Taken by Wesley Ng

On his cross-country tour to stump for President Barack Obama and Democratic Congressional candidates, President Bill Clinton visited the Bren Events Center on the UC Irvine campus for the “California’s Voice” rally on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Exactly two weeks before election day, President Clinton spoke to the crowd of over 5,000 and issued his public endorsements of candidates Mark Takano (CA-41 Riverside), Julia Brownley (CA-26 Ventura), Scott Peters (CA-52 San Diego), Raul Ruiz (CA-36 Palm Springs) and Alan Lowenthal (CA-47 South Bay).

The night began with opening statements from the five Congressional candidates, each espousing their respective platforms, experience and areas of focus if elected. After being introduced by the president of the UC Irvine College Democrats Jose Quintana, Local Congressional candidate Mark Takano of the 41st District took the stage to make his case for the Orange County crowd. He invoked the line, “Don’t boo, vote!” each time the crowd booed his characterization of the Republican party.  When describing his positions against those of his opponent, he said, “It’s the choice between common sense California values, and extreme Washington ideology.”

Clinton spoke for over half an hour on a variety of issues prevalent this elections season and how President Obama and the local Congressional candidates on stage would address them. “It’s very important to realize that—particularly in California, because you are the state of the future, because you represent every hope we have for living in a world of shared prosperity and shared responsibilities, a world where we embrace our diversity—we are proud of our identity but we think our common humanity matters more,” said President Clinton. “It’s really important that we get the best Congress we possibly can to make the most of the next four years and turn back the reactionary tide.”

Although he spent a large portion of the evening discussion national politics and the presidential election, Clinton took time to address the circumstances of California and particularly, the circumstances of the largely college-aged crowd. “I have tried to be a friend of California,” said Clinton. “When I was president I came here 29 times in just my first term. Because of all the economic challenges that California faced back in ‘92, I have been through this before. And I just want to say a few things to set the stage for the candidates here, and those in the audience and the issues and we’re facing and the choices before us. Because I remember what it was like. And I saw California flat of its back and I saw California come roaring back to lead America into the 21st century. First of all, we live in a world. Not just a state, not just a nation, a world. Full of enormous possibilities represented by you, and by UC Irvine and by the finest system of public higher education ever created that has been under assault now for years by the economy and from the Republican party.”

When addressing his reasons for endorsing Takano, Clinton cited his experience as a public school teacher and a trustee of a community college. In the process, Clinton touched on some of the difficulty faced by public higher education to meet the growing employment demands of the science and technology job markets. “If every school in the UC system, let’s say, got this information at the beginning of every year. ‘Here’s what the profile is, here’s what America needs, here’s what California needs,’ here it is, at least tell the students. Tell them so they’ll know. Give them this information. This is the kind thing that a practical, non-ideological caring person who actually has helped to run a community college network will do for you, and the best reason to elect Mark Takano to the United States Congress.”

The reaction from UCI students after the event was one of enthusiasm. “Getting the chance to see President Clinton speak for the Democratic Party at UC Irvine was inspirational and motivating,” said Deshani Senewiratne, a fourth-year international studies major at UC Irvine. “His support of education for students stirs passion and renews our hope and commitment for the future. President Clinton reminded us that with action and courage, it is important to pave the future for our generation and future generations to come.”