An energetic crowd awaited the New York senator’s appearance as aides distributed signs that read “UCSB for Hillary” and “Clinton Country.”
With excitement mounting, attendees rehearsed their cheers in anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s arrival. Although campaign coordinators initially estimated her appearance at 6:45 p.m., with a late departure from the Burbank Airport, Clinton would not show until after 8:00 p.m.
The restless crowd visibly reacted to every figure that emerged from backstage.
Finally, the curtains parted. This time it was no false alarm – the much-anticipated senator and presidential candidate emerged in front of an American flag to deafening cheers and assumed her place on the platform.
Students scrambled to their feet to catch a glimpse of what most had only previously observed on CNN.
Shoulder-to-shoulder with professional photographers, students thrust their camera phones forward to frantically snap pictures of the politician as though she were a rock star.
When the initial chaos briefly subsided, Associated Students President Stephanie Brower took the microphone to introduce the reason for the commotion.
“She’s taken time from her grueling campaign to meet with the students of UCSB,” Brower said. “UCSB students not only have a lot of fun, they are engaged in the world. We have the highest per capita of registered voters of any university in the United States.”
And with that, Clinton took hold of the microphone.
“This election is going to determine so much about your future,” Clinton said. “In this election, you have people running for office who just talk at you, but I want to have a dialogue. Let’s have a conversation. That’s what I’ve been saying from the start.”
Clinton’s opening speech continued to center on the future. She tailored her speech to the venue’s youthful voters, playing on her vision of the world 25 years into the future.
“In 25 years, students will look at each other and ask, ‘What is an uninsured American?'” Clinton said. “They won’t understand how 47 million Americans were uninsured.”
Her opening comments also addressed another salient concern with the war in Iraq. She promised to do what she said the Bush administration has consistently failed to do – plan.
Central to her strategy would be America’s announcement of its troop withdrawal, thus pushing the Iraqi government to take increasing responsibility. However, Clinton stressed an equal responsibility to care for both Iraqi citizens and America’s returning veterans.
“As soon as I’m inaugurated, I am committed to bring troops home within 60 days,” Clinton said.
Clinton also took jabs at the current administration, drawing waves of laughter from the audience.
“Every time I think I cannot be outraged by the Bush administration anymore…” Clinton said amidst the crowd’s encouraging cries. “I’d yell at my TV set. You couldn’t write this stuff. I mean, the vice president shoots someone in the face?”
Meanwhile, outside the venue, students had begun staking out places in line as early as 10 a.m. in order to witness the first appearance of a 2008 presidential candidate at UCSB. As the gates were opened, students resorted to a variety of desperate measures in order to gain entry to the exclusive event. Some broke out of line, others cut their way to the front and some even attempted to buy their way into the event.
A Conversation with Hillary
Following her speech, Clinton opened the floor for a town hall-style event with questions from the audience.
A student stood and inquired why Clinton believed she would provide better leadership than Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Clinton said although she respects Obama, she believes he would be too willing to let others manage the government.
“I see the presidency differently than he does,” Clinton said. “I think the president needs to run the country and control the economy. He doesn’t think it’s the president’s job to manage the government.”
After the event, second-year business economics major Bianca Walterspiel said Clinton’s defense of her candidacy had successfully persuaded her of Clinton’s capabilities as a head of state.
“Part of the reason why I came here was to decide between Hillary and Obama,” Walterspiel said. “When she said that she would be a leader of the government as opposed to Obama, who would delegate his duties, I was convinced.”
When the question of offering amnesty to illegal immigrants was broached, Clinton outlined a detailed plan of action involving tighter border security, a crackdown on companies who employ illegal immigrants and providing federal aid to assist the state of California and jobs to alleviate unemployment in immigrants’ home countries.
Clinton then espoused the view that every great generation has developed innovative new fields that created new jobs for the American people. She suggested to the crowd that this generation’s focus should be on developing clean energy and combating global warming, consequently creating a new employment sector of “green-collar jobs.”
However, some attendees such as fourth-year exchange student Steffen Krumwiede, felt that Clinton did not provide the audience with enough comprehensive responses for all subjects of inquiry.
“It’s typical campaign riffing,” Krumwiede said. “She’s not going into enough details. She only went into detail for immigration.”
During the evening, Clinton also answered questions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, outsourcing jobs, the role of young voters and the future of social security.
She lingered afterwards, shaking hands and signing autographs with five Secret Service agents constantly at her side.
-Travis Miller and Benjamin Gottlieb contributed to this article.