Former President Bill Clinton entered the Antioch Baptist Church to a standing ovation Sunday morning, stumping for his wife, Hillary, 10 years after the presidential candidate paid a visit herself to the Hempstead church.
He talked about bringing down barriers to participating in the economy, including high student loan debt, the lack of equal pay for women, paid family leave and affordable child care.
“You can’t make people choose between success at work and success at home,” Bill Clinton said.
He said his wife wants a 20-year limit on student loan debt and monthly payments of no more than 10 percent of after-tax income.
“Let’s make it possible for anybody to graduate from college debt-free,” Clinton said. He said this would make it possible for adult children to move out of their parents’ houses and pursue careers or business opportunities that their debt burdens currently make impossible.
“We could liberate the energies of millions of young Americans to help America rise again and we could rise together,” Clinton said.
Introducing Clinton was Earlene Hooper, deputy speaker of the State Assembly, who praised Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, and noted that she had been to the church before.
“I said to him [Bill Clinton], ‘You’re late by a decade. Hillary was here 10 years ago,’ ” said Hooper (D-Hempstead).
Referring to himself as an “old white-haired guy in a suit,” Bill Clinton addressed more than 180 parishioners, mostly African-Americans, who filled the pews Sunday morning.
Speaking for more than half an hour, he touched on topics ranging from investing in infrastructure and renewable energy to restoring trust between communities and police, reducing the U.S. prison population and nominating Supreme Court justices.
Bill Clinton credited his wife with helping foster economic development in upstate New York and helping farmers on Long Island when she served as New York’s senator.
The former president said he knew Hillary Clinton has what it takes to be president because she is a “change maker, not just a change talker.”
Hillary Clinton is running against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination. New Yorkers go to the polls Tuesday to vote in primary elections for both major parties.
Before the 11 a.m. service, some worshippers said they knew Clinton was due to arrive, but others wondered aloud why it was so crowded.
A 10-year-old boy asked a reporter, “Is it true Bill Clinton is going to be here?” before walking in. The usher at first told him he couldn’t come in because he carried a skateboard, but he was allowed in anyway.
Ron Simon, 56, a retired Rikers Island deputy warden, said he was glad Bill Clinton was coming to his church and said Hillary Clinton was on the path to victory.
“She’s going to be our next president,” Simon said. “He was definitely for the people. She’s going to be for the people.”
Simon said the controversial crime bill that Bill Clinton pushed in the 1990s should be re-examined.
“It was a good law at the time . . . You needed to do something,” Simon said. But today, “they should revisit it and come up with something else.”
Clinton later addressed those gathered the Union Baptist Church, also in Hempstead.
After he spoke at that church, Schemetta Wilson, 54, a health care worker from Hempstead, said she like Hillary’s ideas but was undecided.
“Hillary, she’s above the average people,” Wilson said. “Bernie, he’s more of an everyday person.”