President's speech helps shift focus

by Nicole Tsong | 1/28/98 6:00am

The highly publicized allegations of a sexual relationship between President Bill Clinton and a 21-year-old White House intern garnered more student and faculty interest for President Clinton's annual State of the Union Address yesterday evening, but for many in the audience, the speech shifted focus away from the allegations to the actual issues addressed.

The speech, which students and faculty viewed at the Rockefeller Center, the Hyphen and the Collis Student Center, among other places, focused on education, health care and IRS reform, but certain aspects of the speech still brought the allegations to mind.

Shannon Marimon '00 said whenever the president mentioned family values or when the broadcasters showed First Lady Hillary Clinton, she thought about the allegations.

"I thought he skirted the family issues really well by talking about diversity instead," she said.

The scandal influenced other audience members to a lesser extent. For Government Professor Constantine Spiliotes, Congress's reaction during the address influenced his viewing the most.

"The Democrats were cordial, but if they were too excited, it would look like they were trying to compensate," he said. "It was a pretty good balance, but it wasn't too different from other addresses."

No one said they expected comments about the allegations, and Clinton kept the focus firmly upon his proposals throughout the address.

Clinton did not present any surprising proposals in his speech and he succeeded in drawing the attention of many students and faculty away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and back to his role as president.

Young Democrats Vice President David Schleicher '00 said the speech would make people remember why they voted for Clinton in 1996.

"He reminded all Americans of what we like about him -- he made us put the allegations in the background," he said.

Clinton's comprehensive account of the state of the union and choice of issues impressed many members of the audience, although Conservative Union Treasurer Vincent Leung '00 said he felt some ideas, such as the idea to hire 100,000 new teachers for elementary and secondary schools, were too conceptual and would be difficult to put into practice.

Most of the students interviewed refused to speculate on the future of Clinton as president.

Spiliotes did say Clinton's future depends upon the support of the public. "It is too early to tell," he said, but "if it continues to be the case where the public supports the direction of the nation, people [will stay] generally happy with him as president."

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