HUDSON — Voters lined up down the block and around the corner to get an up-close glimpse at new U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado on Saturday as he took a ceremonial oath of office at Hudson Hall.
Voters, supporters and local elected Democratic officials lined the auditorium as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., administered the oath to the new representative from the 19th congressional district.
Hudson Mayor Rick Rector opened the ceremony, welcoming Schumer with the quip, “You’ve been keeping a low profile lately,” which drew laughter from the audience.
Schumer, along with U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, has been locking horns with President Donald Trump over a number of issues, most notably the government shutdown and the building of a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
Rector first introduced World War II veteran Ralph Avery, who led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and then welcomed Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, who called Delgado her much-needed “partner” in Washington.
“This is about the future, about generations, about what we want to do with our region, with our state and with our country to protect the future for our children and for our grandchildren,” Barrett said.
“I am so thrilled to be partners with Antonio [Delgado],” Barrett said. “Throughout the campaign we talked about how I need a partner in Washington to get the things done that we do here in New York state — protecting our environment, making sure reproductive rights are solid, protecting our water, protecting our Hudson River, making sure that social justice and criminal justice and environmental justice is part of the agenda as we move forward.”
Schumer then took to the podium and said he was asked to not get political in his comments, but he had one thing to say.
“I believe the symbol of America should remain the Statue of Liberty and not be a 30-foot wall,” Schumer said to a wild round of applause and stomping of feet from the audience.
Schumer spoke of Delgado’s background — his birth in Schenectady, his status as a Rhodes Scholar, his law degree from Harvard University. He said those qualities, and his broad experiences, make Delgado uniquely qualified to represent an area as diverse as the 19th Congressional District.
“Throughout his whole life, the thing that marked Antonio more than anything else was his desire to give, to use the tremendous talents that God gave him to help others in a whole different variety of ways,” Schumer said.
“He got here the old-fashioned way — he earned it,” Schumer added.
Schumer then administered the ceremonial oath of office to the new congressman as his wife, Lacey Delgado, held the Bible, and Delgado’s two young sons, Maxwell and Coltrane, looked on.
After taking the oath, Delgado turned to thank his family for their support, and his son Coltrane rushed up and hugged him.
“As you can see, we are bringing fatherhood to Washington,” Delgado said as the audience laughed.
Challenges in Washington
Delgado said the situation in Washington at the moment is atypical, and presents its own set of unique challenges, referring in particular to the government shutdown.
“I am walking into a situation that does not feel normal. You show up to your job and, essentially, the job is shut down,” Delgado said. “That doesn’t happen that often… It’s a travesty to be in this position. I ran because I believe in good government and I believe government should be for the people and by the people. How do we serve the people if the government is not open?”
He pointed out that to stand with those government workers who are not getting a paycheck because of the shutdown, he opted — after consulting with his wife — to not accept his own paycheck.
“I couldn’t in good conscience take my paycheck while this government shutdown is going on,” he said.
But he said the challenges make him want to work harder.
“These difficult times make me all the more steadfast and all the more committed to serve you, and to fight for who we are as Americans,” Delgado said.
It is time, he added, to rebuild Americans’ trust in once-trusted institutions.
“We have to restore our collective faith in democracy,” he said. “That is what I will be focusing on in Washington. That is my north star.”
Delgado then moved on to another contentious issue in Washington — the cause of the shutdown, the wall President Trump wants to build along the southern border.
Delgado said he is for border security and for dealing with immigration in a fair and humane manner, but he cannot support a wall.
“We are not for a campaign promise anchored in hatred and division,” Delgado said, adding that “the elections in November were a pretty clear and resounding rejection of that type of fear and division. We stood for unity, we stood for love, we stood for building together and cooperating, respecting each other. That was what it was about, not a wall.”
Delgado then went on to discuss his priorities as he begins his first term in Washington — protecting the environment, building infrastructure, bringing broadband to areas that lack it, ensuring clean water supplies, protecting farmers and small businesses, and making universal healthcare available for everyone.
“I am ready to work on these things. We can get there, but not if we can’t figure out how to cross the aisle,” Delgado said. “This is America — made up of all different cultures, all different languages — it will take cooperation. You can’t get everything you want, but if we know collectively that we are heading in the right direction, we are living up to our founding principles.”
Crossing the political divide is one of Delgado’s initial priorities, he said, pointing to the first bill he introduced, calling it a bipartisan piece of legislation — protecting the interests of veterans who suffered disabilities while serving in action.
Issues like that — which are priorities for people on both sides of the political aisle — offer a way to find common ground and get things done, Delgado said.
“I will run to every bipartisan bill I can find to show that I am here to work for all the people,” he noted.
While most things that occur in Washington are not within his control, Delgado said there is one thing he can control — his connection with the people in the district. He pledged to visit schools and town halls, to stand alongside unions on the picket line, and to visit each county he now represents.
“I can’t control everything — or most — of what happens in D.C., but what I can control is my connection to you. It’s all up to me. This is not about me, it’s about the people,” he said.
The audience at Hudson Hall on Saturday was filled with supporters, greeting Delgado and his ideas with enthusiastic support.
Ann Israel, of Hudson, was very happy with what she heard from the elected officials.
“I think what [Charles] Schumer and Antonio [Delgado] did for me today was to give me hope, because I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless,” Israel said.
“When Schumer talked about the Statue of Liberty, I believe that is what our country stands for. And what Antonio said, it’s very different from what we had before. Antonio is going to reach out to everyone,” Israel added. “This is really exciting because I believe this is for the people, and that is what he told us today in his speech, and that did give me hope.”
Michael Chameides, of Hudson, said he was a strong supporter of Delgado, and that the new congressman has lived up to his expectations.
“It’s really exciting to see Antonio [Delgado] again. I supported him a lot during the campaign and it’s great to have him come back to Hudson and tell us what he is up to,” Chameides said.
“He talked about the importance of healthcare and the environment and climate, and at the same time, while we are fighting for those issues, we need to look for those short-term wins that we can do right now. That combination of the ambitious big-picture stuff, while also the important details — hearing him talk about those things was really exciting,” Chameides said.
John Lillis, of Old Chatham, was also impressed with Delgado and his vision for the future.
“I thought it was great,” Lillis said. “He addressed the tension and the division we have in the country, and that we need to find some common ground in order to move forward.”