Bill Clinton rallies for wife Hillary in Winter Park
Standing in front of a crowd of almost 1,500 people inside a packed gymnasium at Rollins College, former President Bill Clinton declared, "I think it would be a good thing to have a woman president.”
Clinton spoke at a rally Monday night, less than 24 hours before the end of Florida's primary, to garner support for his wife Hillary before the polls are due to close on Tuesday.
Before the speaking began, a live band pumped up the crowd while playing a selection of classic rock hits, including the Neil Diamond classic “Sweet Caroline,” which half the attendees unabashedly belted out.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer introduced Clinton, speaking about the historic importance that Florida, and specifically Central Florida and the 1-4 corridor, has played in past elections.
“This is the I-4 corridor. This is where presidencies are won or lost ... We are the firewall,” Dyer said.
Clinton took the stage to tremendous applause. His voice was hoarse from a long day of campaigning, and it took him a few minutes to find a microphone loud enough for his voice. Once he did, he immediately jumped into a monologue about his wife’s political platform and policies.
He also emphasized Florida’s importance in the presidential election process.
“Florida has always seemed to me to be a place of the future,” he said. “A place of tomorrow. Constantly changing, constantly vibrant.”
He addressed bringing back manufacturing from overseas and revitalizing the country’s infrastructure.
As soon as he touched on the idea of enhancing the country’s solar and wind power, the crowd roared its approval.
He also emphasized there “has actually been a decline in the number of undocumented Mexicans” entering the country.
“If you’re going to shoot at someone, you might as well have the right target,” Clinton said, a remark that could be seen as a jab at the proposed plan to build a wall along the Mexican border promoted by Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
He then proceeded to discuss those issues directly affecting college students, who made up much of the crowd. He said that Hillary Clinton would work to make college affordable for everyone and that a new system would be put in place to combat student debt, which he pointed out is the only type of debt that can’t be refinanced.
“Tell me about it,” one man yelled from the crowd.
Clinton said student debt should be treated more like a home loan, where students would have more flexibility about the percentage of their income they pay back at given times.
Clinton said that Hillary also plans to work for people serving time in prison.
“It’s time to let these young people start again. We need to bring more people into the workforce,” he said, explaining that Hillary plans to introduce more education, training and job placement programs with regulations about job discrimination for former inmates.
Hillary wouldn’t only fight for a ban on job discrimination for convicts, but also for members of the LGBT community, Clinton said.
“We can’t have people getting married on Friday and getting fired on Monday,” he said, garnering cheers from the crowd.
One of the biggest hits with supporters was the topic of gun control. Clinton highlighted the need for people to find ways to work together without the need for a wake-up call provided by tragic gun violence, like the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.
“We just ought to be able to protect these kids,” he said. “I mean, it’s crazy not to.”
He ended his address by talking about how Hillary has reached across the aisle several times throughout her career to gain bipartisan support for many important issues, such as the foster care system.
He said too often people get caught up in their differences, even though science has proven that all humans are 99.5 percent the same, genetically.
“We’re all 99.5 percent the same, but we spend 99.5 percent of our time worrying about the .5 percent difference,” Clinton said.
But Hillary, he said, is “the best change maker I’ve ever known.”
“Even more important than her qualifications, even more important than being the first woman president, what matters to you is who will bring more positive change to America more quickly,” he said.
It’s this positive change that supporters said is the reason they’re voting for Hillary.
“I appreciate she’s making an effort to talk to all people,” said Katie DeHart, a UCF alumna who attended the rally.
Although she is a registered independent, DeHart came to the rally to learn more about Hillary and her policies. She added that she admired Hillary for supporting “all levels.”
DeHart’s friend, Orlando resident Judi Hayes, agreed. She said that Hillary “gets it” and that she does a lot for working families.
“She’s the most qualified candidate in the field,” Hayes said.
Sam Wall, a student at Rollins College, came to the rally wearing a Bernie Sanders T-shirt, but said that if Hillary won the Democratic nomination, he would definitely vote for her.
“Hillary can change sometimes,” he said. “[Sanders] has been fighting the same fight his entire political career.”
He said that he didn’t like that Hillary changed her position on same-sex marriage and that her campaign is sponsored by large corporations, but if it came down to it in the general election, he would vote for her over likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“She scares me, but not as much as Trump,” Wall said.
Currently, a recent poll numbers from CNN is projecting that Hillary Clinton will beat rival Bernie Sanders by a wide margin in Florida. The same poll predicts that Donald Trump will beat his Republican rivals in the Sunshine State.
Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.