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By Jane Smith
Bertie Tullis of Saegertown was sitting in a lawn chair Saturday before 10 a.m. on the lawn behind the Patricia Bush Tippie Alumni Center of Allegheny College.
She was waiting to experience what thousands of others did Saturday — an historic event in Crawford County: A speech by a former president of the United States.
In this case it was Bill Clinton.
It is only the second time in recent history — if ever — that a former president spoke in Crawford County. The first was the late Gerald Ford when he was keynote speaker at a Meadville Area Chamber of Commerce dinner in 1983.
“I like him. He was a great president,” said Tullis of Clinton and why she was at the scene three hours ahead of the scheduled time.
Clinton arrived on time to greet the estimated more than 1,800 persons who stood in the hot weather to hear him promote his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, as the better nominee for president.
It was clear from the start that the former president had done his homework before coming to the college and Crawford County. “This is the birthplace of the direct primary,” he said, noting “direct primaries are good.” He said they get “more democratic with a small d and a large D.”
Eleven thousand people have voted for delegates in a primary versus 2,200 in caucuses, he said. “You should be proud to have given birth to that right here.”
Clinton talked about Allegheny College joining as a partner in his foundation for energy conservation. “We are working with colleges and universities all over America,” he said, noting they produce 6 percent of the gas emissions. One reason is many of the buildings are older and use a lot of energy. Energy use is high because of the many dormitories and computer labs and buildings open 24 hours a day.
Hillary Clinton’s plan would retrofit the buildings to reduce the energy consumption, thus reducing costs for universities. At the same time, it would create construction jobs and would “give the power back to the electric companies.”
“I’m asking you to vote for Hillary in Pennsylvania’s primary,” said the former president. Explaining his reasons, he said, “The economy is down the tank,” referring to today’s economic situation compared to when he left office seven years ago. “The middle class is under enormous stress; poverty is up, wages are flat,” he continued.
In addition, he said families are paying $450 more a year for gas and $250 more for food a year compared to seven years ago. Health-care costs have increased and 1.2 million homeowners are out on the streets (because of mortgage foreclosures).
We’ve gone “from the American dream to the American nightmare,” he said, noting the median income rose $7,500 in the 1990s. Today, after factoring in the inflation rate, the median family income is $1,000 less. “This deal is not working.”
He outlined his wife’s plans for health care insurance to cover everybody, how to balance the budget, improve education, enforce trade agreements to eliminate trade deficit and end the war in Iraq.
He said one reason the trade agreements are not enforced are that the top four countries which the country has the highest trade deficits are China, Japan, South Korea and one of the oil countries. It is the same four that the United States owes the most money.
Hillary also wants more support for stem cell research, citing such diseases or conditions as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism as examples of what causes research may be able to help identify.
Turning to foreign relations, Clinton said, “The real problem with the Bush administration in addition to the Iraq war,” is the “signal to the world” that America will do what it wants and will be “judged by a different standard.”
On the issue of ending the war, the president said without a timetable, nobody does anything until they have to. Hillary’s position is that after five years, 4,000 deaths and 70,000 wounded soldiers in the war, it’s time to give Iraq a date to assume their government operations.
“As soon as they know we are going to leave, they will start to make their decisions,” he said, noting there are only two decisions to be made — how to divide the oil money and how to share the political power.
In closing, he said he asked his wife how she would know if she were a good president when it was over. She answered, “America is better when I quit; young people have a better future,” and the nation is together “instead of being torn apart.”
“She changed our lives,” he said of many messages given to him by the many things his wife has done — from education to help for veterans to help for firefighters in New York City after Sept. 11.
Using the theme that Hillary is one who can be a “better change maker,” he asked those in attendance to vote on Tuesday. “Pennsylvania can help her do it,” he said as the crowd cheered and applauded.
“I thought it was great; he was great. I really think his wife would be a great president,” a smiling Tullis said, giving a brief review after the speech. “He came up with a plan like Hillary has for the economy.” It was Tullis’s first ever political event and she happy she had taken the time to go.
Jane Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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