“Hillary will help us all rise,” the former President tells a diverse group of attendees.
By Fran Goldstein
May 21, Chula Vista–Hillary Clinton has the best ideas for leading the country forward, former President Bill Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd in Chula Vista, California.
“We need a doer and a change maker, and there’s only one person with a record of getting things done as first lady, as a senator, as secretary of state, with Republicans in Congress,” Clinton said as the crowd cheered. This was Clinton’s second campaign stop in San Diego in advance of the California primary on June 7.
He spoke at Bonita Vista High School to a diverse audience in this middle-class city about seven miles from the Mexican border. Hundreds of supporters, many of whom had waited on line more than six hours on a crisp spring morning, were packed into the school gymnasium and hundreds more were in an outdoor overflow area where his remarks were broadcast. The school’s scoreboard was set at 45 for the home team and 42 for the visitors.
What the numbers really referenced was the number of Bill Clinton’s American presidency (42) and the hoped for number of Hillary Clinton’s presidency (45).
An array of local officeholders spoke before the former president, and the high school student band played for more than an hour as Clinton’s arrival was delayed. By the time U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez took the podium to introduce the former president, the audience was exasperated. Perez, rumored by some to be on Hillary Clinton’s short list for vice president, was greeted with groans, boos and shouts for “Bill!”
Undeterred, Perez spoke for a few minutes, praising Hillary Clinton for being a “dreamer and a doer.” By contrast, he called presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump a “train wreck for basic American values.” And the biggest difference between the two candidates, Perez said, is that Clinton stands for “we” and Trump stands for “me.”
Bill Clinton’s entrance to the gymnasium was greeted with cheers and applause. He spoke for about 30 minutes, and listed three arguments for electing the former secretary of state and New York senator. “First, she’s been a change-maker all her life… And she’s better at it than anybody I’ve ever known,” her husband said. “She was always the first person in the room to say, ‘What are we going to do about it?’”
She also has the best ideas about how to grow the economy and how to improve the country’s educational system, Clinton added. He said her plans for education, equal pay and better pay will “help us all rise together.”
He spoke for some time about the former first lady’s focus on improving education. “She believes everybody ought to graduate from college debt-free,” he said. But her approach is different from Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal to make college completely free. “When people can pay something, they ought to pay what they can.” In general, she wants to enable students to graduate debt free from college by offering tuition reimbursement, allowing students to pay off their debts with public service, and permitting older generations to refinance their loans at lower interest rates.
Bill Clinton also focused on the need for acceptance and uniting people. He alluded to the idea proposed by Trump to build a wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. “Do we want a wall? Not on your life,” he said, as the crowd consisting of many Mexican immigrants erupted in applause. He pointed that a wall would hurt the economy and “destroy the very idea of what it means to be an American.”
Hillary Clinton would do the best job of helping the country welcome people regardless of where they are from and who they are, he said, noting that immigrants have built the American economy. While progress has been made in extending rights to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals, Clinton said it is still true in America that “you can get married on Friday and fired on Monday. We need to eliminate that discrimination too.” He then spoke about the importance of ending discrimination in the workplace against people with disabilities, whom he said get fired from jobs “for which they are qualified even though they have perfect attendance (and) high productivity.”
In closing, Clinton reinforced his wife’s foreign policy and political experience. “We have two threats facing us,” he said. “One is political gridlock in Washington and second is turmoil abroad. And only one person who has a remote chance to both keep us safe in a dangerous world and make good things happen and give us the space we need to grow and lead the world out of this mess we’re in and all these crazy conflicts that are interfering with you living your future.”
He briefly referenced her Democratic opponent in a positive light, when he said, “she and Senator Sanders are having the most honest, honorable, decent debate about the right steps to take to move this country forward.”
After his remarks, Bill Clinton took off his jacket and spent some time chatting, shaking hands and taking selfies with people in the audience.
Hillary Clinton will be in California in coming days as she continues her campaign to clinch the nomination before the summer Democratic convention in Philadelphia. California is the largest of the state primaries. During the 2008 Presidential primary against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton won in 39 of the 58 counties in California, winning the state with 52 percent of the vote. In the current campaign, she has a substantial number of endorsements from California officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
A former New Yorker, Fran Goldstein now lives in San Diego, where she works as a freelance writer and communications/marketing consultant to a nonprofit organization.