Salomé Johnson, York Delegate
“I thought I could do everything, so I did”
From Beaver County to Bucks County, delegates are traveling across the Keystone State to support Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. This week we’re sharing the delegates’ remarkable stories of resilience and tenacity.
My name is Salomé Garcia Johnson. I consider myself a Black woman of Hispanic ethnicity. I support Hillary Clinton because I believe in her, I trust her and I believe she is the most qualified candidate in my lifetime. I’ve been a follower of hers for years and years.
The issues that are really important to me are equal rights and equal pay. I’d also like to see that young people are not burdened with debt when they get out of school. Basically for me it’s equal rights and making sure all people are treated with dignity and respect. She’s the strongest and most positive candidate I’ve come across in my lifetime, and I’ve been doing this a long time.
I started in politics when I was about six years old. My father used to have my mother dress us up in cute little dresses and we’d go canvassing with him. He’d have us stand in front of the door so he never got a door slammed in his face! We used to tease him when we got older that he exploited us as children, and he would say, “Yeah, I did, and I’d do it again!” I did my first phone bank at age thirteen. I’ve been doing it a long time, because I’m 69 years old now.
I think that we’re going to win this. Hillary is going to be the 45th President of the United States. I’m very excited to be a delegate to the Convention. I’m really looking forward to the 25th of July!
Can you tell me more about your first experience phone banking at age thirteen?
They gave me a script, I read it a couple of times, and then I just called people and talked to them. And I still do that. I read the script. I’m a research freak. I always make sure that I know something about the candidates on my own aside from what we’re given on the script. I make myself comfortable with the candidate and that’s how I approach it. That’s how I still approach it.
I love canvassing because I think when you knock on someone’s door, it’s a real opportunity to change a mind, to persuade someone, or to engage with someone. If I go out canvassing and knock on fifty doors and I get one person, I’m excited. Because I’ve changed a mind. I’ve made a difference, and that’s very important to me. I believe that there’s nothing more important than getting out the vote, especially in this election.
With all your experience as a young person, being around politics and elections, how did it feel when it was your first time ever voting?
I was so excited! For my 18th birthday, my father would drive us to the Board of Elections to register to vote. My siblings and I were not raised to believe it was a privilege, but that it was our responsibility. We were told, “Voting is your Constitutional right, it is your responsibility to exercise it.” That’s what I did with my daughter and what she did with hers.
So you mentioned that equal pay and relieving debt for young people are issues that are important to you. Do you have any personal anecdotes or stories about how equal pay has affected you or someone you know?
I’ve known women who were in executive positions at health care institutions, when I worked in health care, whose male counterparts made three, four, five thousand dollars more a year. I think that’s considerable when you consider that a hospital administrator has to have a Master’s degree or they don’t even look at you for the position. So, if I have a Master’s degree and a man has a Master’s degree and we can both do that job, we should be paid the same. But if I’m making $50,000 and he’s making between $55,000 and $57,000, how is that fair?
The playing field has to be leveled so both of us would be offered that same $55,000 a year. It’s one of the most important issues for me, that women get paid according to their background, education, expertise, and how well they perform a job. That a man who may have the same qualifications is automatically going to get paid a higher salary — that’s absurd.
Studies show that around the age of thirty the wage gap increases as women are starting families. And I think we need to recognize this now.
Precisely. Women are almost punished for having families, for being working working moms, and they shouldn’t be. If you and I can do a job as well as any man, whether we have a husband and children or not, it shouldn’t make a difference. Women should not be punished for taking maternity leave. I’ve heard people say, “Well, women choose to leave the workforce to have babies.” Why does it have to be a choice?
Why can’t a woman have a child and have a career? When I was in college, I got married and had a child in my sophomore year. I gave birth to her on a Monday, was discharged from the hospital on a Thursday, and on Friday I strapped her to my chest and went and took a final exam. My daughter was with me at my graduation when I got my degree. She was only two years old! Women have the ability to multi-task and juggle lots of things and I think we should be rewarded for that.
How did you stay strong when you’re in a situation like that when you wanted to raise your child and also stay in school?
I was 19. I got married at 18. I’m 69years old. My daughter is 50. My granddaughter is 29. I was young, and thought I could do everything, so I did!
I had the youth, I had the stamina, and I was determined to do it. I wouldn’t let anybody stop me.
Someone I was talking to earlier today said, “Hillary Clinton is going to be the first working mother President.”
That’s right. Isn’t that fabulous? It’s absolutely incredible. As I said before, no one’s more qualified than she is. I think she’s going to do an amazing job and I think she’s going to be as great a president as Barack Obama. I believe he’s going to go down in history as being one of the greats. I think with all the vitriol and all the obstruction, there’s just some things you can’t take away from him. He’s done a good job and he’s a good man.
I loved seeing them together at their first appearance in North Carolina.
Yes! I was so pumped! I was at home in front of my TV jumping up and down and screaming! I thought, “It’s a good thing I’m alone, because people will think I am insane!” I even cried. I got so emotional about it because I’m going to miss him, but then I’m so excited to have Hillary Clinton as our president.I’m on this emotional roller coaster.
I’m a regional director for the Black Caucus for the state Democratic Party. I’m also a State Committee Member, I’m on the Executive Board of the Latino Caucus, and I’m the Political Action Chair for the NAACP, the local NAACP here in York. I’m going to the convention on the 24th because the Black Caucus is having a worship service at a mega-church. It seats four or five thousand people. So it’s very exciting, I’m going there for that, and then I’ll be there for the rest of the week!
People need to know that Hillary is very warm and very approachable. The Hillary Clinton that I’ve seen — and I’ve seen her on several occasions while I was living in New York and she was running for Senator — is a real human being.
I remember that my husband and I saw her speak once and when we walked away, my husband looked at me and said, “She’s the genuine article.” And I said, “Yeah, I told you that. I told you that.” He said, “Okay. Now I get it.” She’s POTUS 45. Without a doubt.