“If you will fight and work for me for the next 10 days, I will fight and work for you for the next six years in the United States Senate,” First Lady and Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton told a cheering crowd on the Agriculture Quad Saturday morning.
Hundreds of students turned out for the event despite the early hour and near-freezing temperature. The musical group Nine Days, local democratic politicians, First Daughter Chelsea Clinton and actor Ben Affleck were also on hand for the candidate’s visit.
The event was co-sponsored by the Cornell Democrats and the Tompkins County Democratic Party. TCDP Chair Irene Stein introduced Clinton, calling her “a woman of dignity, commitment and energy” whose “commitment to the people [of New York] is long and deep.”
“The excitement in the air was tremendous as people both young and old could not wait for the First Lady to take the stage,” said Josh Roth ’03, publicity officer for the Cornell Democrats. “Mrs. Clinton’s speech captivated the audience as she spoke about issues that really matter to students, such as making college tuition tax deductible and reaffirming the American dream of great opportunity for all.”
Assemblyman Marty Luster (D-125th) jokingly welcomed Clinton to the “land of permafrost” and told the audience members that “we need your help to elect Hillary Clinton the next U.S. Senator from New York.”
Affleck joined Clinton on stage amid squeals and cheers, prompting the First Lady to later quip that “I think there are a few of Ben’s friends and admirers in this crowd.”
“I think that who we send to the Senate is an enormously important decision,” Affleck said. “Since [Republican senate candidate] Rick Lazio was running around the frat house … Hillary Clinton has been a friend of children.”
Affleck said that although he has not always lived in New York, like Clinton, he now considers himself a true New Yorker. Clinton’s supporters also emphasized that she has visited every county in the state during her campaign. Saturday marked her second visit to Cornell this year.
Affleck urged college students, especially women, to choose Clinton as their next senator.
Clinton further stressed “how important it is that [New York college students] get out and vote,” adding that “By not voting, you are in a sense casting a vote.”
“New York has more potential and promise and opportunity than most places in the world,” Clinton said.
Clinton also discussed her plans for education reforms, saying that “there isn’t any more important obligation from one generation to the next than providing a good quality education.”
She proposed a tax deduction for college tuition and discussed her idea for a “teacher corps” in which college students would agree to work as teachers in needy schools for four years in exchange for a full college scholarship.
“It’s so important that we have money to invest in making our schools better,” she said. “The public education system needs that kind of attention, and I know one of our biggest challenges is whether we will have qualified teachers, because right now, we are not attracting and keeping our teachers.”
Following the speech, Roth said that a member of the crowd approached him to say that he was now going to vote for Clinton.
“This person was going to vote for Lazio prior to attending the rally,” Roth said. “He said that many of the issues Hillary mentioned resonated well with him and he was impressed with the delivery and sincerity of her speech.”
But most Lazio supporters who attended were undeterred in their support for Clinton’s opponent.
“I came out to show that [Republicans] have a presence on campus and that there are people here at Cornell who support Rick Lazio,” said Tom Gilmore grad, a member of the College Republicans.
“[The College Republicans] just wanted to come out and show support for Rick Lazio, to show that there is a good contingent of people on the other side of this issue who support Lazio at Cornell,” said Jessica King ’02.
“First of all, [Lazio] is a New Yorker, so he understands the opinions of New Yorkers better,” King said. “I really believe in him and his ability more than I do hers. But I think anybody who is politically-minded should be listening to both sides to make an informed decision.”
Still, many Cornellians, especially women, said they felt Clinton’s words resonated well with them.
“I’m very pro-women’s issues and pro-feminism, and I think Hillary is a very strong presence for women,” Kristie Weisz ’03 said.
“I listened to [Hillary Clinton] speak last semester in Barton Hall, and I thought she had a lot of good points, especially about women’s issues,” Elaine Brooks ’02 said. “I think she’d made a great senator and I just wanted to hear more of what she had to say.”
Still, there were other reasons to attend the rally.
“As a senior, I thought it was about time to take advantage of everything Cornell has to offer, including Ben Affleck,” Laura Lipman ’01 said, admitting that she was among the students who were drawn by the star power of the event.
Archived article by Katherine Davis