Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was in Charlotte Thursday for a midday rally at Johnson C. Smith University. She talked about college costs, voting rights, House Bill 2 and her differences with Republican Donald Trump.
The speech was aimed in part at rallying African Americans, and the college vote. There were cheers when she talked about her plans to help both students and historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, like JCSU.
“I have a plan to help all of you with student debt - to play it down and pay it off,” Clinton said. “And I have a special plan of a $25 billion fund specifically aimed at supporting HBCUs.”
Clinton said everyone deserves an opportunity. “It shouldn't matter what you look like or where you're from or who you love … you deserve to be in college if that is your choice,” she said.
This was Clinton's third visit to Charlotte since the Democratic convention, and probably not the last. Polls show she's in a close race with Trump in North Carolina.
She hit repeatedly on big statewide issues she said were under attack by Republicans. She called the legislature's 2013 update of the state's voting law "mean-spirited.” A federal appeals court recently overturned it, saying Republicans specifically targeted African-Americans.
“These laws are a blast from the Jim Crow past and they have no place in 21st century America,” she said, drawing a big cheer. “We should be doing everything we can to make it easier to vote, not harder.”
Clinton then explained how she plans to do that, if she’s elected.
“I will work to expand early voting. We will enact universal voter registration so every young person in every state is automatically registered to vote when you turn 18,” she said.
Clinton also took a swipe at House Bill 2, the law that limits civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, calling it discriminatory and bigoted.
As she has at other stops, she questioned whether Trump is fit to be president and commander in chief. She said her own experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as Secretary of State makes her a more credible choice.
To make that point, she spun out a story about her role in meetings about U.S. Navy Seals’ killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
It seemed designed to show not only her experience, but also her compassion. The audience was silent.
“I was part of the small group advising president Obama whether or not the intelligence we had was good enough to take a chance, to go deep into Pakistan to try to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice. It was not an easy choice, by any means,” Clinton said.
Clinton backed taking action. But she also agreed with soldiers’ compassion for the terrorists' families - something she said Trump wouldn't do.
During the raid on bin Laden’s compound, one of the U.S. helicopters crashed after clipping a wall. When the U.S. Navy Seals were getting ready to set off an explosion to destroy it, she said,
“They rounded up all the women and children, members of terrorist families. They took them outside, as far from the helicopter as they could get them, in order that they would not be hurt. … That, Donald Trump, is what American honor looks like,” Clinton said, raising her voice and bringing another cheer.
After her speech Thursday, Clinton spent a few minutes shaking hands in the crowd at Brayboy Gymnasium. Then she was off to raise money, at a fundraiser in Myers Park.