The Tulsi Vibe in Rochester: ‘Dark, Quiet, Hushed’

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Susan Dromey Heeter, Decoding the Vibe

Tulsi Gabbard speaks to a group Wednesday night at the American Legion in Rochester.

Welcome to Decoding the Vibe where I tell it like it really is as the first-in-the-nation primary parade of candidates comes to town. Join me behind the scenes where you might just find out what the candidate is really like.

ROCHESTER – The vibe of the American Legion to greet Tulsi Gabbard on Wednesday night felt reflective of the outside: dark, quiet, hushed.

Walking into the hall, I met with volunteers who were excited and kind, thrilled by everyone who walked through the door.  

While most events have “let’s get pumped up” music, Tulsi’s event had a guitar player who strummed, “I hope you had the time of your life,” which seemed like an unfortunate song to play for votes. The vibe felt like the end of a long January, a long run.

 But people are curious about Tulsi. When I asked Erik Burns, 47, a navy veteran what brought him out to see Tulsi, he remarked, “She’s a veteran. I like what I’ve been seeing on the commercials. She’s a strong woman.”

Burns also mentioned, “I love Bernie but I’m open. We’ve just got to get Trump out of there.”

 Sarah Leonard arrived with her 17-year-old daughter, Emma. A pre-school teacher, Sarah was curious about Tulsi’s approach to early childhood education and asked about Tulsi’s insights about education and the current status, asking specifically about this administration’s Secretary of Education. 

 Tulsi responded she would hire a Secretary of Education who had classroom experience. She would ask classroom teachers to participate in educational policies and studies and she would invite more insight into “what makes sense” in the legitimate role the federal government should have in education.

The vibe felt somewhat insightful but the vibe of Tulsi’s responses reminded me of the Shakespearean quote “She speaks yet she’s says nothing” from Romeo and Juliet, Act II. 

I heard her answer to climate change, her responses as to why she did not sign the Green New Deal resolution (didn’t like fracking, nuclear energy and the mandated federal jobs guarantee) but when she speaks, it’s interspersed with “I’m the first female combat veteran to run for president.”  

These final days are crucial to win the first-in-the-nation primary. All candidates know that, and several U.S. Senators are down in Washington, unable to come up here for a final push, final meet and greet. Senators Sanders, Klobuchar, and Warren are listening and asking questions at the impeachment trial.

 When Tulsi first arrived to the American Legion, she asked everyone  to stand for the pledge of allegiance and invited all veterans to stand and be recognized.  She’s tough, the vibe of Tulsi is soldier, combat veteran.

 I saw Tulsi at the beginning of her run and like most candidates now, she looks tired. The vibe felt like the Christmas wreaths on my windows: fatigued but have served their purpose with gusto in December and January. 

  Tulsi is still stoic. She’s still strong. She’s still serious. But the energy of the night felt like a cold night in January: dark, cold, vague, long. 

But I do hope Tulsi had the time of her life.

Susan Dromey Heeter is a writer from Dover who recently let her hair go au natural white. Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards.

The opinions expressed are those of the writer. takes no position on politics, but welcomes diverse opinions. email

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