GRAFTON, Mass. - U.S. Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren brought her campaign blitz to the Grafton Democratic Town Committee Sunday morning, promising to do her best to move the country forward.
"I'm running for U.S. Senate because I believe this is a moment in history," Warren said before a crowd of Democrats from Grafton, Auburn, Northbridge, Millbury and other surrounding towns. "The decision about whether or not this country goes forward as a country that increasingly says 'I got mine, the rest of you are on your own or a country that says 'we believe in winners but we believe that everyone invests in making sure the right conditions are in place so the next kid has a chance to make it big and the kid after that and the kid after that. That's what this election is about."
Warren is seeking the Senate seat now held by U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who was elected in 2010 to fill the vacancy left by the death of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. She visited the Grafton Inn as part of a whirlwind tour of Central Mass. towns this weekend, including a stop at Shrewsbury's Dinky's Diner following her Grafton appearance.
Warren was the keynote speaker at the Grafton Democrats' bi-annual Froment-Moroney Memorial Breakfast, which this year honored U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, who loses Grafton in the 2012 redistricting, with the 11th Froment-Moroney Leadership by Action Award. Receiving the 7th John Sullivan Citizen Activist Award was resident Charles Bolack, a former town official and founder of the Grafton Suburban Credit Union, Grafton Water District, Grafton Land Trust and The Grafton News.
Both Neal and U.S. Rep. James McGovern, who gains Grafton back in the 2012 redistricting, took the opportunity to speak highly of Warren, an American bankruptcy law expert and Harvard Law School professor who led the conception and establishment of the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"The idea that in this state, it would not be a Democratic senator is ridiculous," Neal said.
Warren admitted she has never sought public office before but noted that she has run a successful campaign to establish the Consumer Financial Projection Bureau, which dates back to the financial market crash in 2008.
"This is like coming out of the Great Depression -- what rules will we write, because they will shape what kind of country we will have for half a century," Warren said.
"Everyone was talking about the big megabanks," Warren added. "But no one was talking about what was happening at the family level, the household level. I kept saying to people 'We should never forget, this economy was broken one lousy mortgage at a time.' And if we don't fix the rules at the family level, the household level, we're just inviting this problem to happen again. This time, it was mortgages that got packaged and sold up the line and poisoned the system but next time, it'll be tricky credit cards or student loans... it will just keep happening."
Warren had an idea for an agency to give families a strong voice in Washington. The response she got was two-pronged: it was a great idea, she was told, but she shouldn't do it because the big bank lobbyists would organize to kill it.
"I thought what people were saying to me was 'try harder,'" she said to laughter. "I think I grew up reading too many Nancy Drew novels."
The answer, she decided, was to organize. The House passed the legislation -- due in no small part to the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, she said, and then it went to the Senate "where things go to die."
In January 2009, the Wall Street Journal ran the headline "Consumer agency dead." According to the story, the Senate was going to report out all aspects of the bill except the consumer agency. With just three weeks to go before the bill was reported out, Warren organized more than 200 groups across the country -- AFL-CIO, the AARP, the Consumers Union among others -- and made sure their members' voices were heard.
"We just kept asking for one thing: We want a vote. It's the American way," she said. "We were everywhere. We even had a frame for the vote: you could vote for banks or you could vote for families. There were some who objected to that."
Warren got her public vote -- and her Consumer Financial Projection Bureau.
When the question came to run for U.S. Senate, it was that story that made her believe it was possible.
"If we care about something and we get organized and we get behind it, we make things happen," she said. "When somebody tells you you can't get anything done in Washington, just say back to them 'consumer agency.'"