D.C. Diary: Fate of the Union

January 27, 2000
The Hippodrome
9 p.m.

Free hot wings and Coke didn’t quite do it for the 100-or-so College Democrats who showed up to watch the State of the Union Address Thursday.

But when a life-sized cardboard cutout of President Clinton behind a podium was wheeled into the room and the real, human president (on television) walked into the House of Representatives, the crowd went giddy.

I never thought that cardboard and an outgoing American president would create such enthusiasm, but it did. And in that moment of applause and cheers several things became clear to me. The scene was a classic example of the magical quality of GW students and life in Washington – the passionate drive to explore and participate in the political arena. It was clear these students took their roles as citizens seriously and their captive attention to the president’s 89-minute speech proved it.

It may seem corny, but it’s hard to deny that so many students here are in love with the political process. Take, for instance, the numerous posters around campus advertising free, weekend bus trips to New Hampshire to campaign for candidates like Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore (and others.)

As the speech wore on, the students, mostly young Democrats, showed particular interest in topics affecting their lives. They clapped in unison with the Democrats on Capitol Hill, supporting the president’s proposals for updated social programs. Health care initiatives, a patients’ bill of rights, the nation’s economic state and gun safety brought resounding cheers and applause from the students – not to mention campaign finance reform, a rise in the minimum wage, and an increased tax credit for parents sending children to college.

Eyes affixed on the television, they watched the president and remarked about his ability to woo a crowd through the ups and downs of his administration. They reflected on all that has occurred during Clinton’s eight-year term and looked ahead to the future.

This has been one of the most productive administrations ever, said Anjan Choudhury, president of the College Democrats. This is the last State of the Union for the Clinton administration. It’s a particularly special one.

Though it was a State of the Union-watching party, it was also a time for College Democrats to sort their beliefs on the 2000 election.

Two campaigns create a great spirit, Choudhury said. We can take a step back and say that we are one big group who works for a Democratic agenda.

While some pondered the November elections, others focused on the present chief executive of the country, whose charismatic ways have won over many Americans.

He has a certain energy about him, and even if it’s political, you can’t help liking him, said Student Association Sen. David Burt. How can you not vote for Bill Clinton after you’ve heard him speak?

And when it was all said and done a legendary president, soon to leave office, delivered to 21st century America its first State of the Union Address. As always, it signaled the coming of a new day in American government and instilled a sense of hope and prosperity in Americans. But most importantly, Clinton’s address fueled the excitement and motivation of some GW students who share a common purpose.

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