New Hampshire, we have a problem, and it should concern every one of us.
By now, you’ve probably heard Senator Jeanne Dietsch’s (D-Peterborough) unfortunate, derogatory comments about working-class families in New Hampshire. The two lines we’ve heard repeated the most, “this idea of parental choice, that’s great if the parent is well-educated” and “if the dad’s a carpenter, and you want to become a carpenter, then yes — listen to your dad,” are a strong indication of Dietsch’s mindset— she doesn’t hold blue-collar workers in the same esteem she does the “well-educated.”
This is not a case of comments being taken out of context through selective editing. This is what she said verbatim. Listen to the audio. It speaks volumes.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. These comments were made during a Senate committee hearing about homeschooling. What you may have missed was that this past week Senator Dietsch doubled down by actually suggesting that some families who homeschool their children are only doing so to cover up selling drugs and child abuse. As someone who respects the commitment homeschooling parents have to providing their children a quality education, these comments deeply sadden me.
Senator Dietsch opposes school choice; we know that from her voting record. I happen to support expanding school choice. I respect Sen. Dietsch’s right to have an opposing opinion on this important matter. That is what democracy is about after all. However, making baseless accusations about hardworking New Hampshire families that choose to homeschool their children is just plain wrong.
But, I have to say, beyond my disappointment there is an important lesson to learn. Sen. Dietsch was elected to be our senator, our voice in the Senate. Based on the families I’ve talked to, her views are a stark contrast to those of most of her constituents, and her disparaging tone is an insult to all of her constituents. It truly breaks my heart to think that someone who clearly does not respect all of her constituents is our voice in Concord.
This is not the New Hampshire I know. One of the things that I absolutely love the most about our state is that we generally treat everyone with respect. Go to any local small-town event and you will see doctors and lawyers chatting it up with store clerks and construction workers while their children play together. When there is a snowstorm, we help our elderly neighbors shovel their driveways–whether they vote on the same side of the ticket as us or not. Community really means something to us here in the Granite State and our communities don’t stop at class or party lines.
At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, I started a small network of volunteers to help residents who were unable to go into public due to the virus. My organization, Bedford Cares, quickly took off and expanded to well over 100 volunteers serving several hundreds of people. Both our volunteers and those they were helping come from all walks of life. We have white-collar professionals picking up groceries and prescriptions for retired mechanics. We have high school students bringing garbage to the transfer station for their medically compromised neighbors. We have Republicans helping Democrats and vice versa. It is a community effort bringing everyone together toward a common goal. That is the New Hampshire I know and the New Hampshire I love.
I think most of us can agree Senator Dietsch’s comments were tone deaf and divisive. They were also honest and revealing. A State Senator is elected to represent everyone in the district. That means listening to constituents, understanding differing viewpoints, and most importantly, having respect for all.
I believe that it is important that we all take a deep look into what we believe and hold dear and that we hold lawmakers to the high leadership standard we expect. All people in New Hampshire deserve an equal place at the table. The way forward is through mutual respect and communication, not divisiveness. It’s time to fight to preserve New Hampshire’s unique culture of community and work together for the common good.