Sen. Hillary Clinton greeted more than a thousand supporters at a rally in Soldiers & Sailors Museum on Friday, marking the first public foray into Oakland, Pa., of the three remaining presidential candidates.
Gov. Ed Rendell, County Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl joined Clinton on the stage, a scene that illustrated the evening's theme of partnership.
"I believe that America works best when we work as partners, when every level of government works together for the betterment of the people we serve," Clinton said.
Rendell, Onorato and Ravenstahl publicly affirmed their endorsement of Clinton at the event. Ravenstahl told the crowd that Clinton will bring a partnership between the state and Washington, D.C., that has been missing.
The economy and education were at the heart of Clinton's speech. If elected, Clinton said she plans to take away tax breaks from corporations that send jobs overseas, introduce a universal health care plan and lower the cost of attending college.
Clinton recalled how painless it was for her to acquire and pay off her student loans.
"If there were student loan companies around in those days, I didn't know they existed, because there was a program for us to borrow it directly from the federal government," she said. "Our country thought that we were a good investment."
Clinton asked, "How many of you have college debt you're paying now?"
A sea of hands rose and Ravenstahl's was among them.
Clinton laughed, acknowledging the youngest mayor in the country. She outlined her plan to double the tax credit and increase the number of Pell grants for students. For those who wish to perform public service, such as teaching, nursing or "mayoring," Clinton's administration would forgive up to $10,000 a year for two years of their college debt. Eventually, Clinton hopes that she will get rid of student loan companies.
The crowd cheered the loudest when Clinton said she would halt the "unfunded mandate," of the No Child Left Behind Act.
"To me this is not just about the next election, this about the next generation," she said.
Clinton also stumped on green energy and energy independence.
"I'm not just saying this in Pittsburgh. When I was in Texas, I said our oil companies have to become energy companies. They have to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem," she said.
If the oil companies refuse to lead the movement for creating new forms of energy and refining, Clinton said she would impose a windfall profits tax and make them. Clinton said there won't be much progress until "the two oilmen" are out of the White House.
To help with clean energy innovation, Clinton proposed a $50 billion strategic energy fund. She hopes that the best minds at the universities and businesses will work together as they did more than 40 years ago.
"We have to have the same commitment to the energy race that we had in the space race," Clinton said.
Clinton also said she is committed to helping veterans when they return home.
"I don't think there's anything more important. Because when someone says they will serve our country, our country should serve them," she said.
The crowd answered this remark with a long ovation.
According to Clinton, thousands of veterans are suffering from traumatic brain injury, a condition that she considers to be "the signature injury" of the war in Iraq.
In her first 60 days as president, Clinton said that she would have a plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq. She believes it is time for the Iraqis to demonstrate their understanding that there will be no military solution.
Clinton told her supporters why she isvery specific about her plans.
"I want you to hold me accountable. I don't want you to wonder. I don't want you to make a leap of faith," she said. "I want you to know here's what I will do and here's how I will try to get it done."
© 2008 The Pitt News via U-WIRE