Former president Bill Clinton spoke on a wide range of issues at the Jacksonville Public Library Thursday, including Hillary Clinton’s plans to create jobs through infrastructure, combat student debt, reform the criminal justice system and facilitate health care expansion.
“We love Hillary,” said Alexis Peterson, a local nonprofit worker standing in line with her friend Kjelsie. “We work for a nonprofit dedicated to helping women and girls succeed, and I know she’ll support our organization.”
Campaign staff counted 1,170 people, with around 400 inside and more than 500 waiting outside. The group inside was a mix of students, senior citizens and children.
Before Clinton’s appearance, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and former DNC Chair and Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke about the importance of Florida as a swing state, encouraging people to get out and vote.
“The next 18 days are critical,” said Wasserman Schultz, who resigned as DNC chair in July after emails revealed she may have sabotaged the Bernie Sanders campaign. Duval is a historically red area, with the last Democratic president elected county-wide being Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Met with cheers and applause, Bill Clinton got the audience laughing with jokes about baseball before reviewing Hillary’s accomplishments as a U.S. senator and as secretary of state.
Two protesters disrupted his speech, but it didn’t affect the rally.
“I thought it was one of the highest energy rallies I have ever been to,” said UNF student Clare Stern. “I have been to four presidential rallies for both Democratic and Republican nominees, and I thought it was also the most diverse rally out of all of them.”
Two other topics Clinton talked about were immigration reform and student debt forgiveness.
“We have the youngest, most diverse workforce in the world,” Clinton said, later mentioning the statement Hillary made earlier in the week about most illegal immigrants paying taxes. “Inclusion is a good national security policy.”
Clinton highlighted his belief that America’s diversity is a source of strength, but student debt is holding many young Americans back. Under Hillary’s plan, students would be able to payback their loans as a small fixed percentage of their income tax and receive debt forgiveness after ten years.
Continuing his theme of economic revival, the former president explained that in the last year, two-thirds of new jobs came from small businesses. He said Hillary wants to make it easier for small businesses to get loans to boost the economy.
Transitioning to infrastructure, Clinton said there are communities across America being affected by high lead levels in water like Flint, Michigan, that would benefit from new aqua-structure. Hillary announced her five-year $275 billion dollar infrastructure investment plan earlier this year and according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, every $1 billion in
infrastructure investment creates 13,000 jobs.
“Building infrastructure in Florida means making coastal communities less vulnerable to climate change,” he said to the cheer of younger crowd members. The older crowd perked up when Clinton said “people 55 and up should be able to buy into Medicaid.”
Clinton also spoke about the necessity of body cameras, better de-escalation training for police officers and voiced support for stronger background checks on gun buyers.
Jumping from the Iranian Nuclear deal, to her plan to build more comprehensive mental health facilities, Clinton spoke with admiration for his wife and presidential candidate.
“She’s made everything she’s ever touched better,” he said.
After leaving Jacksonville, he finished the “Stronger Together” bus tour through Florida by visiting Panama City and Pensacola.
Early voting in Florida begins in many counties on Monday.
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