Former President and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton spent considerable time Tuesday night describing his wife’s efforts to advance child healthcare and education during her time as first lady of the state. Clinton gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, telling the story of the pair’s courtship and eventual involvement in Arkansas politics.
“We moved to Little Rock when I became Attorney General and she joined the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi, [the Rose Law Firm]. Soon after she started the Arkansas Advocates [for Children and Families]. It’s a group that, as you can hear, is still active today,” Clinton said amid cheers from the Arkansas delegation and others.
Arkansas Democratic delegate Bob Nash of Little Rock, who spent years as an aide to the former president and governor, said the speech helped portray Hillary Clinton as someone who sought to improve the lives of underprivileged children during her time in and out of the state.
“I’ve heard him give many, many speeches since the '70s. This speech was in the top 10 percent. It was short. But the other thing I would tell you is, that he gave… those of us who didn’t know Hillary, some insight into who Hillary is as a person,” he said Tuesday night as he was leaving the convention hall in Philadelphia.
Nash first served as an economic advisor to Governor Clinton. Later, he became an undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then director of White House personnel during Clinton’s presidential years.
In the Tuesday night address, Bill Clinton detailed how Hillary Clinton led task forces to improve public education, rural healthcare and founded the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, or HIPPY, program.
“Typical Hillary, she held listening tours in all 75 counties with our [education] committee. She came up with really ambitions recommendations. For example, that we become the first state in America to require elementary counselors in every school because so many kids were having trouble at home and they needed it,” he said.
Clinton said the reforms promoted by his wife led the state to markedly improve public education by the time he left the Governor’s office in 1992.
Nash said he and others in the state’s delegation were moved by the speech. It exhibited how the former president trusted his wife to take up important policy matters.
“Even though she was from Illinois and went to Yale and all that, I’ve been with her. She’d sit down with these folks who were uneducated, low-income and explain to these ladies how important it was for them to spend time with their children as it relates to education,” Nash said.
Bill Clinton also detailed Hillary’s policy achievements during her time as First Lady of the U.S., as well as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. It was a marked contrast to refrains from the previous week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where delegates regularly chanted “Lock Her Up,” in reference to Clinton’s mishandling of classified material through a private email server and her response to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 that left four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.
Hillary Clinton is expected to give her acceptance speech at the convention Thursday night. President Barack Obama and Clinton’s Vice Presidential pick Tim Kaine are slated to address the convention Wednesday night.
Arkansas Delegation Votes
Just before Hillary Clinton formally gained her party’s nomination for the presidency Tuesday, state delegations casted their votes. When the spotlight turned on the Arkansas delegation, state Democratic party chairman Vincent Insalaco praised the accomplishments of their former first lady.
“Arkansas, whereas mother and first lady, Hillary Clinton led the fight for access to pre-K education long before it was popular; where she led the fight for legal aid services before it was popular; where she led the effort to establish a children’s hospital before it was popular, and when she fought for our mothers, our sisters and our daughters before it was popular,” he said as a preamble to announcing the vote tally amid cheers from the rest of the delegation.
Insalaco also highlighted Arkansas as being the home of poet Maya Angelou and civil rights icon Daisy Gatson Bates. The delegation cast 27 votes for Hillary Clinton and 10 votes for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.