Over 1,000 spectators rounded the block surrounding the Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center on Feb. 21 when the doors to the building opened at 12:15 p.m. Those at the front of the snaking line proudly proclaimed that they had been waiting since 8 a.m. to hear former President Bill Clinton campaign for Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Spectators, both community patrons and Colorado College students alike, piled onto the catwalks of the building, some over three stories high. Event assistants corralled groups without tickets into every corner of the building possible with a view of the stage. Ticketed students were seated on the concrete steps in the main area of Cornerstone, squishing together closely to maximize space.
As the standing room space in Cornerstone dwindled, organizers shepherded the over 500 remaining patrons into Celeste Theater, which has a total of 451 seats. Their view of the event would be via a live stream of former President Clinton’s address.
Higher profile members of the college such as Dean Mike Edmonds and Dean Rochelle Mason were given priority seating in chairs on the main floor and an intimate view of the stage. Among those privileged enough to access front row seating was the co-chair of the Colorado College Democrats and Vice President of Student Life for Colorado College Student Government Association, sophomore Steven Ortega.
“[CC Democrats] is representative of progressive values on campus, which is tenuously connected to the National Democratic Party Organization,” said Ortega. His administrative role in the political student group granted him and several other members of the Democratic organization access to former President Clinton’s more intimate fundraiser prior to his campaign speech.
At 11 a.m. of the same day, former president of Colorado College and former senator of Ohio Dick Celeste hosted a private gathering for wealthier donors and supporters of the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign. Ortega could be found ushering guests through the event, which he discovered that day was right by his neighborhood home.
Ortega explained the nature of the event and former President Clinton’s motives as follows: “So there was kind of like an incentive system where the people who gave the most money sort of had a private reception with [the former] President. If you gave a tier below that you got to take a picture, and a tier below that you…got to mill around and watch his speech.”
The college served as both a convenient and advantageous venue for former President Clinton to campaign for Hillary Clinton 2016, and was honored at the commencement of the event by former Senator Celeste’s opening remarks.
“Clinton has been tried by fire,” said Celeste in a passionate veneration of the Democratic hopeful Clinton. “No one is better prepared to be President of the United States.”
Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar acted as the introductory speaker for former President Clinton, a title he snatched from Ortega within days of the event. “Senator Ken Salazar spoke, one of the most prominent democrats in Colorado— incidentally the one who took the introduction from me, no big deal.”
The atmosphere of anticipation erupted as former President Clinton took the stage. His speech catered to both the successes of the former Clinton administration and the changes desired by the contending Clinton administration.
He made explicit time to mention the fight against police brutality, sustainability, an economy that encourages small business, and to scrutinize mass incarceration, immigration policy, the rehabilitation of drug addiction, women’s status, affordable healthcare, and gun safety.
Clinton’s rhetoric was calculated, spinning the infamous Republican hopeful Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” to a more inclusive “Make America Whole Again.” He emphasized Clinton’s platform that focuses on inclusivity, a word he used repeatedly to drive the point home.
Clinton spoke for approximately 45 minutes before concluding and dispersing into the crowd of hopefuls looking to shake his hand. Ortega, who received his photo-op hours before at the fundraising event, instead had astute insights to the nature of the event.
“I’ll say it this way. I think Bill Clinton was very on-message,” said Ortega. “I think it was an effective campaign moment that definitely generated a lot of the right themes for the Clinton campaign and like I said before showed Democratic Party unity in favor of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
In light of the event, Ortega made clear that the CC Democrats will be active in ensuring student participation in voter turnout for the electoral process come this November.
“[CC Democrats] main focus in the coming semester is going to be getting people registered to vote,” said Ortega. “November’s a school year away but it is coming up pretty soon and getting people’s voting registration done now and all squared away is important.”
Prior to November, students will have the opportunity to vote on the Super Tuesday Democratic Caucus on March 1 in Slocum Hall. The Colorado GOP has canceled the Republican presidential vote scheduled for March 1.