The nation is on the edge of making history in the 2008 campaign for president, former President Bill Clinton told an audience of more than 1,500 during a rally Friday, April 4, at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
“We will either have the first African American candidate or the first woman candidate for president,” Clinton said. “The question is who will make the best leader for our future?
“Why Hillary?” he asked “Because she’s good at it.”
“Hillary is the best change-maker I’ve ever known,” Clinton said. “She’s better prepared, and she will make the best commander in chief.”
The Hillary Clinton for President rally is believed to be the first visit to Pembroke or UNCP by a president or former president. It emphasized North Carolina’s important role in the Democratic primary as the race goes down to the wire between Senators. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The significance of the event was not lost on the audience.
“This is big for Pembroke,” said James Locklear, editor of the local Pembroke Eagle newspaper. About 50 members of the media joined Locklear in the Main Gym of the English E. Jones Health and Physical Education Center.
UNCP’s WNCP-TV Web and cable cast the event live and got footage for their news programs.
Some in attendance arrived early to be the first in the doors.
“We’ve been here since four, but we’ve been up all night,” said Vincent Stephens, a freshman from Durham, N.C. “I want to see him up close.”
“My mother woke me up this morning,” said Josh Gane of Lumberton, N.C., who was carrying a copy of Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life,” under his arm. “This is my mom’s book; I’m undecided.”
Many local elected officials attended including state Rep. Ronnie Sutton and Pembroke Mayor Milton Hunt, who, with Chancellor Allen C. Meadors and Student Government President Barry Burch, introduced the former president. Clinton also gave a nod to the Lumbee Tribe, which was well represented at the rally.
Chinese exchange student Xing Zhang was there taking photos and taking it all in.
“We do not have this in my home country,” Zhang said. “We know him (Clinton) as a man who left this country with a budget surplus.
“What I think this country needs is a person good at running the economy,” he concluded.
As if on cue, Clinton led off his 45-minute speech with the economy.
“We’ve been in a recession for some time,” Clinton said. “We are in an economic crisis because of economic inequality.
“We must rebuild the middle class and reclaim the future for our young people,” he continued. “We must create more jobs.”
In a detailed and substantive speech, Clinton pitched Hillary’s “energy independence” plan to increase renewable sources of energy and to reduce the trade gap and dependence on foreign oil.
Sen. Hillary Clinton would repair the nation’s infrastructure and increase investment in education and research, Clinton said. Clinton said he would try to stop at all of UNC’s campuses, and he pitched several of Hillary’s education messages to students.
“In the Senate, Hillary advocated for a student borrower’s bill of rights,” Clinton said. “We have students thinking about dropping out of college because of excessive loans.”
He advocated doubling the higher education tuition tax credit; raising Pell Grants every year; and cracking down on abuses of private student loan companies that charge exorbitant interest rates.
Former President Clinton said his wife would “dramatically change” the No Child Left Behind Act and advocate for longer school days, longer school years and improved training and pay for teachers.
“We must be more serious about education,” Clinton said. “One hundred percent of our students must graduate from college and attend at least two years of community college.”
Clinton closed with foreign policy issues and the five-year-old war in Iraq.
“Hillary will be the best commander in chief and the best diplomatic leader for America,” he said. “Her record of support for the military and veterans and her plan to bring the troops home from Iraq speak for themselves.”
Finally, he said Hillary will restore the sagging respect for America in the world and use military force as a last resort. She would retain some U.S. troops in northern Iraq to fight the terrorist threat.
“She’s the best candidate for president I’ve ever supported,” he said in closing. “She will never forget you.”
This event was sponsored by UNCP's Student Government Association. Former President Clinton's visit to UNCP does not imply the University's support of any particular candidate or political party. The University hosts any political candidate who expresses interest in visiting our campus to further educate and inform our on and off-campus communities about our country's electoral process.