Locals turn out to hear former chief executive
Almost everyone sensed the electricity in the air. Barbara Parham, youth services librarian at Perry Memorial Library, said “in my whole 55 years of being in Henderson” it was her first chance to see a president. “I’m glad I came out here,” Parham said. “I’m still undecided and I know I’ve got to make my mind up by in the morning.” Parham said it was a great opportunity for youth in the area to get a chance to see a former president. “It’s very exciting,” Parham said. “We’ve got a lot of people up here. I think this is what this area needs is something positive.”
Miranda Patterson, 18, a student at Northern Vance High School, plans to vote today for the first time. She said being able to vote definitely made Clinton’s visit more exciting for her.
“I’m still undecided,” Patterson said. Patterson said she and many other teen-agers believe strongly that the troops should come home from Iraq. She said it’s especially important to her because she has family there. Health care also is important to her, she said. “I just want someone who can resolve the war,” Patterson said. The president’s speech could be “a decision factor in who I vote for,” she said.
Katie Long, an 18-year-old student at Northern Vance, plans to vote for the first time today. She said education is important to her, along with gas prices and the war in Iraq. “I just think it’s interesting to see him,” Long said. “I think it’s interesting that he’s coming to Henderson.” She said she had made up her mind who she was voting for, but wouldn’t say. Long said she was impressed Clinton had come to Henderson. “That kind of shows me that he’s interested.”
Eddie Ellington, who was instrumental in bringing the president to Henderson, was thrilled with the event and the turnout, widely estimated at more than 650. “This was great,” Ellington said.
Wilbur Boyd, a former member of the Vance County Board of Commissioners, called Clinton’s visit an “historic event.” He noted it was the first time a president had spoken in Henderson since Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a crowd from the back of a train during the 1930s.
Albert and Sharon Wagner, confirmed Clinton supporters, came over from Stem. Albert Wagner said he would vote for either of the Democratic candidates but prefers Clinton because of her experience.
“I think she’s a sharp lady,” he said. He was especially happy about the Clintons’ small town tour in North Carolina. “I think this is wonderful,” he said. “They need to pay attention to the person in the street, the average guy. That’s the only way they’re going to understand what we need, is to get out among us.”
Corey Pettiford of Henderson said he was offended by Bill Clinton’s reference to Jesse Jackson in South Carolina and other statements that led him to conclude the Clintons were trying to use race as a wedge issue. “I’m here to hear what he says,” Pettiford said, pointing out he had supported Bill Clinton as president. But the Clintons have lost his support during this race, he said. “He lost all my support after his comments he made in South Carolina,” Pettiford said. He also said Hillary Clinton should have apologized right away for her husband’s remarks. “As an African-American, I thought her little apology she made was too little, too late,” Pettiford said. He acknowledged “it kind of is exciting” to have a former president in town.
But other African-Americans at the event proudly backed Hillary Clinton. Sandra Warren, who was born in Laurinburg and has lived in Henderson for four years, said that as first lady Hillary “took on issues that no one else wanted to talk about.” A Hillary Clinton presidency would offer America the experience of both Clintons, she said. Warren said her top concern was the state of the economy. “I’m really worried about the economy,” she said. “Here locally, Henderson has taken a big hit with job losses.” She said she thought Clinton’s experience would allow her to provide strong leadership on the economy. ‘I’m just interested in hearing what Hillary has to say through Bill,” she said.
More than a dozen protestors from the Granville Nonviolent Action Team (GNAT) carried signs announcing the group’s opposition to the proposed National Bio- AgroDefense Facility. Butner is one of five sites around the country being considered for the project.
“We would hope he might express an opinion in our favor,” Jean Wyatt, one of the protestors, said while waiting for the rally to begin.
Ninian Beall, another protestor, said he hoped the president would take their concerns to Hillary, especially since she had opposed locating the high-security facility in New York. She should oppose the project in North Carolina as well, Beall said.
Garland Walker, who has lived in Butner 33 years, said the 7,000 people who live in institutions in Butner “can’t express their desire one way or the other.”
As Clinton finished speaking, Neal Clayton of Henderson wore a wide grin. “I agree with everything he said,” Clayton said. He was gushing with enthusiasm for the Clinton candidacy. “The thing I like about Hillary more than anything else is she’s tough,” he said. “I don’t know about the rest of them, but she won’t back down from anybody. And she’s smart, too. I agree with his daughter. I think she’ll make a better president than he did — and I made a ton of money when he was president.”