DETROIT – Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine delivered a wide-ranging speech Tuesday affirming his ticket’s commitment to combating poverty while highlighting sections of his own personal background to explain why he sees confronting poverty as “a moral responsibility.”
“It’s important to remember: poverty isn’t confined to our cities. And it isn’t only found in the places we normally think of, like isolated parts of Appalachia,” Kaine said in the first major speech of the general election focused on poverty. “Poverty is hiding in plain sight. We need to see it for what it is.”
Near the top of his remarks, Kaine went off-script, saying, “the things that get attention aren’t necessarily the things that are really important."
He delivered his speech here at Focus: Hope, a training and education non-profit aimed at helping people take on poverty and racial barriers.
The Virginia senator mentioned growing up in the Kansas City area, where there were plenty of people living around the poverty line, yet it was in stark, full view when he took time off from law school to move to Honduras to do missionary work.
“There was poverty a few miles away from me that I never saw, and then I moved countries to see it,” he told the audience.
When Kaine eventually moved to Richmond, Virginia, 32 years ago, where his wife, Anne Holton, grew up, he ended up as a civil rights attorney focusing on housing discrimination cases, a section of his biography that he spends significant time talking about while traveling on the campaign trail.
He says that discrimination issues he was confronted with during this period – citing an example of work to get the city council to approve a homeless shelter in “a neighborhood where people needed a safe place to sleep and get back on their feet” – ultimately propelled him to do the “unthinkable,” get into politics, and run for city council for the first time in 1994.
The senator ran through a slew of economic proposals that he and running mate Hillary Clinton support, including the New Markets Tax Credit, Rep. Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan, expanding social security, and defending Dodd-Frank.
Kaine also spoke about supporting “banning the box” – actions taken by President Obama at the federal employment level, as well as by a number of cities and states, that remove criminal history questions on initial job applications. He also called out Democrats’ actions to install a $15 minimum wage in the party’s platform, saying, “over time we’ll work to achieve that goal with appropriate timelines because different regions the country are different but that should be the goal.”
The senator devoted time to speaking about why he wants to see more gun safety measures passed, tying it into poverty issues where he wants to see people in a “safe home.” Kaine referred to his time as the governor of Virginia during the mass shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people in 2007.
He continued on the “safe home” theme, saying, “and I can’t believe I have to say this, but having a safe home means being able to drink the water… is that so hard in the richest nation in the history of the world?”
Kaine then went on an extended tangent describing how the battle for funding for Flint water issues in Congress got tied up into storm relief funding for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Well, we're gonna make sure that we change Congress,” he added, “and that we change that and that we can help Flint, Michigan and help Baton Rouge and do the right thing for all of our communities, regardless of whether they have Democrats or Republicans representing them in Congress.”
The senator also touted his work as a co-founder of the bipartisan CTE Caucus in the Senate, a group focused on career and technical education issues, issues that Kaine speaks frequently about after helping out in his father’s ironworking shop growing up and working in technical education while he was in Honduras.
Kaine was speaking in front of an invited crowd of community and business leaders, elected officials, union workers, and staff from Focus: Hope.
"Fighting poverty has been the important cause of my life, and Anne is right there with me, and it's an important cause in this campaign,” he said, citing his wife who was present in Detroit for the speech.
He invoked his and Clinton’s faith to explain why they wanted to focus on these issues in their campaign.
“Jesus spoke about the poor more than just about any other topic,” Kaine said. “He comes back to it again and again, to drive home his central teaching that serving the poor is among the most important things we can do in life… Other faith traditions profess the same basic obligation. Hillary is a Methodist and I’m a Catholic, but this is a belief we share.”