Terry McAuliffe, chairman for Hillary Clinton for President and the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said that students should take time off from school to work on presidential politics Tuesday night in Jack Morton Auditorium.
“I wouldn’t say this to their professors, but if I were them, I would go take some time off and work on a presidential campaign,” McAuliffe said. “This is the most exciting time, the perfect time to be involved.”
“Right now, in presidential politics, this is as good as it gets,” McAuliffe told the crowds of about 200 students.
The kickoff event for the College Democrats was co-sponsored by the College Democrats and Students for Hillary.
McAuliffe spoke about his book, “What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals,” which came out in January and has been on the New York Times and Washington Post’s bestseller lists. In the book he writes about starting his own business at age 14 and then being able to retire early.
“Since I was 35, I have pretty much been a full-time volunteer in politics,” he said.
McAuliffe started working with the Democratic National Committe for President Carter when he was 22 years old and in the midst of studying at Georgetown law school. Within eight months, he became the financial director for the campaign.
“I love asking people for money,” he joked. “What’s the worst thing they can say? No?”
Since joining the DNC, McAuliffe has helped to build a new headquarters for the party as well as pay off their debt for the first time in the party’s history.
McAuliffe spoke about his longtime friendship with the Clintons.
“They’re the most expensive friends I’ve ever had,” he said.
McAuliffe told several stories, such as when his seven-year-old son ran into Hillary Clinton with a golf cart, causing her to roll down a hill. She asked him, “Did Bill teach you how to drive?”
He talked about a dinner he had with Yasser Arafat, during which Arafat rubbed McAuliffe’s leg underneath the table and gave him a kiss on the lips afterward.
“I was in a very awkward position, literally,” he said.
McAuliffe answered several student questions about his campaign with Hillary Clinton and how she has been portrayed by press.
“She just laughs it off,” he said. “They’ve called her everything, a mass murderer, that she sold drugs to children, that she was Michael Vick’s partner in the dog fights.”
But he said if the election was held today, it would be a “blow out” in Hillary’s favor.
Organizers said McAuliffe was an inspiration to young Democrats.
“I think Terry’s insight into how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go gave us a good perspective on how hard it’s going to be in 2008, but also how well-positioned we are to take back the White House and the country,” said junior Cory Struble, communications director for the College Democrats and president of Students for Hillary.
Students in the audience said they liked McAuliffe’s speech, particularly his personal stories.
“I’m not even a Hillary supporter, but I loved this,” said sophomore Kevin Ducoff, a member of the College Democrats. “It doesn’t really matter which candidate it is, all Democrats want the White House back.”