Ending their set with the 2001 No. 1 hit “The Middle,” rock band Jimmy Eat World – a group that got its own start nearby in Mesa – was charged with opening a political rally late Wednesday night in the open air of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.
But it was the presence of another “rock star” of sorts that took center stage on this night: former President Bill Clinton.
“It’s not everyday you get to introduce a rock star like President Bill Clinton,” said Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general and current democratic candidate for Arizona’s lone U.S. Senate seat open this election season. Clinton was on hand to show support for Carmona’s campaign.
After the former president walked on stage, he was greeted like a rock star when he said, “I just want to say I love ASU.”
Cheers erupted from the crowd as Clinton mentioned his stops in Tempe while on his own campaign trail for the presidency in 1992 and 1996.
“I’m a huge Clinton fan,” said Roberta Hanson, a 49-year-old account manager from Phoenix. “I’m here for both Clinton and Carmona.”
The main theme of the evening was advocating for better access to higher education for the youth, both through finding ways to lower tuition to ensuring that returning veterans continue to receive benefits.
“Having lost it, I can tell you youth matters,” Clinton said.
Carmona dropped out of high school before joining the military. After his service, he attended a community college, eventually earning his bachelor’s degree and medical degree.
“This country allows people like me, my brother and my sister … we get a second and third chance,” Carmona said.
Clinton segued from education to jobs, paralleling the two – specifically in relation to Arizona. He noted that solar power could be one way Arizona creates high-paying jobs while also tapping into a renewable resource.
“Here at this university, it can lead Arizona to be the global capital of solar in the world,” he said. “Every scientific study puts the United States at the first or second position to generate solar electricity.”
In addition to speaking a bit on healthcare and foreign policy as well, Clinton also delved into the discussion of bipartisan cooperation among elected officials.
“It’s not about Republicans and Democrats and independents,” Clinton said. “It’s about what’s getting done.
“Creative cooperation is better than constant conflict every time,” he added.
As important as having Clinton on hand was to some in the crowd, to others it was about the opportunity of participating in the political process.
Hanson said she arrived at the ASU band practice field an hour before the gates opened, she said. She came with a friend, but they got separated when Hanson wove through the crowd to get to the front of the section.
Her petite frame allowed her to squeeze through, she said.
“To be in the same crowd of people as those who share you political beliefs, I feel so lucky to be apart of it,” Hanson said. “I feel so blessed and so lucky that we live in a country where we can express our politics without any repercussions. You can just feel the positive energy here and I want to be a part of it.”
Hanson said that, for the last 10 years, she has worked for numerous campaigns. Currently she’s volunteering for Carmona and Maricopa County sheriff contender Paul Penzone.
“I do a lot of canvassing and fundraising,” she said. “Right now I’ve been spending about two hours every week at phone banks and about three on the weekend canvassing.”
For her, it’s about changing the way people think.
“I used to post (my political beliefs) all the time on Facebook,” she said. “But I lost a few friends, so I curtailed it a little bit. “
Hanson gives what she can to the campaigns she believes in, she said.
“I don’t have a lot of money, so I give my time,” she said. “I just want to make a difference. It doesn’t cost anything to giver your time.”
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