Approximately 500 individuals filled Coats Campus Center, and many more were left waiting outside, to hear Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, speak.
On May 5, 2016, Clinton visited Central Oregon Community college to speak in support of his wife Hillary Clinton, democratic presidential candidate.
Clinton repeatedly mentioned breaking down a wide variety of obstacles to shared prosperity.
“You have got to tear down these barriers, every conceivable barrier,” Clinton said.
In order to break these barriers, you need to raise incomes, and there needs to be a national investment in infrastructure, according to Clinton. These changes would include the push for affordable housing, a wider broadband network, and a vast restructure of the current electric power network in the United States.
As solar power panels become increasingly affordable, Clinton wishes to place them on everyone’s roof. The focus on infrastructure would not only create jobs within the U.S., but also make the U.S. a cleaner, happier place to live, according to Clinton.
One of the largest barriers is the collection of biases toward large corporations at the expense of the people, according to Clinton. These biases include a low federal minimum wage, large corporate tax breaks, and a mass outsourcing of jobs to countries where labor is cheaper.
“Corporations are not people. I don’t care what the supreme court says,” Clinton said.
Clinton spoke about the many young people incarcerated for nonviolent crimes and mentioned that Hillary supports releasing these inmates, creating effective prison rehabilitation programs, and spending the money saved on education.
Clinton also emphasized increasing small business loans, and a restructure of the current student loan system. He believes taking these steps allows the United States to grow upward.
“America doesn’t work without widely shared prosperity,” Clinton explained.
Jason Burge, chair of the Deschutes County Democratic Committee and introductory speaker, believes that there is a lot of political interest in Deschutes County, and that the democratic party in the area will become a big player in the political process.
“We encourage everyone to get aware of the issues and vote,” Burge said.
Bernie Sanders supporters gathered across the street from Coats Campus Center to peacefully protest Clinton’s arrival.
Drinda Bell, 63 said she supports Sanders because his ideals have not changed since he began his political journey. She likened protesting and canvassing for Sanders to fighting for her country.
“Hillary has strings, strings attached to big banks and Wall Street. There are no strings on Bernie Sanders. He is transparent,” Bell said.
“Billionaires can’t buy Bernie,” added Ben Watts, 22 of Bend, who also commented on Sanders’ honesty and transparency.
“Something that is very important to us as citizens when we consider voting for candidate is honesty and integrity. In this election, it is undoubtedly Bernie Sanders,” said Bernie supporter, Bev Schelegel, 25.
Not all Bernie supporters were against Clinton’s visit.
“We’re not protesting. We’re supporting,” said Bernie supporter, Delphine Fieberg, as she stood in line with her son Kai. Both believe that Bernie is the best fit for their futures, but they attended today’s rally to understand the different views each candidate has so that they are able to hear every side of the debate.
Married couple J.D. Horn and Rich Weissman are excited about a female candidate coming this far in the presidential race. Weissman mentioned that they would love to have their two daughters see a female President, even if that means pulling the “woman card.”
They also touched on Hillary’s ability to run the country, saying that they believe she has an incredible track record and that she hasn’t been hiding on the sidelines during critical issues.
“Hillary supporters would support Bernie. I hope Bernie supporters would do the same,” said a local woman who wished to remain anonymous. She also mentioned her support for Hillary’s focus on women’s rights, women’s health and reproductive health.
For some students, their attendance today was to learn more about Clinton’s beliefs and ideas for their future in this country. Unsure of who they are wanting to vote for, they hoped to become more informed about Clinton’s political ideals.
“I am attending today because I am curious to see and hear firsthand what the Clinton campaign stands for and what Hillary plans to do in office. Plus, it is exciting to see a former president in person,” said COCC student Alicia Welbourn, 19.
Local high school student Lyle Jarvis shares this same sentiment.
“It’s an opportunity to become educated about what Hillary plans to do in office,” said Jarvis.
Faculty were excited about Clinton’s visit, and what the visit could mean for students.
Director of Student Life Andrew Davis said, “It’s a pretty cool opportunity to have an ex-president visit and speak. It’s good to get students thinking about the democratic process.”
“The fact that a former president with so much knowledge about the country is visiting makes this a very exciting time for COCC, especially with the primary coming up,” said COCC President Shirley Metcalf.
ASCOCC President, Connor Westover, had the same attitude.
“It was special to have a former United States President visit our campus,” Westover said. He expressed the importance of getting everyone into the same room and talking about the issues.
Clinton expressed that Hillary is the only candidate “who is going to help build a future.”
A country should solve issues in the same way a community college does. It should be inclusive, flexible, and allow everyone to thrive, according to Clinton.
“That’s what you want, a country that works like a community college, and she [Hillary Clinton] will give it to you,” Clinton concluded.
The primary election will be held in Oregon on Tuesday, May 17.
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