Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke during the Mississippi Democratic Party's 26th Annual Jefferson Jackson Hamer Day Dinner at the Canton-Madison Multipurpose Complex Thursday night on her will to be a partner with the people of Mississippi as she works to improve the country.
"I believe part of what this election has to be about is to elect a president who understands that Mississippi is poised once again to be a leader, a leader here in the United States and a leader around the world, and you have a partner that will work to make that happen," the New York senator told the crowd of more than 2,000 state Democrats and media representatives.
During her speech Clinton stressed many of her platform issues including education, Katrina and Iraq.
"I want to do everything I can to make college affordable for the children of every family, any child who wants to go to college, if that is what there future holds, should be able to," Clinton said.
Clinton said there are two problems: affording a college education and leaving college with extreme amounts of debt. To solve these problems she wants to make college affordable through tax credits, more aid such as Pell grants and address the issue of student loan companies.
The president of the United States has to be willing to stand up and meet the challenges they not only face overseas but those they face at home, Clinton said. That was not done after Katrina hit the Mississippi Coast.
"Still to this day we do not have the level of response and urgency that national disaster turned into a national disgrace dispersed," Clinton said.
She said she wants to make up for lost time as president. To do that she will have one person in the White House whose job it is to inform her of the progress of rebuilding the coast.
If elected, Clinton also said she wants to end the Iraq war and win the war in Afghanistan. She told the audience that while in Austin, Texas she met with two wounded soldiers, one of whom said he thought soldiers should come home but asked how the U.S. could leave Iraq.
"They have done everything they were asked to do," Clinton said of soldiers on tour in Iraq. "They were asked to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they did, they were asked to give the Iraqi's a free and fair election and they did that, and they were asked to give the Iraqi government space and time to make the decision that only the Iraqis could make for themselves."
The American people should be proud of the commitment and sacrifice the service men and women have made but "now it is time for them to come home," she said.
Clinton said her political experience makes her a viable candidate.
"I believe that I am ready and prepared to lead on day one because I have been blessed with that unique set of experiences on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue," she said.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, did not attend the dinner but plans to visit Jackson on Monday. He asked Dr. Joseph Lowery, a prominent veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, to speak on his behalf. Lowery spoke at the University of Mississippi in February.
Lowery said America needs a president who can bring the country together.
"Something is happening in Mississippi, there is something in the air," he said. "In 2008 there is going to be a great drama because they are going to inaugurate a man named Obama."
Four Ole Miss College Democrats went to Canton to volunteer at the event.
Brent Caldwell, College Democrats president, said the group attends the Jefferson Jackson Hamer Day Dinner every year and it just happened that a major candidate appeared this year.
"It puts Mississippi on the map, we're having a national presiential candidate coming to speak to us," Caldwell said. "This is a special circumstance but I think this isn't a one-time deal."
Nick Luckett, a freshman public policy and classics major, said he enjoyed hearing Clinton and Lowery speak.
"I hope this event will revitalize the Mississippi Democratic Party that has dwindled over the years," Luckett said.
Clinton will continue campaigning through Mississippi today with a town hall meeting in Hattiesburg at 9:30 am at the Train Depot. Former Pres. Bill Clinton will also be campaigning in Mississippi for his wife with a stop in Tupelo today and Meridian Saturday.
© 2008 Daily Mississippian via U-WIRE