Neal said.  

Students asked Neal if his job will become more difficult after Trump becomes the president.

He said he thinks both Democrats and Republicans really do not know what to expect from Trump but anticipates his job is likely to become more difficult. He said he could find common ground with Bush when possible during his presidency and hopes to be able to find it with Trump.

Neal added that he plans to advocate and lead a committee of democrats and fight the undoing of Obamacare and other democrat concerns like tax breaks for the wealthy.

Ames said he hopes that students can see the bigger picture after hearing Neal.

"I hope they pick up that regardless who wins the presidential election we can be excited about larger institutions like the presidency and our democracy," Ames said. "Many of these kids will live through many presidents and it is important for them to know the power of democracy."

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