Clinton campaigns in Virginia

Clinton campaigns in Virginia

A political pep rally held at Washington and Lee High School in Arlington featured U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton on Thursday afternoon for a crowd of mostly students and faculty.

Students were given the afternoon off after finding out about Clinton’s visit only two days prior. After a four-hour wait, the gym was nearly filled when Clinton took the stage at 4:30 for a speech that lasted about 25 minutes.

While many in the audience will not be old enough to vote in November’s election, students came anyway for the experience.

It’s something to tell your children, said Megan Rippy, 15, who said she is a Republican. 

Clinton focused on the economy, the war in Iraq, education and her plan for universal health care. She did not speak on immigration, a topic some students had said they hoped to hear about.

The students at Washington and Lee are closer to the political process than most students in the country. Many have parents who are federal employees or in the military and stationed at Fort Myer, said social studies department chair Claire Moir.

Students tend to be interested in the war in Iraq and immigration, she said.

Many of the students are if not recent than they’re second-generation immigrants, she said.

Clinton’s pledge to end the U.S. involvement in Iraq got the biggest applause from the crowd. Her plan may be the most aggressive of the candidates, with a goal of bringing troops back home within 60 days.

This is in sharp contrast to Republican front-runner John McCain, who hours before her appearance emerged as the likely Republican nominee when Mitt Romney suspended his campaign.

[McCain] offers more of the same economic policy, more of the same policies in Iraq, she said.

The obvious issue of interest to the crowd was education, and Clinton outlined her goals from preschool, which she plans to make universal, through college, which she plans to make more affordable.

In between the two, Clinton said she would do away with No Child Left Behind, the controversial initiative created by the Bush administration she called an unfunded mandate.

There are better ways to have a partnership with the federal government, she said. I don’t want to turn our students into little test-takers.

Higher education shouldn’t mean crippling debts, she said. Clinton said she will go after student loan companies who offer steep interest rates and create a two-year national service that would give participants up to $10,000 per year for college.

Student loan companies are ripping off young people and their families, she said.

Sabrina Patwary, 15, came to the rally holding a Clinton campaign poster. Although she won’t be able to vote, she still wants to participate in the election.

I’m planning on going to the [Clinton] campaign center and finding out what help they need, she said.