Doug Emhoff Reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Preschool Visit as He Touts Education Spending
During a stop at a Massachusetts preschool on Monday, Second Gentleman Dough Emhoff had the chance to read one of his favorite children's books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to a group of hungry kids.
The classic tale, written and illustrated by Eric Carle, was one Emhoff said he read to his own children — Ella Emhoff, 22, and Cole Emhoff, 27 — when they were little, according to reporters traveling with him at the Mother Hubbard Pre-School Center in Milford, Massachusetts.
"Sometimes I still read it to them," Emhoff, 56, joked during the visit, where he and Massachusetts Rep. Jake Auchincloss spoke in support of the COVID-relief American Rescue Plan, passed earlier this year.
Emhoff also touted President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Agenda, a set of trillion-dollar spending proposals that includes initiatives to cap the cost of childcare and provide access to early childhood education through universal preschool.
Biden hopes to pass his major domestic legislation through a razor-thin majority in the Senate. The Republican minority calls his spending plans excessive and ineffective.
While Democrats in Congress are working on gathering votes for the bills, the White House is deploying figures like Emhoff as key surrogates.
And so on Monday, Emhoff — the first-ever second gentleman, who has talked about working to honor the legacy of female political spouses before him — went to Massachusetts.
"I'm married to the vice president of the United States, and her name is Kamala Harris. And my name is Doug," he said as he introduced himself to about a dozen preschoolers, who helped the second gentleman with a line of the book that's repeated throughout the story: "…But he was still hungry!"
The Mother Hubbard Pre-School Center was founded in 1961 by Dorothy Vecchiolla, who was on hand for Emhoff's visit. "I was a single parent," Vecchiolla, 91, told Emhoff and Auchincloss. "I had five children and I couldn't get day care for my kids, so I started taking care of other people's kids."
Still in its original location, Vecchiolla's preschool provides care for 50 kids, ages 3 and 4, as well as 18 toddlers and infants.
"Many years ago they thought we were babysitters over here," said the school's director, Pamelia White. "You have college-educated ladies in this building teaching a curriculum that people didn't realize for years. Day care isn't just babysitting. It's an education for these children."
The titular character in The Very Hungry Caterpillar — who munches on an apple, pears and plums before moving on to chocolate cake, Swiss cheese, watermelon and more in the book — wasn't the only one who got to eat during Emhoff's visit to the preschool.
The second gentleman also helped serve lunch of ziti with meat sauce, green beans, fruit and bread with butter to the kids.
One of the school's teachers spoke to Emhoff about the importance of meal programs in the classroom.
"If they come in here with a doughnut, full of sugar, by the time circle time hits at 10 a.m., they can't focus, they can't sit still, they're tired," the teacher said, according to reporters with Emhoff. "If they come in here and eat the breakfast we give them — which is fruit, maybe some whole-grain waffles, milk, orange juice — then they're alert, they're participating, they're happy. They make it through the whole day."
Before the visit ended, Emhoff praised the school and its leaders for their passion and the experience that comes with decades taking care of youngsters. He also touted the Biden administration's programs to help children, like the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law by in March.
"You can see it in there," Emhoff said of the plan, referring to the preschool. "Now you also see the need for the Build Back Better Agenda. Childcare, family leave, nutrition, you literally are seeing it all in real-time."
Before the lunch, Emhoff was also able to greet the students and check out some of their arts and crafts creations.
To one preschooler in a New England Patriots sweatshirt, Emhoff said, "Good game yesterday."