"It was right on target for Portland State," said Jessie Eastman, 24. "This is an urban campus. He recognized the struggle it takes to get here, especially for those who had to fight to get to this country in the first place."
The president spoke to a crowd of about 20,000 in the Rose Garden arena, across the Willamette River from Portland State, where 18 percent of its 15,000 students are of people of color and many are foreign born.
To citizens fearful of "the America they know and love becoming a foreign land," as Mr. Clinton put it, he said their responsibility is to resist anxiety and embrace the latest wave of immigrants.
"They can either strengthen and unite us, or weaken and divide us. We must decide," he said. "Let me state unequivocally: I believe new immigrants are good for America."
President Clinton, who was awarded a an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, was cheered when he singled out several graduates by name, including a mother and son who moved here from Mexico 12 years ago. She is receiving a master's degree in education. He is receiving a bachelor's degree in business administration.
"It was very powerful and moving," said Pauline Celino, 27, who moved to Oregon from the Philippines in 1980. "It shows he is moving toward diversity. I wish we would get more of that than the usual politics."
From Portland, Clinton traveled to Eugene, where only a day before two explosives devices were found and detonated in a culvert on airport property.
An anonymous caller tipped police to the bombs and also told officers there were bombs at Eugene's Greyhound bus terminal, but after it was evacuated and searched for seven hours no bombs were found. In Springfield, a bomb threat emptied City Hall but a search there also turned up nothing.
"I'm assuming it has nothing to do with the president, but you just never know," said Eugene police Capt. Roy Brown.
Mr. Clinton was to meet with victims of the May 21 shooting at Springfield's Thurston High School and speak to a gymnasium assembly of 1,400 students, teachers and rescue workers. A 15-year-old student, Kip Kinkel, is accused of killing his parents at home and then going to the school and opening fire on a crowded cafeteria, leaving two classmates dead and 22 injured.
"I'm going because I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to be whatever support I can," Mr. Clinton said before boarding Air Force One at Portland International Airport. "I also want to highlight the importance of all Americans trying to prevent tragedies like this."
From Springfield, he was to join up with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in Los Angeles for an $800,00 Beverly Hills fund-raiser benefiting the Democratic National Committee.
Written by Brad Cain