Former president wows the crowd in Kannapolis

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Joanie Morris
Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó Former President Bill Clinton showed up more than an hour late, but the crowd forgot about that as soon as he stepped through the blue curtains at the A.L. Brown High School Activity and Fitness Center.
The stop in Kannapolis was part of a whirlwind, seven-city tour in North Carolina on Friday to promote his wife, Hillary Clinton, as the Democratic nominee for president.
About 350 people showed up at the center, the first getting in line at 8:45 a.m. Friday morning.
People were still arriving at 1:15 p.m., 45 minutes after Clinton was scheduled to speak. Clinton arrived just before 2 p.m. and spoke for 50 minutes about his wife’s campaign against Barack Obama.
Sisters Velma Turner and Caroline Burris were the first in line on Friday morning to see Clinton.
“We love Hillary,” said Burris, of Landis. “You don’t get very many opportunities to see a president.”
Her sister agreed.
“I saw Carter, but I wanted to see another one,” Turner said.
Both are Democrats and big fans of both Clintons. Turner had a postcard of Bill Clinton she was hoping to get signed, while Burris’ featured pictures of both Clintons. The women said the crowd didn’t show up quite as early as they did on Friday morning, but by 11:30 a.m., a line was forming.
“I thought it’d be a big crowd here when I got here,” Turner added.
Mitchell Johnson was a little further back in the line. A Kannapolis resident, Johnson said he’s always been a big supporter of Bill Clinton.
“I came today because during the 1990s, my property taxes weren’t so high, gas prices weren’t so high, my retirement fund was making money,” Johnson said. That’s not the case anymore, he added. “Right now, this society needs a change. I’m here because of my heart and how I feel America should be.”
Johnson had a book, “Friends in High Places,” by Webb Hubbell, for Clinton to sign. Wearing a blue shirt and tie with a picture of the White House on it, Johnson hoped Clinton would notice him in the crowd.
“I don’t think our forefathers started this country for us to be in the state that we are in,” he said. Johnson got to stand right in the front, where Clinton walked by, shaking hands with supporters.
Councilman Richard Anderson attended the event to see what Clinton had to say about his wife’s policies.
“He is the ex-president of the United States,” Anderson said, explaining why he attended the event. Anderson walked from his home on Rose Avenue next to Memorial Stadium to attend the event. He was the only city council member in attendance.
“I’m curious to hear what he has to say in terms of why we should vote for his wife,” he said.
Before his speech, Clinton recognized Anderson and thanked him for being in the audience.
Clinton was introduced to the crowd as a handsome man and a woman from the audience shouted, “He sure is.”
It wasn’t the only reaction. As Clinton spoke about his wife’s policies, the crowd cheered at each point.
“Thank you all for letting me come to Dale Earnhardt’s hometown and campaign for Hillary,” he said as the crowd cheered.
He stressed that votes in North Carolina do count, even if the state’s primary isn’t until May.
“This is an amazing ride,” Clinton said, referring to the primary elections. “I didn’t get enough votes to (run for) president until June 2, 1992.”
During his speech, he talked extensively about the economy and his wife’s plans to help change America.
He spoke often about how Hillary would change America’s economy, health care and the future for the children and grandchildren of people in the audience.
“She changes people’s lives,” Clinton said. “I could give you example after example. She’s a change-maker.”
At the beginning and end of the event, people clammored to shake Clinton’s hand and praise his work, speech and wife.
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@salisburypost.com.

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