This is the first installment of a three-part series covering Bill Clinton’s visit to TAMIU and related topics.
Story and photos by I.M. Kero.
Texas A&M International University was given the historic honor of having former President Bill Clinton speak at a campaign rally to an audience of students, professors, general public, and other faculty. The event took place on February 22 at the Kinesiology and Convocation Building during the afternoon. Clinton came to campaign for his wife as she continues to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
The days leading to the event were relatively odd. At first, there wasn’t any confirmation that the event was actually happening. Later, messages were sent to faculty members, which eventually trickled down to the students. However, prior to the event, there were not any actual promotions or advertisements for the event. Despite this, turnout was relatively strong as many professors cancelled their morning and afternoon classes in order for them and students to attend. Though not the massive crowds seen in other presidential campaign rallies, this one did manage to accommodate most of the space allotted for the public.
Before Clinton was presented to the podium, a few local figures spoke. First, Tamiu President Dr. Ray Keck provided an introduction to mark the historic day. Then, Student Body President Joshua Llamas eloquently rallied TAMIU students to vote on Election Day and encouraged their political participation generally. Finally, the Honorable Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28th district), who hails from Laredo and has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, spoke in favor of Hillary’s candidacy as well as Webb County’s previous support for Bill Clinton. When he was finished, Cuellar had the honor of presenting Clinton to the podium.
The undeniable public speaking skills of Bill Clinton were evident at the rally. Clinton spoke with his understanding and clear tone that he is known for. The points he put across and how he supported his claims were accessible to the entire audience. His remarks were akin to a research paper complete with citations. In comparison to the regular sound bites heard from the actual candidates, these were ones of presidential experience.
Clinton began his speech praising the efforts of President Obama. Though defeating his wife in the 2008 primaries, Clinton was a key benefactor for Barack Obama in his 2012 re-election. Much of the introduction was his praise for Webb County’s support for him during the 90s, and the state’s policies on clean energy.
Talking to students, he took no time to bringing up the concerns on college debt. Most students in TAMIU rely on Federal Financial Aid or take out student loans to pay off their tuition. He stated that his wife would work to ease the strain of debt by lowering interest rates. He also spoke of investing in education to increase Pell Grants and aim for free tuition.
Concerning economics, Clinton took time to highlight the economic recession of 2008-09, and spoke how his wife’s economic policies would best be suited for today. He also stated plans for an economy that worked for the natural environment and a future with more manufacturing jobs for advanced technologies. He expressed a message that college graduates should be able to propose and invent new ideas and product with the doubt and strain of college debt. He made note that college graduates should be able to start or work in small businesses without the same issues stated before. Clinton noted that the success in the economy during his presidency was due to his policy of working from the ground with the middle and lower classes and then work its way up to support the top. He then emphasized that his wife would do similar efforts as president. The two remaining Democratic candidates having been basing much of their platforms on the economy. Clinton expressed that his policies on inclusive economic were the ones his wife would implement. It would be one where stimulus would focus from the bottle while regulation occurred on the top allowing for growth.
Clinton did express the concerns of spending. During his presidency, the federal budget was balanced and remains one of his notable achievements. Clinton promoted a plan to arrange spending where it come to bi-partisan agreement. Much of the plan would be to invest in education and prison reform. These policies currently being sought by the White House. Keeping the demogrpahic of Laredo and TAMIU in mind, he made strong accounts how spending would be better spent on students than a divisive wall. Though he did not call him by name, as many public figures have been doing, Clinton mainly expressed discern towards GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump visited Laredo on a “Border Tour” in July 2015.
Following on that notion, Clinton spoke on immigration reform. Though indirectly, Mr. Clinton was not in favor of the deportation raids currently ordered by President Obama. He mainly took aim towards Trump, but his expression towards the mass government-forced deportation from both parties was not expectable, was not something his wife would continue or support. He noted that immigration reform was necessary, but not one that was destructive towards families and minorities.
His wife’s experience in international relations was duly noted. He informed the audience of Hillary Clinton’s success while Secretary of State. He noted that she worked with the Republican congress to pass legislation against some of the US current headaches with Russia, China, and Iran. Though sometimes overshadowed by that bad day in Benghazi, Hillary Clinton has been polled favorably on topic such as foreign affairs and defeating ISIS. On that point, Clinton did not speak heavily on Global War on Terror. The current administration in looking to close the curtain on this fifteen year conflict. His wife has debated not to use methods seen in the past decade such as full invasion and the use of ground troops.
Alongside the many key points, there was partisanship in some issues concerning the recent dilemma in having the president appoint a new Supreme Court judge. Also he highlighted the other main views seen from the Democratic Party such as clean energy and climate change. What differed in Clinton’s speech was how his wife, as president, would make progress through bi-partisanship during these very polarizing times. This was something also championed during Clinton’s presidency. He noted that his wife would follow and work with Republicans to unite the country rather than divide it. However, this is all too similar to what President Obama has said in the past seven years, and polarization still increased between the two parties. Hillary Clinton has mainly been continuing the husband image of moderate liberalism. This is different in comparison to her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, who has received much support with his more leftist views.
Overall, Clinton’s visit to TAMIU will not be long forgotten. He was the first president to come to visit this university. Unfortunately, his time here was brief, and even most unfortunately was the fact that his wife, the actual presidential candidate, was not in attendance. However, Hillary Clinton will likely be in Texas in for the upcoming Texas Primary. Will she be in Laredo where the Democratic Party is favored? That is still up for question. Considering the City of Laredo and many border cities have been political punching bags mainly towards the conservatives, having Clinton here makes Democratic and millennial voters, in the state that mainly votes red, are not forgotten.