By Colleen Murphy and Sydney Shaw
Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor
According to U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, the “smartest thing” former President Bill Clinton ever did was marry Hillary Rodham.
On Friday, May 13, former President Clinton stopped by the College on behalf of his wife, Hillary, to hold a Hillary for America campaign speech in Packer Hall. During his talk, Clinton listed reasons why he thinks Hillary Clinton should be the next president of the country. This event comes less than a month before New Jersey is set to hold its primary election.
In front of a packed gym, Watson Coleman introduced the former president to the audience.
“Are you feeling that Hillary heat? Are you going to elect the first woman president of the United States of America? And by the way, we’re going to elect the most qualified individual that is running for that office, bar none,” Watson Coleman said before Clinton stepped onto the stage and after noting the accomplishments he achieved while serving as the country’s 42nd president.
“We know that this president and this next president are an incredible gift to this United States of America because they not only understand and appreciate and love this country and all its domestic issues and concerns and opportunities, they also understand, substantively, how we deal with our global friends and how we deal with our enemies,” Watson Coleman said.
To the upbeat tune of Pharrell’s “Happy,” Clinton walked out to a crowd — comprising mostly students — with big applause.
“I especially want to thank the students for coming. This election is really about you,” Clinton said. “I think, in large measure, how you vote in the election depends in part on whether you believe it is possible to raise middle class living standards and restore upward mobility and live together and govern together in the most diverse democracy in the world.”
Clinton then listed for the audience three reasons why Hillary Clinton is the best choice for the presidency.
“One (reason) is I think she’s got the best ideas that are most likely to help the largest number of people, to raise middle class incomes, restore upward mobility, reduce inequality and launch an explosion of economic activity,” Clinton said. “Second, she’s the only person left in either party that actually (has) a record of getting things done with members of the other party, as well as Democrats. And third, she’s the only person who’s really qualified in an extremely complicated and increasingly divided world to make good things happen around the world, keep big bad things from happening, to give us both the safety and the space we need to grow.”
According to Clinton, one of Hillary Clinton’s main priorities has always been helping families. One of the ways she plans to continue this, if elected president, is to offer paid maternity leave to all mothers.
“We’re one of only seven countries in the world that doesn’t give paid leave,” Clinton said. “You cannot ask a family to choose between succeeding in work and succeeding in raising children. So if we have paid leave, equal pay and affordable childcare, we will have equal participation in the workforce.”
Clinton said that his wife also plans to pass comprehensive immigration reform to “lift the burden off the 11.5 million undocumented people in this country and the 5 million others who live in families with them.”
“We need the youth and the diversity of our workforce and we need to settle these families down and stop people from having to live in all this fear and uncertainty,” he said.
Another type of reform Hillary Clinton would attempt to pass if elected president, according to the former president, is prison reform.
“I think every candidate agrees on this, but I’m pretty sure Hillary was the first person to say that we need to get a lot of these young people out of prison, who are in for nonviolent offenses, and into the workforce,” Clinton said. “But it isn’t enough to let people out if they’re gonna turn around and come back in. You have to have education, training and job placement.”
Throughout his speech, he praised Hillary Clinton for her ability to work with politicians across the aisle.
“Everything she did, she did it with Republicans,” he said, citing her work to help members of the military as an example. “She worked with Republicans to protect people who were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq and make sure they had protective gear and vehicles that wouldn’t make them so vulnerable to being killed or injured. When they came home, if they worked for the National Guard or Reserve, she made sure they got the same healthcare regular military people did.”
Clinton also touched on the importance of keeping the economy strong, especially through incentivizing entrepreneurs to start up and continue small businesses. Raising wages, restoring mobility and reducing inequality are three other plans that he said Hillary Clinton has in order to create a life of prosperity for citizens.
According to Clinton, the average student debt in America is $24,000, and he said that under another Clinton presidency, the goal would be to lower this number.
“We have the best system of higher education in the world, but for many people, it’s priced out of reach, or many young people have debt that they can’t repay and they feel trapped by it,” Clinton said.
While Clinton was telling those in attendance about Hillary Clinton’s ideas for higher incomes and reduced debt, one audience member shouted out “What about Gaza?”
“What about Gaza?” Clinton answered back. “Hillary got the only three face-to-face meetings between Mr. Netanyahu and the leader of the Palestinians, President Abbas.”
After Clinton and the student had a brief back-and-forth discussion, the former president expressed his appreciation that they were able to voice their differences.
“You have to ask yourself… What do you want the world to look like in 10 years? What do you want the world to look like in 20 years? When you have children your age, what do you want the world to look like? Do you want a group like this, in this college, 20 years from now to be even more diverse than you are? Do you want people to feel naturally comfortable with the conversation we just had? I like that (idea).”
Most students, including senior finance major Payal Handiwala, were excited to have the opportunity to hear a former president speak and to have some of the election’s action take place on the College’s campus.
“I thought it was very good and pretty inspiring, and he enlightened (the crowd) on some good political issues,” said Handiwala, who plans on voting for Hillary Clinton.
Even many of those who do not plan on voting for Hillary Clinton, or who are undecided with their vote, thought it was an informative experience to hear from a U.S. president.
“I feel like (Clinton) knew who he was talking to and he was trying to appeal to us and talk about stuff we would find interesting and relevant,” junior finance major Liam Kennedy said. “I definitely have to do more research about (for whom I will vote), but it was good to hear his perspective on issues.”
However, not everyone was eager to hear what the former president had to say on his wife’s behalf. A group of five students stood in the parking lot outside of Packer Hall handing out buttons and pamphlets in support of Bernie Sanders.
Clinton compared Sanders and Hillary Clinton by looking at the way they voted while they were both in the Senate together.
“Ninety-three percent of the time, they voted the same way,” he said. “When they didn’t agree… I personally think she was right.”
Before he left the College, the former president encouraged the audience to consider their futures when deciding which candidate to vote for in the presidential election.
“We live in an interdependent world, and for all of you who are young, the next 20 or 30 years will be spent in defining the terms of your interdependence with the people you live and learn and work with, with the people you share a nation with, and with people around the world,” Clinton said. “You (have to) have somebody who can represent and reflect and push forward our greatest potential and beat back our greatest problems.”
And Clinton believes that his wife, Hillary Clinton, is the person to do just that.
“I believe that you should nominate and elect the best change-maker available. I believe you should nominate and elect somebody who has proven that every day,” Clinton said about his wife. “And under whatever circumstance and no matter what happens, or what they say about her or what they do to her, she finds a way to make something good happen for somebody else because I believe, in my age, that that’s all that matters.”
More quotes from former President Bill Clinton:
On looking to the future: “We’re in a better position for the future here than in any place on earth because of our diversity, because of our youth, because of our institutional education possibility, because we’re proving that if you train people and protect labor rights we can do any kind of job in the world, we just have to make the right decision here and you will see between now and November the darndest attempts to divide, to distract you, to confuse you, to make you think about anything but what you want the world to look like when your children are your age and what you want your own journey to be like. That is all that matters.”
On building a better nation: “It does not take long to live life. There are no permanent victories and there are no permanent defeats in politics and economics, but there can be a more or less permanent commitment to a society with harmony and decency and fairness and inclusion and uplift.”
On protecting the country from terrorism: “San Bernardino, our latest terrorist incident, was because of people converted over the internet. America desperately needs its Muslims who love freedom and hate terror and want to be part of this country to be a part of winning that battle. Look at this crowd. It is a rebuke to all those people who are afraid of diversity.”
On moving forward: “You can’t run away from the future, you’ve got to put everybody on a conveyor belt to it. People are afraid of the future because they think it can’t get any better. If we can all rise together, they won’t be afraid anymore, and you’ve got to have a president who can do that, so that’s my simple case (for why Hillary Clinton should be elected president).”
This story originally appeared in The Signal.
Thanks to LTV for filming the speech.