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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Former President Clinton Comes to UC Davis

[Also See Vanguard Exclusive: Former President Clinton Pledges Support to Sodexho Food Service Workers]

Last night Bill Clinton came to the ARC Pavillion at UC Davis to campaign for his wife Hillary, ahead of the California Primary on February 5, 2008. It was a last minute event, that turned out to be highly successful. According to some of the organizers, the Hillary for President campaign had called and asked if they could get 1,000 people to show up at an event with the Former President as the speaker.

Instead, as early at 7 pm, two full hours before the event a crowd wrapped around the entire recreation field waiting to get in. An estimate 7,000 people showed up inside the ARC and another perhaps 2,000 were eventually turned away. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the crowd was that perhaps 90 percent of it was students.

I originally got into the event as a member of the press corps. However, eventually I went with the Sodexho Food Service Workers who were VIPs and able to go into the "Green Seating Area" which gave them access to the behind the stage seating and eventually a personal meeting with the former President himself (see the other article for more details).

The President was introduced by among others, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, Senator Mike Machado, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma from San Francisco, Speaker Fabian Nunez, and Lt. Governor John Garamendi. The special introductions were done by Max Mikalonis, the President of the Davis College Democratic Club, one of the events sponsors and organizers.

The former President showed up his customary 20 minutes late and spoke for upwards of 45 minutes. He himself seemed surprised by how many people showed up. He said he called up Hillary after the debate, and said,
"Hillary there is a line outside this stadium that is four or five football fields long."
Clinton spend a good deal of time talking about themes such as the crunch that the middle class are facing in this country, the lack of job growth in the last eight years opposed to his years on the presidency.

One of the big points he made was the housing crisis where people who took out mortgages in good faith were taken advantage of.

He talked about the America's fall in stature over the last eight years and restoring the trust of the international community.

One of the more important points he made was he felt that in this election--meaning the primary--he was voting for someone--his wife--rather than against someone. He went on to spell out his tremendous respect and personal ties for each of the key challengers. He talked about the service that former Candidate Bill Richardson had served this country both as a cabinet member under him and a Governor. He talked about the service Chris Dodd had given this country as the Senator who sponsored the Family and Medical Leave Act, the first act he signed. He talked about the statesmanship of Joe Biden.

He talked about going to North Carolina to campaign to John Edwards in 1998 and going to Illinois to campaign for Barack Obama in 2004.

He then went on to talk about health care and how important it was that hard working people have access to universal health care. He talked about one of the key failures of his administration, the failure to get universal health care. Pointing out that he was hardly to the first to do so. And that this failure was a failure of Hillary Clinton.

The key he said was not whether you fail, but how you respond to that failure and he listed off a litany of programs that he passed after health care went down that helped out working people in this country. And he made the point that you cannot be afraid to fail. Everyone who attempts to do something will fail at some of their endeavors. You cannot be afraid of failure to the point where you never try to succeed.

Following the speech, the Former President greeted a good portion of the crowd that had swarmed against the barricades, at times threatening to breech those barriers. We were allowed as VIPS to go behind the barricades and wait to meet the President himself. But first we had to wait for the President to sign autographs, shake hands, and take picture with literally hundreds if not thousands of supporters.

Anyone wondering of the strength of the Hillary candidacy amid the enthusiastic throng that got into the ARC needs to reevaluate. If all of these students and young people come out and vote in a few weeks, Hillary Clinton will be in very strong position. If all of these students and many more like them across the nation come out and vote in November, we will see yet another wage of support and a new Democratic President.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting