By Jamil Oakford/ editor-in-chief
Former president Bill Clinton told a rally of supporters on TR Campus Feb. 29 about many issues facing the country this election year and why his wife, Hillary Clinton, can solve those issues as president.
Students, faculty, staff and local residents looked on in the Action Suite as Clinton campaigned for his wife’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“Everything the president said is true — we are the best positioned country in the world for the future,” Clinton said. “But that’s what elections are about. We have to seize it.”
For TR student Radhia Addison, this was both an exciting and intriguing day.
“I basically want to see what he says about her campaign,” she said.
Addison, like many TCC students in the crowd, will vote for the first time in a presidential election, and they’re looking for a way to get involved.
“It boosts morale to have a former president on our campus,” Addison said.
TR student Alejandro Martinez was excited about his second political rally.
“I saw Bernie [Sanders] on Saturday,” he said. “Today, I’m trying to see a new viewpoint.”
The former president touched on many subjects including health care and diversity. The subject that turned the crowd responsive was student loans.
He told a story of a waitress he met at a coffee shop in New York City.
“I asked her how long she had this job and she said, ‘Five years, off and on,’” Clinton said.
He explained that when he asked her to clarify, the waitress told him that when she was in school, she wasn’t working at the coffee shop. But when she needed to pay off debt, she was working there.
“She said, ‘Mom can’t help me, but at least it’s free rent. Otherwise, I couldn’t make any debt payments,’” Clinton said.
After acknowledging there are thousands of young people across the country just like her, Clinton reminded the audience that student loans are the only kind of loans that can’t be refinanced. From there, he began to lay out his wife’s plans for helping alleviate some of that debt for students.
“So here’s one thing Hillary wants to do: Every single holder of student debt in the country could refinance their loan tomorrow at market interest rate,” he said. “Twenty-five million people would save an average of $2,000 off their loan.”
Clinton touched on the Black Lives Matter movement by addressing the need for police reform.
“There are many places in America where we need police reform where too many people are killed just for the color of their skin,” he said.
Clinton reminded the attendees that police have done well in communities, citing the response to the shooting in San Bernardino, California.
“There were police going in time and time again, trying to save people without regard to their race or their religion,” he said.
He also touched on the need for prison reform.
“Hillary always reminds us, and I think she’s right, we can’t just turn people out of prison who’ve been kept there for years unjustly without investing money to make sure they can find a job or going into an education program when they get out,” he said.
He talked about immigration reform, referencing Republican candidate Donald Trump’s idea to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants.
“We’re at a college, so we’ll keep it classy,” he said. “But somebody should call those people and tell them that since 2010, more immigrants from Mexico have gone back than have come in. They’re not even shooting at the right target.”
But Clinton’s biggest message for the students, faculty, staff and local residents gathered on TR was about making these changes together.
“If we’re going to rise together, we’ve got to work together,” he said. “If we’re going to rise together, we’ve got to vote together.”
He told a story about how polarizing the political climate is now.
“Nobody wants to talk to each other,” Clinton said. “We must never give each other an answer because otherwise we can’t be mad at each other, we won’t be foaming at the mouth, we won’t look like we need a rabies shot.”
Clinton warned that this hostile environment was not conducive to the American way.
“We cannot build America in the 21st century with dysfunctional politics based on dehumanizing our adversaries,” he said.
SE student and SGA member Raj Gandhi was happy he got the chance to see Clinton.
“It was very different,” he said. “I’ve never been to anything like this. It was a great experience.”
TR early high school students Muriel Schroeder and Hector Valles were pumped after nearly getting a selfie with the former president.
“My dad, I know he’s jealous because I got so close to meeting a former president,” Schroeder said.
For both Valles and Schroeder, this was their first rally, and they were happy this happened on their campus.
“Hearing an ex-president speak, it’s a big opportunity,” Valles said.