By Liz Premo. Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, April 20, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
HAMPTON -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton continued her series of "Conversations With Granite Staters" during a mid-morning stop at Winnacunnet High School over the weekend.
Fresh from being the guest of honor at a house party on Hayden Circle just a couple of hours beforehand, the senator was greeted by hundreds of attendees who gathered in the school's new athletic facility.
Sen. Clinton's visit was coordinated by WHS teacher Kevin Fleming, and was documented by members of the school's yearbook staff, Winnachronicle reporters and media students, who were situated on the press risers to one side of the room.
Clinton was accompanied by a contingent of politically notable women from New Hampshire, including State Senators Martha Fuller Clark and Maggie Hassan, Executive Councilor Bev Hollingworth and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.
Following welcoming remarks ("In the audience today are many people who are looking for a change") by WHS Student Council Vice President, Brenda Shepard the four NH politicians took turns praising the Democratic presidential candidate.
"Hillary Clinton is ready to step in now and take charge," said Fuller Clark. "[She] has the vision of where we need to go. She knows how to stand up and fight for what she believes."
Hassan praised Clinton for being a long-time advocate for children and for "bringing more qualified teachers into the classroom," while Shea-Porter hailed the candidate for "wearing many hats with lots of grace and with lots of dignity."
Claiming that America has been "on the wrong track for the last six years" under the Bush Administration, Shea-Porter said "the country is ready for a change." She then introduced Clinton, who took center stage to plenty of cheering, sign-waving and applause.
During her speech, Sen. Clinton touched on a number of familiar campaign issues, including health care, energy concerns, education, Veterans' affairs and government reform, punctuating her comments with personal memories and anecdotes.
"For the last six years, middle class and working families have been invisible to this president," said Clinton, lamenting the "disregard and indifference" she said the Bush Administration has shown "toward everyday Americans. We have to make it clear we're not invisible." She followed that with a vow that the country's citizens "will not be invisible to me when I am president of the United States."
Noting that in the US there are "47 million uninsured and many millions more than are underinsured," Clinton reiterated her desire to "set a goal for universal health coverage."
"It's not only the morally right thing to do, it's the economically smart thing to do," she said.
With regard to addressing the country's energy demands and evoking then-President Jimmy Carter's efforts to do so three decades ago, Clinton maintained that meeting those demands "can be done in a way that helps the economy," creating both jobs as well as alternative energy sources.
Sen. Clinton emphasized a number of goals she would like to set as president, including "making college affordable again" and "reforming our government," which she lamented has been "of the few, by the few, for the few." She also touched on establishing the Public Service Academy, modeled on military service academies and providing undergrad education that is followed by five years of civilian service to the US.
"I believe we can do it in a bipartisan and even a non-partisan way," she said.
The war in Iraq was also on the list of Clinton's topics of conversation.
"We have to extricate ourselves from Iraq," she said, "[and] reach out in a way that's gentle and authentic," re-establishing the US as a global leader and "bring other countries in to work with us."
Sen. Clinton reminded her audience that "I'm the best qualified person to hit the ground running in 2009," but that she would need some assistance from voters when they head to the polls.
"We're all in this together," she said, "and I need your help."
The town hall-style conversation wrapped up with several questions from the audience. One mother of six asked Sen. Clinton to offer "a special message of hope" to America's younger population.
"It's our obligation to try to make things better for every child," said Clinton. "That's what I believe and that's what I'll do as president."
Still other topics Clinton responded to were directed at fitting mental health care and fighting substance abuse under the umbrella of overall health care ("We've got to get mental health at parity with physical health") and national service organizations such as AmeriCorps/ City Year ("I personally know what a difference your work makes").
After taking comments from a Vietnam Veteran in the audience and pausing to thank him for his military service, Sen. Clinton was asked by a woman in the audience if she had read a 90-page document outlining the case for invading Iraq, based on intelligence that indicated the presence of weapons of mass destruction.
Clinton told the woman that she was "thoroughly briefed of all the details" on the 90-page report.
"Did you read it?" asked the woman, who told Clinton she had posed the same question on several other occasions without apparently getting what she found to be a satisfactory answer.
"I was briefed on it," Clinton reiterated. When the woman further pressed for a response, the Senator told her, "I answered your question," following up by saying that if she knew then what she know now, she would not have given President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq.
This exchange appeared to do little to dampen the enthusiasm of the people who lingered for a chance to meet Sen. Clinton face-to-face and shake her hand at the conclusion of her latest "Conversation With Granite Staters."
Clinton attended another house party that evening in Portsmouth, before jetting back to New York to finish out the weekend with no scheduled campaign events until Monday afternoon in New Jersey.