A woman who said she had graduated from Harvard began crying on Tuesday as she told Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan that “educated people” were “telling me what to do.”
At a town hall event in Dover, New Hampshire, the woman, who said she was a first-generation American with parents from Yugoslavia and Romania, explained that she had moved from Los Angeles to Massachusetts to go to Harvard medical and dental school.
“What I saw there is something that I’ve never seen on TV or in real life, that was people who had an amazing education,” the woman said as she choked up. “I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they knew more than me.”
She continued: “I graduated in ’93 and I’ve been living in Massachusetts with very educated people, only to find out that it’s been really great but not the secret ingredient. They’ve been telling me what to do. I’ve been helping people, but they haven’t become my friends. It’s been really tough.”
“I’ve found my values again and that’s why I’m voting for you. When [Democratic Senate candidate] Elizabeth Warren shows me that those roads were not just built for a businessman … they were built for everybody, but it is me who got my education. I went to Harvard!”
The woman, who appeared to be white, added that “because of the color of my skin,” she was the “single most disadvantaged student” at Harvard.
“I did not get extra help,” she pointed out. “And that was OK by me. My father taught me, life isn’t fair. Not one time did I say, ‘That’s not fair.’ And after giving $1.5 million to people in need, I have only helped one person, and that’s the person who’s not in debt today, who’s still not asking for more and said thank you. That’s all.”
After a polite round of applause, Ryan explained that his campaign was about promoting “equality of opportunity,” instead of equalizing “the results of people’s lives.”
“The philosophy that you’re identifying is a troubling one in my opinion because it speaks to people as if they’re stuck in their station in life,” the vice presidential candidate told the woman. “You know, victim of circumstances beyond their control and that the government is there to help them cope with it.”
“Your success should not be based on who you know, it should not be based on political contributions or connections, it should be based on merit. And that’s the system that’s draining right now, the free enterprise system, economic growth, opportunity, job creation. It’s stalling. We’ve got to fix that so we’re not looking at other people, like you say, in this country.”
Earlier at the same event, Ryan had slipped and called his campaign platform the “Ryan-Romney plan” while talking about treating the root causes of poverty.
“That’s what the Ryan-Romney — excuse me,” he said. “Mitt and I talk about this stuff a lot. That’s what the Ryan — Romney-Ryan plan for a stronger middle class is all about.”
The woman who spoke at Tuesday’s event seemed to be echoing comments that former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum had made about “smart people” during Values Voter Summit on Saturday.
“We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country,” Santorum told the conservative crowd. “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Sept. 18, 2012.