Bill Clinton barnstorms for Hillary at Elon

Former President Bill Clinton, who visited Elon University on Wednesday to campaign for his wife, called Sen. Hillary Clinton the “change maker” the nation needs and shared with thousands of onlookers her proposed solutions to current economic woes.

President Bill Clinton
Clinton spoke for close to an hour as students, faculty and Alamance County residents crowded Scott Plaza in the heart of campus to hear his remarks. The campaign stop was announced Monday evening by the campaign, and it included a private meeting with a half dozen students and top university leaders just prior to the public remarks.

“The economy is in terrible shape, and it’s in this shape for several reasons,” Clinton said, adding minutes later, “You have to have a president who can turn this economy around.”

Clinton cited four factors contributing to the current economic climate:

1.) Rising energy and food prices;
2.) Exploding health care costs;
3.) Upward of 2 million Americans may soon face home foreclosure;
4.) Huge budget deficits.

“Most Americans already think they’re in a recession,” Clinton said, arguing that median household incomes, when adjusted for inflation, have actually fallen since he left office in January 2001.

Clinton put forward several of Hillary Clinton’s ideas to revive the economy. She advocates the investment of money in energy independence, including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass facilities; the investment of money in infrastructure improvements, such as road, bridge, water and sewer repairs; and investments in medical technology, which can help improve not only the quality and length of life for Americans – but also create jobs in the industry.

Health care received lots of attention from the former president. Clinton said that Hillary’s health care proposal would cover all Americans who sought insurance coverage, while the other two candidates in the presidential race – Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain – offered proposals that didn’t go as far.

And rising costs are part of what puts the pinch on the average American family, he said, adding to the economic problems facing the nation while limiting quality of care for millions of uninsured citizens.

“I don’t care who you vote for for president, if we keep doubling health care costs every seven years, you can’t bring the economy back,” Clinton said.

Education was another topic Clinton tackled on behalf of his wife. He said that Hillary Clinton believes the No Child Left Behind education reform law needs to be repealed, and that families should receive more tax credits for sending students to college. Pell grants for higher education must also be bolstered.

“Don’t tell me all our kids can’t learn. They can,” Clinton said. “They just need a better system.”

The former president touched briefly on the war in Iraq – adding that the troops would need to be brought home in a prudent manner — but spent most of his time at Elon listing his wife’s accomplishments as a United States senator and highlighting her policy proposals should she win the White House in November.

Bill Clinton last visited Elon in 1992 at the height of his first presidential campaign. On Wednesday, he even joked about how he remembers the university, aside from its pristine campus. He also said he wished he could go back to school at Elon.

“Any time you see a clue in a crossword puzzle that says ‘a North Carolina college,’” he said, “the answer is always ‘Elon!’”

Emily Baldwin, an Elon senior representing the College Democrats, welcomed the crowd a short time before Clinton arrived for his visit.

“This is a man who has only grown as a symbol of international leadership since leaving the White House. We are so honored to have him here this afternoon with us,” Baldwin said. “In what is turning into a historic election year, this special visit gives us a rare opportunity to discuss our important role as young people in the months leading up to Nov. 4.”

“Now more than ever it is essential that we stay informed on what is going on around us.”