Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The man behind the march

By Winta Mebrahti

Excited Bernie Sanders supporters in Plattsburgh get to watch the senator on TV, behind his

modest podium, debating against Wall Street and Trans-Pacific Partnership. They see him

advocating for fair wages and tuition-free colleges. On the streets of Plattsburgh and on Facebook,

they see Adam Guillette, co-organizer of “March for Bernie,” who fights for Sanders to make those

plans a reality. They see him marching and honking for a new America and a new world.

“This is definitely the time to capitalize on that (excitement),” Guillette said. “To sustain the

movement and grow the movement, this is probably the best time to get into activism or politics.”

After Sanders announced his candidacy, Guillette decided to dedicate most of his time to

political activism. Guillette and two locals he met on Facebook organized the local version of the

national “March for Bernie” event in February and they've planned the “Honk for Bernie” event in

March 26.

Patty Blanchard, co-organizer of the events, said she Adam and Wendy Bridges — the third

co-organizer — met on the comment section of a photo posted on the “Upstate NY for Bernie

Sanders” group. She said that the lack of political activity in the area and their will to change that

brought the trio together. The March for Bernie event was Guillette's first big event he co-organized

— one they pulled off within eight days.

“The Bernie campaign has given him a politician he believes in,” Guillette's girlfriend, Liz

LaRosa said.

Guillette is a Plattsburgh State graduate who, growing up, “didn't like politics much,” but

who has always had an ambition to change the world.

“Adam was the one who was more apt to listen and come up with a fair judgment that would

be the most appropriate for everyone,” Guillette's father, Michael Guillette said. “That showed me

he really cared about people and their well being. He made sure they were really happy and


It was a trait that stayed with him until now LaRosa said.

Despite his feelings about politics, the Morrisonville native started out his college career as a

political science major, but quickly decided to switch to sociology. It was in the sociology major

that he learned about how local actions have a global impact. His major was also where —

specifically his philosophy class — Adam's interests and personality eclipsed.

“It spins the way you think,” Adam said. “You think more globally. That it's important to

make sure every body has the highest standards of living, and that people aren't suffering.”

Lead by those sentiments, Adam, a senior at that time, got involved in “Occupy Plattsburgh”

in 2011. It was a local march in response to “Occupy Wall Street” in New York City and one of the

first activist rallies he participated in. There, he met like-minded people whom he kept in touch with

and whose help he used to organize the “March for Bernie” event.

After college Adam felt the need to continue working to better his community through event

planning, so he joined AmeriCorps in Morrisonville. There he worked in the preparedness

department with children and senior citizens for a year. Adam planned educational events about

safety and disaster preparedness, among other things, and was known to the kids as Scrubby Bear

guy. It was a nickname he got from teaching the children how to wash their hands. He loved it.

Because of his new found love for working with kids and his interest in helping his

community members, Adam thought school counseling was his calling. A semester into the graduate

program, Adam dropped it discouraged by the toll working with mistreated children took on his

future colleagues.

“I think I would like to help them, but I just thought that it would take a toll on me being

around that much pain and negativity.” Adam said. “I figured that if I was going to work with kids, I

want it to be more fun and positive.”

Though he left the program to escape negativity, Adam does realize that it's not always

going to be easy being a political activist. When Hilary Clinton won five states at once, Adam was


“If you actually believe in creating a long lasting political revolution or a political

movement, you can't have one tough night take any wind from your sails.” he said. “You just got to

keep pushing the next day and every day after.”

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