“Dream big, fight hard,” read a flurry of signs brandished in an Oklahoma City high school gymnasium.
Supporters of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren crowded into Northwest Classen High School Sunday evening as a small GOP-led protest in support of President Donald Trump was held outside.
Warren is the fourth Democratic presidential candidate to visit the Oklahoma City area but the only candidate who grew up in the state — Warren graduated from Northwest Classen in 1966.
“I want to hear what she has to say. She’s a hometown girl. I feel like as an American, we ought to be looking out for each other,” said Suzanne Creegan, who is from Oklahoma City.
Creegan said health care, education and student loan relief are issues she is most interested in.
“I have been really into Elizabeth Warren since 2016," said OU freshman Juliette Davis. "The big thing that I really like about her campaign is how badly she wants it and how supportive she is of other women and especially young girls. I wish I had somebody like that whenever I was younger.”
During Warren’s return to her alma mater, she spoke about her childhood and life in Oklahoma, focusing on the lessons she learned and connecting them to her policy positions. Warren spoke of when her mom got a minimum wage job at Sears to financially support her family after Warren’s father had a heart attack.
“My mother taught me a lesson,” Warren said. “My mother taught me what millions of Americans do every single day. No matter how hard it was, no matter how scared they are, they reach down deep, find what they have to find and take care of the people they love. We're Americans. That's what we do.”
Warren’s description of her early life in Oklahoma informed later policy positions, she said. Warren attributed much to her childhood observations about American governance.
“I didn't understand until years and years later — that story about my mother is also a story about government,” Warren said.
Warren connected her life story to those of Americans who have shared similar struggles that she said result from “corrupt” government structures.
“It's going to take big, structural change,” Warren said. “And big, structural change starts with rooting out corruption in Washington.”
Supporters were not the only ones in attendance. Just outside, there was a group holding a counter-rally in support of Trump.
“I'm just standing up for what this country was intended to be. I mean, I'm not exactly quite a member of what you might call a member of the Trump train. I most likely will vote for him next election,” said the Rev. Ken Bunting, a counter-rally attendee. “I cannot stand by (and) watch our country I love go further and further toward socialism.”
Inside, attendees were aware of the counter-rally happening just outside the doors.
“I think it is really important to support candidates in the Democratic sphere because there are people haggling out there. It is important to show her support, especially ... in a heavily red state,” said Jessica Hartley, a town hall attendee from Oklahoma City.
Davis also said showing Warren support despite Republican opposition is important.
“It (is) always really nice to see the crowd and know that all these people are here supporting the same candidate,” Davis said.