Mayors, television personalities, singers and professional athletes converged upon the campus of South Carolina State University on Friday afternoon to support Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton held a rally to tout her record of service and pledge to continue an era of progress that will benefit the state and nation.
“We’re fighting to break barriers wherever they may be. We know America deserves nothing less and Americans deserve to have a future that we will build together,” Clinton said.
Clinton came to Orangeburg in the final hours before South Carolinians begin voting in Saturday’s Democratic presidential primary.
S.C. State’s Dukes Gymnasium was packed with people waving bright blue signs in support of Clinton as she came out on the stage to the music of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.”
She thanked Sixth District Congressman James Clyburn, who introduced her, for his support and guidance during her campaign.
Clinton said it is crucial for more young people to vote so their concerns about college affordability and other issues won’t be ignored.
“We’ve got to create more good-paying jobs, we’ve got to raise incomes. We’ve got to give young people chances to start small businesses, to be entrepreneurs, to chart their own future,” Clinton said.
“That’s why I’ve put forth plans about how we can create more jobs in manufacturing, in infrastructure, in clean, renewable energy. And we can do that if we set our minds to it,” she said.
Providing more access to credit and more support for small businesses is also a key priority, Clinton said.
“Everywhere I go, young people say they’ve got a good idea, but they’re burdened down by debt. They don’t know how they could ever get the credit they need. We’ve got to fix that, and I have a plan to do it,” she said.
Clinton said she’ll also work to increase the minimum wage.
“People who work full time should not be left mired in poverty at the end of the year. And it is way past time to make sure women get equal pay for the work we do in the workplace,” she said, drawing applause.
“Everything I just said, the Republicans don’t agree with. They don’t believe that we should be working together to invest more in new jobs. They just say, ‘Leave it to the market.’ ... That’s going to be one of the biggest issues in this election,” Clinton said.
She said the philosophy of “trickle-down economics” will not work.
“We were on the right track in the 1990s. When my husband was president, we had 23 million new jobs and incomes went up for everybody — not just folks at the top,” she said.
Clinton credited President Barack Obama with improving the economy after inheriting “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” including having gotten back 14 million jobs, saving the auto industry and putting tough new regulations on Wall Street.
“I am a proud defender of President Obama. I was honored to serve as his secretary of state. We became not just partners, but friends. And I’m not going to let the Republicans rip away the progress that we have made,” Clinton said.
Clinton said Obama’s Affordable Care Act will be defended if she’s elected president.
“We’re going to stand for and defend the Affordable Care Act. We’re going to go after prescription drug costs, which are out of sight. We’re going to finally make sure Medicare can negotiate lower drug prices because once we get Medicare to do that, then prices will go down,” Clinton said.
“We pay the highest prices in the advanced world for drugs we help to create with our tax dollars through research, through the Food and Drug Administration. So we’re going take that on front and center,” she said.
Clinton added that providing a quality education for everyone “no matter what zip code they live in” will also be key in her administration, particularly schools along the state’s so-called Corridor of Shame.
“I don’t think it should matter where you live in South Carolina or America. You are entitled to a first-class education and we’re going to work hard to try to provide support, particularly in schools that are educating low-income kids who need extra help in school,” she said.
Clinton said “We are going to make college affordable. We’re going to lower costs. We’re going to make it possible to go on to college debt free. ... That’s why I have a $25 billion fund for historically black colleges and universities. ...
“We are going to do more to make certain that HBCUs keep educating young people now and forever.”
Clinton added, “If you have student debt, we’re going to refinance your debt, we’re going to get the costs down.”
Clinton said she would also stand against the privatization of Social Security and extend the Social Security Trust Fund.
Defending voting rights, tackling discrimination against the LGBT community and reforming the criminal justice system are other key issues on her agenda, Clinton said.
“We have work to do my friends. ... It’s work that I cannot do alone. It would be impossible to do alone. We need to do it together,” she said.
Strong Clinton supporters and voters who are still trying to decide attended the rally.
S.C. State students Myreon Broomfield and Dominque Miles said education is an important issue that they’d like to see tackled, though they are undecided who they will vote for in today’s Democratic presidential primary.
“Both candidates are doing a very good job on what they’re doing, and it’s just really hard to decide at the moment,” Broomfield said.
“Education is very important because here as a student at South Carolina State, it’s hard to be a black man and be successful. That’s basically what’s important to me,” Broomfield said.
Miles said, “I’m trying to decide between Hillary and Bernie (Sanders). They’ve got some of the same views. Bernie’s got some things I don’t know about and then Hillary’s got some that I’m iffy about. I will ultimately go with whoever I believe will carry out what they say. I want somebody who’s about action.”
He added, “I’m concerned about education because I’m a college student and even though I’m on a scholarship, it’s still not cheap for other people.”
Sanders also visited Orangeburg Friday.
Orangeburg resident Hazel Rickenbacker says she wants the progress that started under Obama to continue.
“I’ve listened very closely to all of the candidates and what they’ve been saying about education, health care, the middle class and those that are beyond that area and how they plan to help them. Some of the things that the other candidates have said seem too unrealistic to me,” Rickenbacker said.
“I’m definitely not on board with a free education that because I don’t understand how something free would be valued to the point that it needs to be valued. And what would it do to the economy if education were free?” she said. “Hillary has experience and background in the areas that are most important in society today and with that experience, I just see her going on in the leadership position that we need in our country to make things better.”
R&B singer K. Michelle; lawyer, journalist and television personality Starr Jones and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum were among the notables who spoke in favor of Clinton on Friday.
St. Matthews native and Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore were also in attendance at Friday’s rally.
Holly Hill resident Betty Pelzer said Clinton is the candidate she will vote for today.
“When I look at the Democratic candidates, I’m thinking she has the most experience for the job. Experience speaks volumes as far as I’m concerned,” she said.