Coralie Carlson

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Clinton declared higher education programs a success and suggested shifting focus to K-12 education initiatives and Social Security.
About 50 students, faculty members and onlookers gathered in Coffman Union to cheer on the president and watch the 77-minute speech; 25 minutes of the speech was consumed by applause. Signs reading “Stop the Crazy Congress” and “Minnesotans Support the President: You Betcha” hung above the crowd.
Clinton made no mention of the impeachment trial, even though legislators voted to impeach him last month on the House floor where he spoke Tuesday night.
Instead, Clinton rallied support for his accomplishments, including higher education programs like tax credits for students and families with college bills.
“We have finally opened the doors of college to all Americans,” Clinton said.
He asked Congress members to join him in bipartisan support to fulfill more educational goals, including connecting every classroom to the Internet; hiring 10,000 new teachers; tripling funding for summer school and after-school programs; holding states accountable for teachers’ training; and attracting new teachers to inner-city schools through scholarship programs.
Clinton also concentrated on supporting programs for the elderly:
“I propose we make the historic decision to invest the surplus to save Social Security.”
He suggested giving 60 percent of the national surplus for the next 15 years to the waning Social Security fund. He said the investment would keep Social Security going for an additional 20 years, when many current college students will benefit from the program. The fund is expected to run dry by 2032 under current funding.
Another 17 percent of the surplus should go to Medicare, Clinton said, which would guarantee the program until 2020.
“I think this is what the people want to hear,” said Kevin Nicholson, College of Liberal Arts junior and president of the statewide College Democrats. “People want to hear about plans for their future, and that’s what the president is doing here.”
But support in the House chamber was noticeably one-sided — despite Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s memo to House members reminding them to be on their best behavior in spite of the pending impeachment trial. Frequently the left side of the chamber, where the Democrats sat, rose in applause while the Republicans on the right side remained sitting.
When both sides stood — clapping in response to Clinton’s call for equal pay for men and women — he took note.
“That was more encouraging, you know,” he said in a candid remark. “There was more balance on the seesaw. I like that.”
Republicans and Democrats alike advised Clinton to skip the speech this year in light of his impeachment trial, but he refused.
Clinton has used past national addresses to boost his standing in the polls and gain political leverage. Last year, his speech came directly after the Monica Lewinsky story broke. Previous speeches redeemed the president after health care legislation failed and when Republicans gained control of Congress.
Watching Clinton’s address, Nicholson said he expected the president to benefit from his speech again.
“I think it can only help,” Nicholson said.