Chelsea Clinton talks policy during UK visit

By Juliann Vachon

Students filled the Cats Den to capacity yesterday while others listened on the patio outside as Chelsea Clinton answered questions about her mother’s stances on everything from energy policies to the war in Iraq.

“I support my mom so passionately not just because I’m so blessed that she is my mother,” Clinton said, “but also as a young voter and as a young woman, I believe that she is the stronger and more progressive and more prepared candidate on the issues that really matter to me, and I would think on issues that really matter to you.”

Clinton, 28, is visiting colleges across the country to speak with students and campaign for her mother. Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton toured the state last week, making the former first daughter the third Clinton to visit Kentucky in less than a week.

But yesterday’s forum provided a different atmosphere, one without the abundant banners, signs and continuous cheering of her parents’ campaign stops. It was meant to be less of a rally and more of a chance for students to ask about issues that mattered to them.

Nine people, in the audience of 250, asked questions on topics such as immigration reform, racial profiling of Muslim Americans, the close democratic primary race and veteran’s rights.

The first question came from a student wanting to know what Clinton would do to end mountaintop removal in Kentucky.

Clinton said her mother would focus more on looking at the needs of individual communities and would require that environmental impact studies be done before mining could begin, something she said the Bush administration has “just abandoned.”

“We know we need to get back to that type of pre-work,” she said.

Chris Harlow, a second year pharmacy student, said Hillary Clinton’s “practicality on the issues” made her an attractive candidate. And Chelsea Clinton’s visit with UK helped break down the specifics of major issues for students.

“She did a really good job representing her mom,” Harlow said. “I just feel like Hillary is more practical and more prepared for the job.”

It was not until the last question that a student asked what Clinton would do to make college more affordable.

Clinton’s plans include restoring federal lending for student loans, increasing Pell Grants and forgiving student loans for people who enter public service jobs such as teaching or public health positions, she said.

“This is something that’s really important to so many of my friends who continue to make professional decisions based on their student debt,” she said.

Simplifying financial aid applications was another key point in yesterday’s discussion. Sen. Clinton wants to move away from the current Free Application for Federal Student Aid form and replace it with a check box on the tax forms that would determine how much financial aid the government would send students, Chelsea Clinton said.

“I was really interested in what (Chelsea Clinton) said about FAFSA,” said Jerrika Insco, a pre-journalism freshman. “I had to re-do my FAFSA application over Christmas break. The forms are so long and confusing, and I think the check box idea would simplify that.”

An attentive, quiet crowd gave one of its biggest applauses when Clinton talked about her mother’s plans to start withdrawing troops from Iraq immediately after taking office.

Her plans for a “21st century bill of rights” would help veterans avoid homelessness and different types of post traumatic disorders.

“We need to deal with our larger homeless problem in our country, we certainly shouldn’t be having men and women coming home from Iraq and a month later being on the streets,” she said.

Greg Bookout, a biology student, said he was not a Democrat but enjoyed the experience to get up close and personal with someone so close to a presidential campaign.

“People were filing in and out, and many students got to ask questions,” Bookout said. “I don’t think something like this should sway your vote just because you met someone’s daughter, but I think it’s really important that students get their questions answered.”