A Clinton on campus
She may not be the presidential candidate, but the second most famous female Clinton came to Augustana on Wednesday.
More than 300 people came to listen to Chelsea Clinton speak in the Froiland Science Complex, and the Mikkelson Family Auditorium ran out of room.
Dozens of people were forced to peak out a window above the auditorium to catch a glimpse of Bill and Hillary’s only child campaigning for her mother.
“I think this is the most important presidential election of my lifetime,” the 36-year-old Clinton said.
She cited her recent motherhood as intensifying her beliefs but admitted that she would probably feel that strongly regardless.
“Even if I weren’t a parent, I’d think this is the most important election of my lifetime,” she said.
Clinton spoke uninterrupted (except for applause) for 12 minutes before opening up to questions.
She focused on climate change, equal pay for equal work and, given her setting, the cost of education.
Chelsea brought up her mother’s campaign goal of providing free community college to any student and free tuition at four-year public universities for students from families which make less than $125,000 per year.
Clinton added that she fears her mother’s political opponent, Republican candidate Donald Trump, was a risk “to the progress that we’ve made over the last seven-and-a-half years under President Obama’s leadership.”
“I worry that our core values as a country are at risk,” Clinton said.
After her speech, she answered questions for 25 minutes. Two questions came from Augustana students. Senior Sophia Silverman asked if Hillary Clinton will push for less expensive contraceptives.
Sophomore Luca Amayo asked if Hillary can shrink what he sees as a racial divide in the country and, especially, the Midwest.
Junior Spencer O’Hara, president of the Augustana Democrats, was the catalyst in organizing the event. He worked as a field director for the Clinton campaign during the South Dakota Democratic Primary and has maintained a connection with the campaign since.
“The Clinton campaign reached out to me and asked me if they could use this space at Augustana to have a [surrogate] here,” O’Hara said. “They never told me what [surrogate] it was.”
A surrogate is someone who travels on behalf of a political candidate to attend fundraisers or give stump speeches.
O’Hara wasn’t sure who the Clinton campaign would ask to come to Augustana or even if it would happen at all.
“It just worked out that because Chelsea [had] other events in the area that she would be able to make a stop at Augustana,” O’Hara said.
Members from local TV stations and media outlets attended the event, and people from outside the Sioux Falls area did, too.
Marilyn Kokesh, a mother of Augustana graduates, drove 70 miles from Scotland, S.D., to hear Clinton speak.
Kokesh heard Hillary and Chelsea speak in 2008 when Hillary was running against Obama in the Democratic Primary, and she was excited to hear Chelsea, whom she labeled “a great speaker,” again.
“I think it’s wonderful, because it helps involve the young people,” Kokesh said. “I’m hoping that the Bernie [Sanders] fans will move over to Hillary. Since South Dakota is predominantly Republican, it’s nice to have a Democratic candidate’s family member visit us.”