Markey says public education and student access to the internet are keys to the future during a stop in North Adams.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — U.S. Sen. Edward Markey made three stops in the Berkshires on Friday to speak on education, technology climate change, health care, racial justice and other issuing affecting the nation.
His "Leads and Delivers Tour" bus campaign has been making its way around the state as he seeks re-election in the U.S. Senate. The state's junior senator is being challenged in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary by U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III of Brighton.
The former Malden representative is known for his progressive stance, particularly his sponsoring of the Green New Deal with New York's U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The son of a milkman and a valedictorian who was forced to give her dream for college to take care of her sisters when her mother died, Markey has said education is critical to success.
"What I learned from my mother, that was the message, it's education is everything. Education is the key to the future," he told a gathering of 70 or so at the new park on Marshall Street in North Adams at day's end. "So what the Trump administration is doing, and saying they don't want to fund educational programs, they don't want to fund the internet at home -- they're saying that they don't understand our modern society."
Internet is the "oxygen" for young people, the senator said. "And we have to guarantee they get it."
He also called for free public college and university, saying Massachusetts could be the leader in moving in that direction.
Neil Clarke, a retired longtime educator in the Lee Public Schools and a representative of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said Markey was the fighter they needed in Congress.
"If you believe that all students, regardless of ZIP code deserve access to a quality public education, if you believe that all students deserve the support system necessary to nurture their progress, if you believe that the road to a brighter future in our communities, our commonwealth, our nation, our planet is securing the resources necessary to provide for a world-class public education for all," he said. "You know the value and wisdom of returning a fighter and champion of public education to the Senate."
Also referring to his mother, who had Alzheimer's, Markey said he wanted to go back to the Senate to continue to fund a program to find a cure for the disease by 2025. With the baby boomer generation moving into its senior years, up to 15 million could be expected to suffer from the mental debilitation.
"In the 1960s, it was about a mission to the moon," he said. "And in the 21st century, it's a mission to the mind.
That was just one of host of reasons Markey said he wanted to go back to the Senate. His hope is that issues the nation is facing now -- Alzheimer's, climate change, racial injustice -- will only be learned through history books by future generations of children.
Mayor Thomas Bernard greeted the senator and pointed to the multigenerational support that had come to hear him, along with Councilors Benjamin Lamb and Lisa Blackmer, state Rep. John Barrett III and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President James Birge.
The senator was introduced by Owen Tucker-Smith, a recent Mount Greylock Regional School graduate who is now working on Markey's campaign. Tucker-Smith pointed to the funding the senator has been able to get for the region to improve broadband and internet service and ensure schools have access.
"He's never given up on Berkshire County. He's never given up on rural communities. And he understands that different communities have different priorities," he said. "That's why he's absolutely the best choice."
Markey repeated Bernard's opening that they had a month to turn out the vote for the Democratic primary.
"If you've got my back for the next 30 days, I'll have your back on the Senate floor for the next six years," he said.
Markey's first stop was in Great Barrington, where he talked about COVID-19, the recent unrest over police brutality and racial injustice, and the restoration of WWLP Channel 22 to the region's television lineup -- a point he brought up again during his next stops.
In Pittsfield, Markey visited Park Square alongside supporters and constituents.
"I know Shays' Rebellion started out here and all I can tell you is that I will bring Markey's revolution to the floor of the United States Senate and to the state of Massachusetts," Markey said. "We have to have that fundamental change that is necessary and that is what we see here."
Markey thanked all those in attendance who included Mayor Linda Tyer, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and City Councilor Patrick Kavey and said he could feel a "bounce in the step of Pittsfield."
"You can feel this energy; you can feel this change that is taking place," he said. "You hope to everyone in the city that the future is as bright as at any point of the past."
Markey called back to the Four Freedoms March he attended in 2017 and said he was inspired by participants who still marched even in 11-degree weather. This was two weeks before President Donald Trump was inaugurated and attendees anticipated what was to come in the next four years.
"The first people up in our country were right here in early freezing January in 2017 in the same way the Berkshires have always been the birthplace of the revolution," he said.
Markey spoke to the importance of the Green New Deal and said unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a vaccine to solve the climate crisis.
"My belief is that the planet is dangerously warm. We know we know what the vaccine is," he said. "We know it is a political problem, not a technological problem."
He also spoke to Medicare For All and the importance of changing healthcare so it doesn't bankrupt people but allows them to live healthy lives, get the assistance they need, and thrive.
He promised to continue his efforts to fight for economic justice, education justice, health care justice, and racial justice.
Tyer noted that many mayors across the commonwealth support Markey because he is truly a friend in Washington, D.C.
"I am voting for Ed Markey," she said. "We are certainly in extraordinary times. There are so many urgent public health, environmental, social justice battles taking place right here in America. Pittsfield needs a fighter in congress and that fighter is Ed Markey."
Cultural proficiency coach for Pittsfield Public Schools Shirley Edgerton echoed some of Tyer's statements and said with such injustice and inequality Markey is the steady hand needed to support fundamental change.
"We need progressive leaders ... who are consistent and relentless in representing the needs of the oppressed to created change and eliminate these injustices," she said. "He has demonstrated his commitment and he is leading the fight ... Change for change 's sake makes no sense. We need Ed Markey to return to the Senate to continue to make necessary and good trouble."
Farley-Bouvier said, as a representative, she counts on Markey's support and listed numerous times he has supported Berkshire County. She said Markey was a state representative and knows that it is important to "get the job done" even if the problem only affects a few individuals.
Owen Tucker-Smith, a recent Mount Greylock graduate, introduces the senator on Friday.
"We are all here because we know the difference between someone who has the privilege of being in office and those who have earned getting into office," she said. "Ed Markey is not a name I knew because of history Ed Markey is a name that I have gotten to know because he has earned my trust."
Kavey told a story about an interaction with Markey's office and said a trans male constituent came to him when the pandemic first hit and was about to lose their job, home, and could not care for their sick infant.
"His office got back to me within 45 minutes ... I just wanted to tell you that story and as important as the legislation he is putting in to make our country a better place he also is here in our state every day working with us and every day in our city. He is the person in Pittsfield, this country, and the state needs."
Small-business owner Auric Enchill said, like himself, Markey came from humble beginnings. Enchill, whose parents moved to America from Ghana some 30 years ago, said this background gives him a different perspective.
"He has a blue-collar background and he understands who we are," he said. "He fights for us every single day so come September I think the decision to vote for Senator Markey is quite simple."
Before jumping back on his bus to head north, Markey made a promise.
"All I can promise you is that if you give me your help now and you have my back I will have your back on the floor of the United States Senate," he said. "I will give you everything I have. Every ounce of energy I have ... I will fight until we fundamentally change this country."