By Zach Thomas
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 12, 1996
SUN CITY - President Clinton stressed the importance of education and family as top priorities yesterday afternoon as he spoke of what he called a "sweeping period of change" facing the United States.
The president, in the Phoenix area as part of a day-long, three-state campaign swing, talked to a crowd numbering in the thousands packed into the Sundial Recreation Center auditorium.
The topics Clinton discussed ranged from education policies to welfare reform during his hour-and-a-half-long address focusing on his "vision for the country."
"Education is not only important to the well-being of individuals, but to the well-being of our country as well," he said, "In four years, we'll make at least a community college degree as universal in America as a high school degree."
He also announced plans to gather 1 million volunteers to teach reading in elementary schools in order to encourage literacy.
"I want to make sure that every eight-year-old in America can pick up a book and say 'I read this,'" he said.
Clinton also restated plans to institute a tax credit of up to $1,500 per year for anyone enrolled in an institution of higher learning.
"President Clinton's education agenda is one of real economic con- servatism," said Eddie Basha, member of the Arizona Board of Regents, citing the president's expansion of federal Pell education grants. "It's an agenda founded in investment in human reso urces."
"That's what prosperity is founded upon," he added, "learning and education."
The Oct. 1 start date for the $4.75 minimum wage increase topped Clinton's economic points, and the president also spoke of the Kennedy-Cassebaum bill giving laid-off employees a window between jobs where their old health care still applies.
While emphasizing the American family during his speech, Clinton mentioned the family leave law granting limited free-time to working parents to spend at doctors appointments or parent-teacher conferences. He also re-endorsed the V-chip, new technology wh ich would filter television programs according to parentally decreed appropriateness.
Former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, now secretary of the interior, was lauded by Clinton for his efforts in preserving the environment. However, the president stressed that more must be done for the 10 million children who live near toxic waste dumps.
"The children of this country should grow up next to parks, not poison," he said.
Clinton was notably brief while talking about headline issues like crime and the recently signed welfare reform bill, but did underscore their importance as he challenged American business and industry to create needed jobs so "that every American that's willing to work has the chance to participate in that opportunity." The president also stressed the declining crime rate over the last four years and pushed for his goal to add 100,000 new police officers on the streets.
Aside from an AARP joke and a brief mention of Medicare, Clinton appeared to ignore the high frequency of senior citizens in the Sun City audience.
The president said little about U.S. military operations over Iraq, stating, "We will continue to do what is appropriate and necessary to A: Fulfill our mission and B: Protect our pilots."
The president also spoke of former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater at the rally and later made an impromptu visit to the senator's hospital bed at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, where he is recovering a stroke.
"He won my heart when I met him when I was a senior in high college, and he was kind to me under circumstances when it would have been easier to be otherwise," the president said of Goldwater, adding the former senator appeared "alert" and "strong" during the visit.
Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Sam Coppersmith was the master of ceremonies at yesterday's rally, which also included speeches by former Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford and congressional candidate Steve Owens among others.
A group of University of Arizona students also attended Clinton's address.
"I think he (Clinton) has a lot of good ideas," said Erin Russell, Associated Students vice president of programs and services. "I think that he does mean well, and I don't think he will throw our education in the wastebasket, so to speak."
Undergraduate Senate President Gilbert Davidson was also on hand.
"He said a lot of things the people wanted to hear; he talked about education, and he talked about crime," Davidson said.
"It was wonderful to see Arizona come out for Clinton, a Democrat ... in Sun City," said Jim Drnek, ASUA's adviser.
Some spectators were tickled just to see the President of the United States.
"Just to shake his hand was just a cool thing. I shook it twice," said Tom Nefstead, a business sophomore at Arizona State University. "He was pretty rad - it must have been the heat."
After his four-hour-long visit, Clinton flew on yesterday evening to campaign in Palo Alto, Calif.