John Fetterman does not look like a normal politician, standing well over six feet tall wearing a button up work shirt and jeans, most people would more likely guess that he is coming from a factory, not city hall. Despite his appearance, when Fetterman speaks his passion for public service shines brighter than anything else.
Invited by the SRU Young Progressives, Fetterman, currently the mayor of Braddock, Pa., has visited Slippery Rock in the past. In November of 2015, at the time as a candidate running in the democratic primary for United States Senate, Fetterman made a stop at SRU to hold a town hall and let students know who he is and tell them why he should be their senator. During the town hall in 2015, Fetterman spoke of his middle-class upbringing, his first experiences seeing inequality and his journey into the world of politics.
During the meeting Thursday evening in the Spotts auditorium, Fetterman spoke again about his past experiences and ideologies, but this time he is seeking election as Pennsylvania’s next Lt. Governor. Fetterman began the event Thursday talking about his last time at The Rock.
“When I first spoke at Slippery Rock I had no idea it would change my life,” Fetterman said. “There was a young man in the audience who came to the presentation and I must have made a good impression on him because he went on to being this ace volunteer on our campaign.”
This person is 2015 SRU alum Bobby Maggio. Maggio impressed Fetterman enough as a volunteer to be hired onto his campaign staff in 2016.
“Even though we, of course, didn’t win, we posted big number state-wide,” Fetterman continued. “[Maggio] would go on to manage a very successful state-wide judicial race and now he’s managing this race.”
Fetterman continued to tell his story of getting involved with politics after seeing inequality for himself for the first time and why now he is seeking election as Lt. Govenor.
“I’ve always felt that [Lt. Governor is] a vastly under-valued position. I think it’s important and I think it has been underutilized up to this point,” Fetterman said. “I’m not disparaging the current occupant, but I don’t agree how he’s managed and held the office. I think it’s incredibly valuable to have a state-wide platform and to be able to champion policies, people, places and other positions that may not otherwise be able to have an advocate.”
Fetterman also said that despite losing the senate race he has no regrets over his policies and that his message has stayed the same since then.
“My core message has remained the same since 2016,” Fetterman explained. “I haven’t changed anything. I didn’t go back and say ‘Oh god, why was I for a living wage?’ or ‘Jesus if only I hadn’t been for legalizing marijuana.’ I’m proud to say everything I stood for in 2016 has aged well, and I’m back again in 2018 to carry that same flag.”
Fetterman went on to outline several of his policy positions before fielding questions from the audience. During the question and answer portion Fetterman said he believed the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvania right now is the opioid crisis and that he believes that the best way for democrats to move forward is as a united party, always support the best candidate not hoping for the perfect candidate.
Following the event, the president of SRU Young Progressives, Lindsey Newton, said that she feels it is important to have speakers from every viewpoint visit campus and add to the conversation.
“I think it’s important just to get a range of ideas, just to hear the other side speak, even if you don’t agree with it,” Newton, a senior political science major, said. It also helps to give a voice to those who do agree with [Fetterman].”
Maggio said that it felt very rewarding to bring someone back to SRU that had a great impact on him when he was a student here.
“I grew up in Butler, which is right up the road and this is a community that, like Butler, is very important to me,” Maggio said. “And John represents those values that I wish I had representing me in Butler. So it is an honor to see him come up here and talk to folks and spread his message. I think it’s important that he’s here because a lot of politicians do not come up to here, or Butler, or Mercer.”
Fetterman said that his main goal when campaigning at colleges is not to convince every single person to vote for him, but just to inspire young people to care and get involved.
“Somebody could walk out and say ‘I’m voting for someone else in your race.’ Great, just get involved and vote,” Fetterman said. “It’s easy to become cynical and it’s easy to roll your eyes and say ‘it doesn’t matter,’ but it really does matter. The margins are going to get closer and the imperative is going to get greater that we need to participate in our own democracy and the best fundamental way to do that is just to vote. And it doesn’t have anything to do with voting for me, just please participate.”