Clinton Speaks To Crowd Of About 3,500

This story was written by Tommy Conroy, Daily News
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton excited a crowd of more than 3,500 at Muncie Central High School on Friday with talk of cheaper education and health care and bringing more jobs to Indiana.

"This is one of the most important elections that we've ever had," Clinton said. "We need to change directions."

Several times during the speech, Clinton received interrupting rounds of applause and ovations from the over-capacity crowd.

Ben Kobren, spokesman for Hoosiers for Hillary, said the crowd exceeded the capacity in Muncie Central's gymnasium by more than 500. He said people were directed to an over-flow room briefly before being let in to see Clinton's speech live. Nobody was turned away, he said.

Clinton said she was committed to making college affordable. She wants to double HOPE tax credit, which will give more aid to more people year-round, she said.

The maximum credit is $1,650 per student, according to the Internal Revenue Service Web site.

Clinton said she also would double Pell grants to $10,800 for students.

She said when she borrowed money for college from the government, she had to pay it back with a 2 percent interest rate. Many graduates pay more than 20 percent on their loans. She said she wants to lower the "predatory" interest rates to speed up repayment of loans.

Students willing to do public service jobs for two years would receive full debt forgiveness as well as earning $10,000 for the work, she said.

Junior architecture major Amanda Raymond said she was pleased to hear about lower interest rates and debt forgiveness through public service.

"It was a great experience to see what she had to say," Raymond said.

Clinton said Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh told her this is the first time in 40 years Indiana has mattered in the presidential primaries.

"I want everybody to have a chance to have their voice and votes count," Clinton said.

Muncie resident Nancy Hall said it's great to have a candidate's campaign come through Indiana because the state is usually ignored. She said Indiana is in the heartland of the country and is part of the nation's backbone, and it deserves recognition from presidential candidates.

Clinton said one of her most important goals was making health care affordable and available to everyone. She said it's "morally inexcusable" for people in the United States to be turned away from hospitals and doctors' offices.

She said 47 million people in the nation, and 22 percent of Muncie residents, have no health insurance, and policies don't cover all expenses.

Clinton said she would model a universal health care system after the health plan that Congress has, which is affordable and not government run.

Receiving affordable, universal health coverage also would help to improve the economy, she said. Companies aren't able to keep up with high insurance costs. Taking on the health care issue can create jobs as well, she said.

She said the first economic issue she would address is the outsourcing of jobs. She promised to cut tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs to other countries.

Clinton said she would return the nation to its economic state when her husband left the Oval Office. College, health care and oil prices have all significantly increased while wages have decreased since the Bush administration took over, she said.

"That is not the way things are supposed to be in this country," she said.

She will bring more jobs to Indiana, she said. Committing to manufacturing the products the country uses and to rebuilding the country's infrastructure will create jobs around Indiana and the nation.

Richmond resident Paula Frady said she liked Clinton's policies, specifically her ideas about health car and education, because they ensure the future for her children and grandchildren.

"This campaign is not about the next election," Clinton said. "It's about the next generation."
© 2008 Daily News via U-WIRE