As dusk fell Tuesday, Oct. 6, lights illuminated the front of college hall, and every so often a voice would echo around campus as the speaker systems were tested in preparation for Hillary Clinton’s visit to Cornell. While Cornell is no stranger to political visits, this was the first visit by a presidential candidate this electoral season, and so there was a lot buzz around campus since the announcement late in the first week of Block 2.
Students began lining up on the Ped Mall early Wednesday morning, while others who were unable to attend her speech took round-about ways to class since the Ped Mall from Law Hall to College Hall had been cordoned off to create a perimeter for Clinton’s speech. As a former First Lady and Secretary of State, Clinton has permanent Secret Service, and as such College Hall was closed and classrooms in Law Hall facing the speech area had to close their blinds.
As the sun come over the top of College Hall, cheers of “Madam President” and “Hillary Clinton” echoed across campus. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles announced the entrance of Clinton as she took to the stage, introduced by Sophie Meads (19), a member of the Students for Hillary group on campus.
Clinton praised Meads for her courage in stepping up to speak in front of her fellow students and members of the faculty and community who attended the speech.
“This election is more about you students here at Cornell College than your parents or grandparents,” said Clinton, acknowledging that the future of the country rests in the hands of the current college generation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, only 15.4% of the population aged 18-29 actually voted, and as the population that has the most power to affect the results of a presidential election, many candidates are focusing much of their campaign on college students.
Clinton announced her plans to make public college tuition free, and to cut the inflated interest rates on college loans for students attending private school, to much applause from the audience members.
“I know that we can do a better job, and my plan, the new College Contract, says that you should not have to pay tuition at a community or public school, and if you go to a private school, you should be able to get the lowest possible interest rates,” said Clinton, noting that it is sometimes less expensive to refinance a home mortgage or auto loan than to pay back student debts.
One of Clinton’s major points is putting emphasis back onto education, especially at the elementary school levels, because many young children from lower-class families do not often have the chance to get the stimulation that students from upper-class families receive, putting them at a disadvantage when entering the public school system.
“The core of my campaign is to make it possible for every child and student in America to live up to their full potential,” said Clinton, noting that it is time for America to start setting big goals again for how the country should progress into the future.
In addition to talking about education, Clinton discussed addressing the wage gap between men and women, working towards achieving civil rights for the LGBTQ community, immigration reform, and addressing the mental health care situation in the United States.
She talked a lot about her new granddaughter, and said, “You shouldn’t have to be the granddaughter of a president, or secretary of state, to realize all that America can do for you…I want to know what kind of country [my granddaughter] is going to become an adult in.”
After her speech, Clinton devoted about half an hour to questions from audience members, and several students were able to ask her questions from everything from campaign financing, to job security for fine arts education, to nuclear disarmament. After the Q&A session, students had the opportunity to meet Clinton and get a selfie or two with the former secretary of state.
Cornell College does not endorse any candidate seeking elected office or any political party. The college does support critical thinking and analysis of political candidates and how to become civically engaged in the American democratic process.
Sidebar: “Here I am…asking you to vote me for president, the first women president of the United States,” said Clinton.
Hannah Robertson, News Editor
Featured image text:
Sophie Meads (19)introduces Hillary Clinton to the stage in front of College Hall
Source: Mehrdad Zarifka