Bill Clinton speaks to 700 at the College

by Joyce Lee | 1/13/16 8:32pm

Bill Clinton speaks to the College at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton.
Source: Katelyn Jones/The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Former President Bill Clinton, husband to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, spoke to an audience of 700 Dartmouth and Upper Valley community members yesterday evening in the Hopkins Center’s Alumni Hall. Many of the audience members watched his speech in an overflow room in the Hanover Inn.

Clinton was preceded by a performance by the Dartmouth Aires; speeches by Austin Boral ’16, a New Hampshire Hillary fellow and Clinton campaign team leader at Dartmouth, and Ross Svenson, organizer of Hillary for New Hampshire; and an introduction by New Hampshire Sen. David Pierce (D-Lebanon).

Boral said that Clinton’s visit was exciting because it comes so close to the February primary.

“When Hillary visited back in November, the primary seemed far away and students had six weeks of break coming up, but with Bill Clinton, there’s a sense of excitement, like we’re racing to the finish line,” Boral said.

He added that a significant presence like Clinton would galvanize students into thinking about voting and supporting a specific candidate.

Julie McClain, the New Hampshire press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, said that the event was an opportunity for potential voters to learn more about the presidential candidate from a perspective different from previous endorsers.

“President Clinton would provide perspective and support for her personal strengths not only as her husband, but also as a former president who knows the job better than anyone else,” she said.

In his speech at the event, Clinton said his role in his wife’s 2016 campaign was of a proud husband and an impressed former president.

Clinton expressed the need to embrace change and alleviate the American public’s anxieties, referring to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address the night before. Clinton said that the coming election had to answer essential questions for the American public and address the economic, domestic and foreign policy concerns that have emerged over the past two presidencies.

“The first question of this election is what economic policy is most likely to return [our economy] to broadbase prosperity?” Clinton said. “The second question we must ask is what social policy is more likely to bring us together when it looks more like we’re bent on breaking up into communities that resent each other?”

Clinton noted both police brutality against African-Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the stigma against Muslim-Americans in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

He related an article he had read about a Muslim man who had stood down armed burglars in a store where he was employed.

“[That man] is far more representative of Muslims in America than those shooters in San Bernardino,” Clinton said to applause from the audience.

Clinton also discussed Hillary Clinton’s plans for the economy, infrastructure, college tuition and gun control. He noted the need for security checks for gun purchases, recalling the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

“I get it, I get hunting and sports shooting, and people living a long way from police and law enforcement who want to keep guns in their homes to feel safe,” Clinton said. “But this has nothing to do with that.”

Clinton noted that the president elected this year would potentially be responsible for one to three appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

When the audience reacted visibly to his statement, Clinton urged, “The stakes are high.”

He said that he believes Hillary Clinton has the best economic policy that was most likely to create jobs, support small businesses, increase minimum wage and profit sharing, and encourage more women to enter the workforce. Clinton emphasized the last point, noting that unlike under his own presidency, the United States is currently not among the top 20 countries in the world for women in the workplace. This emphasis falls in line with Hillary Clinton’s own focus on gender equality in her campaign.

He stated that Hillary Clinton would push to make college more affordable, with free community college and skills training, so as to alleviate pressure from the middle and lower classes. The range of Hillary Clinton’s economic policies, Clinton said, helped make it the best out of any other candidate’s, citing significant support from individuals like Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, Barney Frank, co-sponsor of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-O.H.).

Clinton said that opium and heroin drug addiction in New Hampshire and Vermont should be a top priority for both the Republican and Democratic parties. Calling it a public health problem, Clinton appealed to College students in the audience to make smart decisions.

Clinton pointed to Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments, from her time as a staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund to her term as Obama’s Secretary of State. In his recount of her career, Clinton continuously repeated that Hillary Clinton was always making something good happen, even when she had “not been elected to anything.”

Calling her the best changemaker he had ever known, both publicly and privately, Clinton said, “Everything she has ever touched, she has made better.”

Junghye Kim ’19, a Clinton campaign fellow who volunteered at the event, said that the speech effectively balanced policy outlines and personal stories to make both logical and emotional appeals.

“If I was an undecided voter, [the speech] would be incredibly effective because it lays out her policies and her career in a way that makes you think of how much she could do as president, considering her accomplishments,” Kim said.

Prior to the start of the event, a man named Randy Leavitts from South Royalton, Vermont protested outside of the Hopkins Center. Leavitts, dressed in a Superman costume, was holding a sign that read, “Bernie Sanders is my hero.”

Leavitts said that the protest was a humourous way to make his point, and that he had protested at a political rally for Donald Trump in Burlington, Massachusetts in a similar fashion.

“It’s more of an agreement with Sanders than a disagreement with Clinton,” Leavitts said, “Being from Vermont, I watched him for years and his messages are the same. I feel that Clinton is very susceptible to change on her platform based on her polls, and Bernie is not. You can watch him for 25, 30 years and he’s saying the same thing, and it’s starting to resonate.”