By Jennifer Reynolds
Normally full of children exercising and shouting, the gym at Swarthmore-Rutledge School on Saturday, April 23, was filled primarily with adults quietly abuzz as they waited — and waited — for former president Bill Clinton to make a campaign appearance on behalf of his wife Hillary. Three days before Tuesday’s primary elections, rock songs played one after another as the crowd grew restless, in between speeches by Clinton’s state campaign manager and State Representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky of Swarthmore.
Clinton finally appeared about 1 p.m., fresh from a diner in West Chester. Looking slim and energetic in dark suit and lime green tie, he announced, “I’m not going to look at my notes, I’m going to look at you.” He thanked Wallingford-Swarthmore School District Acting Superintendent Dr. Michael Pladus and Principal Dr. Angela Tuck of SRS, “this school of excellence,” for allowing him to use the space.
The 41st President reminisced about visiting Swarthmore as a Rhodes Scholar, where he shared dinner with a Quaker family. “We prayed together, washed the dishes after the meal, and walked around the campus.”
The overwhelmingly Democratic crowd applauded greeting Clinton’s call to overturn the Citizens United decision, and his emphatic statement that our nation cannot afford a right-wing Supreme Court and government. Cheers also greeted his suggestion that student loans be allowed to be refinanced at lower interest rates, “This is the only type of loan in our nation that cannot be refinanced.” Some in the crowd waved hand-painted signs that campaign staffers had supplied with slogans such as “Hill Yes” and “POTUS” under the female gender symbol.
Why Swarthmore? Swarthmore College professor of political science Rick Vallely says it’s hard to know whether there was any logic to Swarthmore over, say, Wallingford. “But four obvious considerations are: (a) a primary school is always a good venue for a candidate; (b) a school has a hall and everyone nearby knows how to get there and park, and waiting for the visitor is not taxing; (c) securing the venue was easy for the Secret Service relative to other venues; and (d) Swarthmore is overwhelmingly Democratic so the crowd was certain to be friendly.”