U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren returned to the UMass Lowell campus Feb. 19, closing out an afternoon meeting in her comfort zone – amid an overflow crowd of students and faculty in Fox Hall.
Arriving at Fox with Chancellor Marty Meehan, the state’s senior U.S. senator swept into Fox Hall to update students on issues ranging from gun control to “leveling the playing field” for workers and consumers. She spoke of favoring federal support for education and University research, and a budget sequester that could be disastrous for the state. She cast education as its own form of infrastructure, and challenged students to become grassroots foot-soldiers for change.
“That is how we’re going to build a future,” said Warren. Action is not something the government handles, she said, “the lesson is we have to get involved.”
Earlier, Warren toured the Massachusetts Medical Device Development (M2D2) Center and the Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center (ETIC). It was her first return to the campus since October, when she debated Scott Brown before a Tsongas Center crowd of 5,000, gaining momentum in the fall race that would ultimately see her top the Republican incumbent on Nov. 6.
“I love being here,” Warren told the crowd after an introduction by Meehan. “It feels like I’m home here.” A former law professor who spent two decades teaching at Harvard, Warren turned strident consumer advocate before she entered the political realm. It was, she noted, opposite the path of her host, the former congressman Meehan.
“I always thought my calling was just to be a teacher,” she said. She ended up in a place that is “quite remarkable,” she said, “not by myself, or by what I could do, but what you did to help put me there.”
Warren, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, arrived as a YouTube sensation, a video of her measured but unyielding grilling of federal bank regulators going viral. Her job there is to “regulate the regulators,” said Warren.
She proudly told the crowd of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, which was beefed up after expiring in 2011. By adding groups previously not covered by the law, Warren said it was a case of “finding a way to take a law and make it better.”
She said the cuts that may arrive March 1 with federal budget sequestration would be “terrible” for Massachusetts, especially the state’s health research industry.
“A lot of jobs in our economy depend on that.”
The automatic budget cuts are a product of the political impasse between Democrats and Republicans.
Pressed for time, Warren was unable to take questions, but thanked the crowd and promised to return.
Pat Facendola, 19, a plastic engineering major, was pleased with what he saw.
“I heard about this in the morning, and decided hey, I should check it out,” said Facendola. “I was there for the debate on campus, and she was pretty impressive. I mean, she got my vote.”
“There was a lot of stuff she discussed that I didn’t know about. I like that she’s in favor of research and doesn’t want to cut research money. Being an engineering major, that’s important.”