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It could have been a match made in heaven — Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor wanted to make a speech about income inequality at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and the people from Occupy Philadelphia wanted to be there.
But while both parties wanted to address the same general topic, they were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. So Cantor’s speech, in which he imagines what he would say to a “9-year-old, inner city kid scared to death, growing up in a life of poverty,” was canceled.
Politico reports Cantor’s office says the Congressman was originally invited to speak at the Wharton School with the understanding that only the university community would be invited to the speech, but that on Thursday night, authorities said the first 300 people standing in line for the event would be let in.
Occupy Philadelphia protesters got wind of the speech early in the week and planned to protest outside, or perhaps to be in the audience. Friday morning, as early as 9 a.m., according to the university’s newspaper, protesters were already on campus. Cantor’s office abruptly canceled the appearance Friday morning, ahead of the planned 4:30 p.m. event.
The Wharton School told the story a little differently than Cantor's office, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, suggesting that while organizers deeply regretted the cancelation, the event's attendence had always been open to the public.
The Virginia Republican likely would not have received a warm welcome from protesters; he called the Occupy Wall Street movement a “mob” earlier this month at the annual Values Voter Summit, and planned to again criticize the protesters on Friday, according to Politico.
In his speech, the majority leader planned to talk about his family story and offer advice to those who live in poverty. From Politico:
Cantor’s speech, which was released by his office, talked about his family history—his grandmother was a hard-working immigrant who laid the groundwork for her family’s future success.
“Recently I was asked, what does your party say to that 9-year-old, inner city kid scared to death, growing up in a life of poverty? What can you do for that little girl?” Cantor’s speech reads.
“Well, we know there are no easy answers. But I believe that child needs a hand up to help her climb the ladder of success in our country. She needs the advantages of a solid family around her and a community that encourages her to learn and work hard. She needs some semblance of stability. She also needs some guarantees. She needs to know that the rules are the same for everybody. That although she may have to work harder than many of us, she needs to know that she has a fair shot at making it in this country.”