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Hillary Clinton addresses pressing political issues

By Sten Spinella
On April 24, 2014

In front of a crowded venue Hillary Clinton touched on topics from the struggles of young people to Edward Snowden during her appearance at Jorgensen Auditorium Wednesday night. The former senator and Secretary of State gave a short lecture and answered questions on domestic and international political issues.

A major theme of Clinton's talk was participation, which she expounded on significantly. She cheered the volunteers of colonial America, who joined civic clubs, had religious faith or started fire departments, holding the participants up as examples of the American ideal. 

Sean Smith, a 2nd-semester Engineering Physics major, appreciated Clinton's comments directed towards young people.

"I liked how she talked about students and our role in participation," Smith said. "We have to go out and vote despite being frustrated with the government."

Clinton also addressed the middle class of America, which, she noted, is not as prosperous as it once was. According to Clinton, the middle class has more to do with the concept of equality, rather than economic growth. Honing in on UConn students in the auditorium, Clinton said it is in the younger generations that people are struggling to find work. 

"Today, there are nearly six million young people in America who are out of school and out of work," Clinton said. But, Clinton asserted, it's even more difficult for people of color, which is a fact so often forgotten.

Clinton noted that neither her nor President Obama would have been a full citizen when the United States was founded. To her, it is the immigrants' and the socially downtrodden's struggle to participate in the American process of democracy, education and opportunity that define American exceptionalism. She proposed the idea that the millennial generation represents the "participation generation" that holds the values of old America true, while remaining more tolerant than the America of old. She cited a recent increase in volunteer hours and LGBT rights as examples of "full and equal participation" in the modern age. 

Caitee Winkler, a 6th-semester art history major, enjoyed when Clinton acknowledged women's issues.

"I really liked how she talked about education and women's place in the workforce," Winkler said. "No other politicians are talking about that."

Clinton promoted "evidence-based decision making" as part of participation. With the combination of American values and a more tolerant society, it is important, Clinton made clear, that America looks at the facts and breaks them down in a clear-headed way. 

In answering a question regarding journalism and its effect on the political process, Clinton observed that hard news reporting has become more and more focused on entertainment. Drawing out her point, she said that T.V. journalism hires theatrical personalities who are there more to incite argument over an issue rather than explain it. Clinton also used the Affordable Care Act as an example of the confusion and argument that national media outlets tend to drum up. 

Other questions asked directed the conversation to broader political topics. One brought up Edward Snowden's actions. Clinton professed a lack of understanding as to why Snowden did not remain in the U.S. to release his information, even claiming that he would have been safe under whistleblower protection laws. While giving her thoughts on Snowden, Clinton also spoke upon dealing with cyber attacks on the U.S. in general and the state department, which she headed, in particular. She offered a tried justification of widespread NSA spying - the threat of terrorism. Ultimately, Clinton disagrees with Snowden's motives, and said he may have released sensitive information unsuitable for other countries to see.

"It struck me as sort of odd that he would flee from the U.S. to China and then go to Russia," Clinton said.

Another hot topic touched upon was Russia's actions in the Ukraine. Clinton began by stating, "I do think Putin acted illegally by seizing Crimea." Offering an in-depth breakdown of the situation in Ukraine, the former senator was of the opinion that sanctions on Russia had to be both "tightened and widened," assuring the audience that Russia would pay for invading Ukraine. She did not specify any sanctions or the effects they would have.

Clinton continued with an analysis of Putin's motivations, saying that he would keep invading areas as long as there was limited blowback, and that the U.S. must be "clear, strong, and bear-down" in handling the situation.

Clinton also said that Russia could be a better and more advanced country if Putin were not in charge. When asked about her relationship with Putin as Secretary of State, Clinton gave a synopsis of Putin's relationship with the U.S. and his evolution as a world leader, speaking on his shaky relationships with presidents Bush and Obama. She criticized "irregularities in voting in Russia," like in 2011 with parliamentary elections. At the time, her comments on the "fraudulent elections" apparently did not please Putin. She ended her explanation by saying that Putin was "a tough guy" but that it is important that the U.S. preserve a relationship with him. 

At one point the conversation shifted to bipartisanship in congress. Clinton readily admitted that partisan stalemate is a fact of political life in Washington, and she subsequently offered a remedy. 

"Don't support people who proudly say they don't believe in compromise," Clinton said, noting that such an attitude is "contrary to democracy." 

She continued in the same vein, blaming campaigning and "the money chase" as factors in the prevalent gridlock. Her point was that money in politics works to keep representatives from getting to know each other well. She went on to mention Supreme Court cases, such as Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC, which effectively rendered limits on campaign spending obsolete. Clinton specifically singled out "the money chase" as a poison to the democratic process. 

When asked about the day to day process working in the White House, Clinton described the process of assassinating Osama Bin Laden as an example of the invigorating intellectual discussions she had while working closely with other experienced political thinkers. 

She said that half of Obama's advisors were against the attempt, worried of failure, but that she was of the opinion the U.S. Special Forces members should go through with the operation. President Obama had his roundtable of advisors each explain his or her opinion before Obama made his decision, and on May 1, the mission was executed. 

"We got the word that Bin Laden had been killed," Clinton said. "For me, it was justice being done." 

Throughout the lecture Clinton peppered in her own experiences, including going to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. speak, the Clinton Foundation she runs with her family and her first paid job, all while discussing larger concerns.

At the opening of the night, Clinton nodded to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, her classmate at Yale University; former Sen. Chris Dodd, whom she served with in the senate; and Gov. Dannell Malloy, whom she commended for Connecticut's recent passage of a bill to increase minimum wage. The three lawmakers were all in attendance. She also celebrated the championship men's and women's basketball teams, detailing how impressed her and her husband were with their respective performances. 

In closing, Clinton offered a call to action to the Millenial Generation, saying: "Let's make the Millenial Generation the Participation Generation for all of us."

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