Former President Bill Clinton speaks to hundreds of supporters at Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center on Tuesday
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign received a boost in the bay area as husband and former Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton spoke to a packed house at the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center Nov. 1.
Clinton had no trouble rousing the raucous pro-Hillary crowd on hand as he personally thanked Charlie Crist, who had helped introduce Clinton, and urged everyone to help elect Crist into the House of Representatives.
Crist paraphrased Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan by asking the enthusiastic crowd rhetorically: “Are we stronger divided by race, gender or wealth or are we stronger together?”
Officials on hand included Mayor Rick Kriseman, South St. Pete Democratic Club President Norma Roberts and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, who believes that from “day one” Hillary Clinton has addressed issues important to African Americans, including healthcare, education and the rights of ex-offenders.
“Donald Trump has only given us vague promises,” Welch said.
Clinton talked about the campaigning he did on Barack Obama’s behalf back in 2012 in Florida, noting that he had tried to hit the places that weren’t usually covered on the campaign trial. In what was a tight election, he explained, Obama did well in those areas. Then Clinton broke it down: If the people who are for Hillary vote for Hillary, she’ll win Florida and she’ll be the next president of the United States.
“I am a 70-year-old white Southerner,” he said, “I know what ‘make America great again’ means!” he said to wild applause.
Clinton underscored the importance of voting rights, adding that he is old enough to remember when African Americans were either denied access to the polls or were herded onto flatbed trucks to be taken to vote and then watched to make sure they voted “the way they were supposed to vote.” And if they didn’t, they could lose their jobs, he said.
Voting discrimination continued throughout the years, he noted, when “no matter how hard you worked or how many taxes you paid, if you had once been in trouble you were denied the right to vote for life.” Clinton lauded Crist’s efforts as governor to restore the right to vote to ex-offenders.
Clinton admitted the financial crash of 2008 had “a very long tail,” but America is still the best-performing big economy on earth, adding that he believes that five years from now the experts will give Barack Obama a lot more credit as the country has just celebrated its 79th straight month of job growth.
We should grow the economy from “the middle out and the bottom up,” Clinton said, rather than go back to the “trickle down on steroids” method that Trump seems to favor. An improved infrastructure program is key, along with protecting our coastal cities from rising water levels.
He urged for a universal broadband system in America, so school children are all able to use the internet for homework assignments. He was also quick to praise the benefits of wind and solar power.
“That’s infrastructure!” he declared.
Small business loans should be more readily available to start up, foster and improve new small businesses in the country. In reviewing the shape of the economy in the last 30-plus years, he said that during the 20 “trickle down years,” we’ve had 15.8 million private sector jobs. In the 16 “middle out, bottom up” years—even counting the 2008 crash which occurred just before Obama took office, Clinton said, we’ve had more than 32 million “for our side,” in four fewer years.
Clinton took a jab at Trump’s lack of a real education plan before explaining that Hillary’s plan is to spend a certain amount of federal funds on pre-K through 12 on what works, “which is making teachers better teachers, making principals better principals, getting families into the school—that can have a bigger impact than anything else!”
He cited a study that showed even one good teacher could raise a student’s capacity to earn more than ten percent a year for life.
Eradicating college loan debt is another key issue, he said, as he pointed out that college loans are currently the only loans that cannot be refinanced.
“We need to get this country back in the future business,” he declared. “Now how are we going to do that when we send these young millennials out into the world saddled with a college debt where the interest rate is more than twice as high as their parents’ home mortgage rate? Hillary wants people to basically renegotiate their interest rate. Refinance it at current market rates.”
Closing by contrasting Hillary’s campaign driven by unity against Trump’s campaign driven by anger, Clinton urged that we have to “change forward and not change backward,” and called this one of those “once-in-a-generation elections, where we have to define all over again what it means to be an American.”