A rather small crowd gathered in the gymnasium of South Putnam's Central Elementary Friday afternoon, considering they were there to hear former U.S. President Bill Clinton speak.
Less than 1,000 people waited patiently for Clinton to show up at the rally. Lots of DePauw students, local officials and teachers filled the area. Even the media area had empty spots. There were, however, plenty of vendors hawking Hillary buttons, bears and t-shirts.
Setting up the facility for the ex-president's arrival may have been more interesting than the actual event. Amazingly, the gym was transformed with a large backdrop, Hillary signs and roped off areas as well as a media platform and area. All of it coming out from underneath a bus.
Obviously the people who come in ahead of the rally are pretty skilled at setting up and breaking down the site. Plenty of volunteers handed out forms which were your ticket inside. These required your name, address, phone and e-mail address so anyone who filled out their "ticket" expect plenty of pro Hillary e-mail as well as regular mail. Even the press who got in with just an ID ended up sacrificing their e-mail information at the press sign-in area.
While the press is use to getting lots of political e-mails, many of which provide valuable information, it did seem a little unusual to receive a response from the Obama campaign in anticipation of what Clinton would say hours before he spoke.
Based on what Clinton said yesterday somewhere in Indiana, the Obama group was sending out a pre-response to what he might say at the rally in Greencastle.
Interestingly, Clinton did make a remark about exactly what the Obama message said he would. It was in regard to Obama claiming not to take any contributions from big oil companies in recent television advertisements.
Clinton told the crowd about Obama's claim, explaining that "It is illegal to take a check from any oil company, so it's not a problem for any politician. You get it, don't you?" he added
He also talked about making a decision for the presidential contest based on who is going to make the best future for America.
He gave an analogy using a book called "The Surgeons Book." According to Clinton the book says that deciding where to have heart surgery should be based on two things. First, how many surgeries your doctor has performed in a year; and secondly, how many surgeries the operating room staff performed in a year.
He likened these to Hillary's experience in politics, in the legislature and in general. The more experience, the better. "You get it, don't you?" he said.
The ex-president spouted lots of statistics and facts about issues in the country. Several people remarked after his appearance about what a good speaker his is. Other comments weren't forthcoming from many.
Clinton spoke for just over an hour and aimed most of his points at the youth who were positioned on the floor right in front of the stage. He talked about the USA being a middle class country. He commented on taxes, education and the failing housing market.
His comments about education hit home with the many teachers in the stands, particularly coming within two weeks of Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Suellen Reed's report on Public Law 221 often referred to as the "no child left behind" law.
Most of the schools in Putnam County had lower scores than last year on the five-tier rating scale. Twenty percent of Indiana schools improved their standing but more than 800 fell into the two lowest categories. Putnam County has eight schools in the second lowest category.
Clinton praised his wife's efforts to improve education for special needs children. The crowd clapped when he spoke about the inclusion program which puts special needs children in mainstream classes. Yet, there are those in the education system who would argue that in an actual classroom, special needs kids and advanced kids do not get the attention they need.
Clinton got another round of applause when he talked about reducing the cost of student loans and making education more affordable and available. He suggested that students going into nursing, teaching, fire or police would have their loans repaid by their service rather than fiscally. "You get it, don't you?" he said.
The crowd grew restless as Clinton continued covering issues important to Hillary's campaign. People began slowly moving down from the bleachers and out the front doors while the ex-president continued talking. A few stopped to take a quick photo and slipped out the door.
He finished his speech talking about Indiana having the largest number of National Guard Reserves and treating veterans and current military personnel with the respect they deserve.
In the end, he asked for votes for Hillary. Since this was a political rally, "You get it, don't you?"
Check out Bill Clinton photo gallery at www.bannergraphic.com/gallery/2756/