Clinton Welcome

Washington & Jefferson College, home of the Presidents, proudly welcomes a former president, William Jefferson Clinton, to our campus.

I want to thank Representative Tim Solobay, who called me on Saturday morning to arrange this visit.  Unfortunately, he could not be with us today because there are some important votes concerning health care and other matters being held in Harrisburg today.  So, he is doing what a representative should do, representing his constituency.  Representative Jesse White also sends his greetings from Harrisburg.

I also want to thank my staff who worked closely with the Clinton team over the past few days to prepare for this event: the many physical plant workers headed by Jim Miller, the security staff led by Chief Ed Cochran and joined by members of the Washington and East Washington police forces, Associate VP Denny McMaster, Terese Fielder from conferences and events, and our communications staff headed by Mary Beth Ford and Bob Reid.  I also want to thank Kristen Schuh and the College Democrats who volunteered today to help with this event.

This is the thirteenth time that a president, president-elect or former president has spoken at W&J. Since we were on the National Road, we were fortunate to have several presidents travel to this college during their term in office.  The first was James Monroe in 1817, who came here to "explore the West."  He was followed by Ulysses S. Grant, who made two trips-in 1869 and then in 1871, then Benjamin Harrison in 1892, Warren G. Harding in 1922, and most recently John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Three presidents-elect, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, and Zachary Taylor, came through on the way to their inaugurations.  We've also had our share of former presidents, hosting John Q. Adams, William Howard Taft, Harry Truman, and Richard Nixon.  The last presidential ticket contender on campus was Dick Cheney in 2004.

And today we welcome William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, to W&J.

I am delighted to offer an opportunity to the students, staff, and faculty of W&J as well as to the people of this region to hear about the issues as the Clinton campaign sees them. This is one of the most important elections I have witnessed in my lifetime, in terms of both domestic and foreign affairs.  It is crucial that all voters study the candidates and their stands carefully.

Our democracy is built upon the assumption of an educated electorate.  In fact, Washington & Jefferson Colleges were founded as the first Colleges west of the Alleghenies in order to educate the teachers and preachers, farmers and financiers, who would be the foundation of the American nation as it spread westward.

Today we continue the tradition of higher education ensuring that our democracy is strong by providing a place where important issues can be aired and discussed.

I hope that this rally will be the first of many political conversations in this community, arguing the issues from all sides. A discussion in which we listen carefully to one another, try to understand opposing points of view, so that together we can make wise decisions when we go to the ballot box.

Clinton02I was drawn to W&J because it is the kind of college that supports this kind of important conversation.  When I was a candidate for the college presidency four years ago, in the fall when the Kerry-Bush contest had turned viciously negative, I met two young male students who introduced themselves as the two most politically active students on campus, one the most conservative and the other the most liberal-and they were roommates.  "Do you watch the televised debates together?" I asked.  "No," they assured me, they watched the debates in different rooms.  But they did argue the issues all the time-and you could see them doing so in the cafeteria-arguing and arguing.  I asked one of them, "Do you think you will ever convince your roommate of your point of view?" "No," he said, "but I have to keep trying because I respect him."  I knew then that this was a college where I wanted to be, that this was a college that helped to keep American democracy strong.

The nature of today's event is a rally, not a debate, and you will hear mostly from one candidate, but listen closely.  Other candidates have also been invited to campus in order to further enrich our conversation.  Whether they come here to address us in person or not, I urge you to learn about their positions as well.  Weigh them with what you hear today and make the best possible decision you can not only for yourself but also for your children and grandchildren when you vote on April 22 in the Pennsylvania primary and again on November 4.

Washington & Jefferson College cannot and does not endorse any particular candidate or party, but we do strongly endorse the importance of education to the process of American Democracy.

Thank you all for coming today and for engaging in this crucial national conversation.

Tori Haring-Smith