Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary in Orlando

Photo by Meredith Burow. Former President William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton delivers a passionate message during a “Hillary for America” rally at Orlando’s Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Clinton discussed racial acceptance, the economy and even UCF, drawing a wave of applause from an audience of about 400 people.

On a solo visit to Orlando, former President Bill Clinton recognized UCF’s scientific and technological achievements, addressed the college debt crisis and exemplified the city’s attitude toward gay and Muslim communities.

The two-hour campaign rally attracted roughly 400 Hillary Clinton supporters to the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center Wednesday morning.

Before introducing Clinton to the stage, congressional candidate Val Demings told attendees that he was and still is “the real deal” — a man who has seen it, lived it and “led us with a steady hand.”

“The time is now, for us to work together to continue the legacies of President Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,” Demings said. “The only way for us to continue what they started is by electing Hillary Clinton as the next president. … We told the world in 2008, in 2012 and let’s tell them in 2016. We are blue; we are strong; we will work; we will vote; and we will win.”

Clinton was greeted with applause as Pharrell Williams’ award-winning song “Happy” played over the loud speaker. He opened his speech with remarks about the importance of answers over anger, saying the former leads to political change while the latter paves the way for mistakes.

The former president backed his wife’s campaign slogan of “Stronger Together” and credited her with being the only candidate to provide voters with answers. Clinton raged against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again.”

“If you’re a white Southerner, you know exactly what that means,” Clinton said. “What it means is, ‘I’ll give you the economy you had 50 years ago, and I’ll move you back up the social totem pole and move other people down.’ What Hillary wants to do is take the totem pole down and let us all go forward together.”

In reference to Hillary Clinton’s technology and innovation platform, Clinton acknowledged UCF, “one of the biggest relatively unknown universities in the country,” for “double-downing on investments in science and technology.”

With more than 100 computer simulation companies in Orange County alone, Clinton pointed to Orlando as the hub for computer simulation in the U.S.

“At the University of Central Florida, any professor [who] goes out and starts a company can have an 18-month leave, as long as the profits go back to the school,” Clinton said. “… Pretty soon, you got 100 simulation companies. And pretty soon, more people want to do that. We need to do that everywhere. These things are simple, straightforward and affordable.”

He also delved into Hillary Clinton’s proposal to reduce student debt, where students from families earning less than $125,000 a year would be entitled to a free education at in-state public universities and colleges.

In addition, Clinton discussed ideas to aid students with existing debt. Each month, no matter how much people owe, they would never be required to pay more than 10 percent of their net pay after taxes, Clinton said.

He transitioned to the heated topic of immigration, where he denounced Trump’s vow to build a wall between the border of the U.S. and Mexico. Clinton spoke out against linking political issues with diversity. As it turns out, diversity is “our greatest asset,” he added.

“We don’t need to build a wall across the border,” Clinton said. “We need to build a bridge to tomorrow and let every law-abiding person walk across it.”

On the note of acceptance and comradery, Clinton applauded the Orlando community’s actions after the Pulse massacre, which left 49 dead and 53 wounded. He urged attendees to show the same genuine support for Muslim communities in the U.S.

“We have got to stop discriminating against our fellow Americans who are Muslim,” Clinton said. “We cannot win this fight without them.”

For Petrice Witeman of Queens, New York, Clinton’s comments about embracing other communities resonated with her as a black U.S. citizen.

“I felt like that was the heart and the spirit of true love,” Witeman said. “It’s not enough to just sit down and hope things go well. You have to get up and take action. We have to be the change that we want to see.”