Bill Clinton wouldn’t mind being 20 years old again, the 70-year-old former U.S. president told thousands of people gathered on Ohio University’s College Green Tuesday morning, but he wouldn’t want to take America back 50 years to do it.
That’s what Clinton accused Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of advocating as Clinton campaigned for his wife, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, during a “stronger together” bus tour of Ohio earlier this week that included a stop in Athens, with about 3,500 people in attendance according to the campaign.
In a speech that lasted over 45 minutes, Clinton covered a wide variety of ground, speaking on the economy, health care, the American justice system, international trade and immigration.
Clinton also spoke about the contrast he sees between his wife’s campaign and that of Trump, though he rarely actually used the GOP nominee’s name, instead calling him “her opponent” or alluding to policies Trump has proposed or ideas he’s advocated throughout his campaign.
“Answers work better than anger. Empowerment works better than resentment. Bridges work better than walls. And we’re stronger together than we are cutting the living daylights out of each other,” Clinton told the crowd to cheers. “Go claim your future and elect Hillary president.”
While Bill Clinton’s speech at times focused heavily on policy, his message to the predominately college-aged crowd was the importance of their votes in the 2016 election. In fact, on the rafters filled with students behind Clinton’s podium was a large sign promising, “I will vote,” and campaign volunteers were stationed around College Green registering voters.
Introducing Clinton was OU freshman Bailey Williams, an Ohio Together Organizer who said he had supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary but is now excited to cast his ballot for Hillary Clinton. Sanders won the majority of Democratic primary votes over Clinton in Athens County.
“Why am I not voting for a third-party candidate or simply not voting at all,” Williams asked rhetorically. “Because this election is too important to sit on the sidelines or vote third party.”
Williams said he could provide a million reasons to vote against Trump but added he is voting affirmatively for Clinton because of her plans to look out for middle-class families and make college affordable.
Bill Clinton echoed those sentiments in his own speech, saying that at the Democratic National Convention in July Sanders and Hillary Clinton took their two plans for college affordability and combined them to make something even better.
In contrast to Trump, Clinton said his wife “actually has a plan” on that issue and a variety of others whereas her opponent does not.
Clinton said Hillary’s opponent wants to give America the economy it had 50 years ago and is promising to move his constituency “back up on the social totem pole.”
“Look, that’s like me saying I’d like to be 20 again. Fifty years ago that’s what I was. I actually would like to be 20 again… but I would not vote for somebody who promised to make me 20 again,” he said.
After admiring the diversity of the crowd, Clinton said that while Trump makes empty promises Hillary wants to get rid of the social totem pole “so we can all move forward together.”
“Don’t pass up this chance. Don’t let people pour acid down your throat. Don’t let people tell you to be cynical. Don’t let people tell you your vote doesn’t matter. Don’t let people tell you there are no consequences,” he said. “It matters.”
When a member of the audience questioned why, if Clinton wants to be 20 again, he isn’t voting for Trump, Clinton responded, “Because I have a better candidate.”
It was the second time Clinton interacted with an audience member. About five minutes into his speech, an activist began loudly reading a statement to Clinton.
“I will not vote for candidates that have sent millions of my people to prison. I will not vote for a fake democracy that is dependent upon my silence,” the man declared. “I will not vote for candidates that use white feminism to destroy and disrespect black lives.”
Calling off boos directed toward the man, Clinton responded by saying that it would be a good statement if he or Hillary had “sent millions of your people to prison.”
“Hillary didn’t vote for the ’94 crime bill, even though Sen. Sanders did,” Clinton said. “Neither of them were trying to send millions of your people to prison because there were fewer than 10 percent of our entire prison population in the federal prison system. She was the first person in this campaign who said we ought to do something to change the incarceration policies.”
Clinton returned to the subject nearly a half-hour later in his speech, after delineating a variety of Hillary Clinton’s proposals on education and health care.
“If you do all this, we still have to figure out how we’re going to live together,” he said.
He said too many people are serving too long in prison for non-violent offenses. He said Hillary Clinton wants to invest in education and training, and to “ban the box” on employment applications that requires applicants to reveal if they’ve been convicted of a felony.
Clinton also said America needs police reform, to end the private prison industry, and to increase mental-health and addiction treatment. He said America also needs good police officers to protect citizens, referring to community policing techniques where officers know and interact with people in neighborhoods.
Clinton also returned to his theme of optimism and positivity, especially with regard to young people participating in the election.
“I can tell you having lost it, youth matters,” he said. “If you’re projecting the economic future of a country, the youth, the education level and the diversity of the workforce are the best indicators of success in the 21st Century.”
Clinton said that he was raised to believe that Americans should share the future and that everyone who is working hard and trying should be treated with dignity.
“Do this for yourselves. Do this for your future. Take a flying leap these next 30 days,” he said. “Think about what we can do to claim a future that will include everybody. We can all rise again.”