In the modern world, there are over 7 billion people, 300 million living in the USA, and over 30,000 on UC Davis's campus. Since 1790, there have been 44 presidents of the country, 5 of which are still living. When you hear that the most influential and successful one is coming to your college campus, it's a no-brainer whether or not you are going to miss class to hear him speak.
Tuesday of this week, the 42nd President of the United State Bill Clinton came to UC Davis in Davis, CA to endorse 4 local candidates for Congress, Barack Obama for President, as well as encourage the students to vote in November.
As a member of Davis College Democrats (DCD), I was privileged to be on the stage with the former President. Even though Clinton was the main reason I attended, I was pleased to hear each of the congressional candidates speak. My friend and DCD President Aref Aziz took the stage to welcome Jose Hernandez. He is a running for Congress in the 10th District. I learned he is the son of migrant farm workers, went to school through a master's degree, and became an astronaut. But he made it clear he did not accomplish such a dream without a little help from financial aid, student loans, grants and scholarships. Who better to understand the American dream and represent his district?
Next to take the stage was Dr. Ami Bera, who is running for the congressional seat for the new District 7. His wife graduated from UC Davis and he has worked at the UC Davis Medical School for many years. He too is an amazing example of the success of the American dream, making his way through school with the help of scholarships and lower tuition rates.
Third on stage was Congressman Jerry McNerney from the 11th district. He spoke of his involvement in politics after his son enlisted in the armed forces after the attacks on September 11, 2001. He welcomed Congressman Garamendi and President Bill Clinton to the stage. The crowed, which extended far across the quad, erupted in applause, screams and shouts of "I love you!"
Congressman Garamendi from District 3 kept his speech short and sweet, speaking mainly of Clinton and his presidency. Finally, after a long wait, President Bill Clinton stepped up to the podium, in front of nearly 5,000 people.
The crowd cheered and cheered, far beyond Clinton's attempt to quiet the crowd with his hand gestures. I can't even begin to describe the joy and excitement that came over me, seeing him in the flesh. My voice, body and soul could only cheer. Once he began to speak, it didn't seem real, yet it was happening.
He spoke about each of the candidates and why he was endorsing them. He explained that these four men were compassionate, intelligent and they were necessary for America, the House of Representatives and President Obama.
He referenced some of his more popular points from his speech at the Democratic National Convention with a few added lines regarding the presidential debate from the prior week. His mentioning of the word "arithmetic" received laughter and applause. He also clarified some points from the debate, using facts and, of course, more arithmetic. He criticized Romney's economic plan essentially for the fact that he didn't have one, and if there were a plan, he wasn't sharing it. On the contrary, he praised Obama for posting his economic plan on the internet.
After President Clinton wrapped up his speech, which lasted roughly 30 minutes, he left the stage, removed his jacket, and circled behind him, towards the second stage that we were standing on. Surrounded by secret service, he reached up and started shaking the hands of my friends and classmates. Being in the front row myself, I was able to look him square in the eye and shake his hand. It was completely unbelievable. Following him was each of the congressional candidates. President Clinton walked towards the members of the crowd, shaking nearly every hand reaching out to him.
When the secret service said it was safe to do so, we exited the stage. Those of us in DCD however were informed to move behind the stage, for we had a photo opportunity with Bill Clinton himself. After a few screams and shrieks, we formed in a group and were perfectly posed, so the president could just walk right over. We had one chance for one click, so we had to make it good. He then stopped to shake everyone's hand. That's right; I shook this great man's hand for a second time. While he continued with the rest of the group, there was silence. So I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind.
"Say hi to Hillary for us," I exclaimed, miraculously without stuttering.
"I sure will," he replied, in his famous Arkansas accent. "In fact our anniversary is Thursday."
With this reply, the entire group chimed in with, "Congratulations."
I, a 24-year-old UC Davis Senior, was able to speak to the former President; a dream come true.
That afternoon, the pictures from the event started streaming through Facebook. Here we had the proof that it really happened. The most influential president of my lifetime came to this small community of Davis. My life was impacted forever on that day for the better.
President Bill Clinton faced a lot of trials during his presidency. I was only a child and don't remember much first hand. But I do know that he faced a difficult economy, a national deficit and an unfortunate scandal. However, he managed to leave office with a thriving economy, a national surplus, and his loving wife and daughter at his side. If there is any man's opinion to take to heart, it's his. As a Democratic President, he was able to solve some major problems of the country and make progress on others. His word of endorsement is heavily weighted because of his record. Even before Tuesday, I was more than willing to vote for Dr. Ami Bera for Congress in my district and Barack Obama for President. Now after his endorsement, I can't wait to vote.