Many people congregated outside the auditorium waiting for the forum to begin. Among them was a woman named Debbie Paine. She walked back and forth in front of the entrance and yelled, “God bless America.” Behind her hot pink sunglasses, she wept.
“I have grandchildren and I think this is the land of opportunity. There are people here who need to stay here — good God almighty,” Paine said.
“Stand up if you have never been to a meeting like this? Whoa — now again if you plan to attend all year … ” Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said to over 2,000 forum attendees on Saturday, Feb. 26 at Lane Community College.
The new president is causing Oregonians to come out in record numbers according to DeFazio’s event coordinators. This influx of community members getting involved in town hall meetings, forums and rallies is attributed to general uncertainty since the presidential election in November.
“He (Trump) thought we would be dispirited, demoralized and disorganized, but he has energized people who have never been energized before,” DeFazio said.
The Congressman paid for his event at Lane from his campaign fund. A town hall meeting is limited as to what can be said. He wanted to be given the opportunity to tell Oregonians what to do next.
“This is sponsored by my campaign, but this is not about my campaign, this is personal,” DeFazio said. “This is a campaign for all of us.”
About 2,000 people attended the forum. Congressman DeFazio listened to, and answered questions from the public for a good part of the forum. People stood in line from the podium to the back of the gymnasium waiting for their turn. Some community members received hugs from others waiting in line to speak showing support.
DeFazio answered questions from the public, popular topics covered were the environment, healthcare, immigration and the disquiet about the president in general. One community member was not in agreement with the answer he received from DeFazio. The frustrated man interrupted DeFazio, saying “Well, no.” The congressman countered, “You’ve had your turn, now it’s mine.”
DeFazio thought the president’s executive order could affect international students coming for higher education. “It depends on visas, etc. I don’t support mass deportation, I don’t think it will happen. I have heard some cruel things happening, we’re gonna fight back.”
The Congressman then invited all attendees to the healthcare rally, held immediately following his forum in Bristol Square. Senator Jeff Merkley and a panel of leaders in the community would take part in the ACA rally.