JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The opportunity to hear former President Bill Clinton speak on the Arkansas State University campus led hundreds of people to vie for free tickets on an online portal operated by A-State. According to the university, allotted tickets were in such high demand, they were gone in less than two minutes last week.
Without even knowing what the 42nd President of the United States would address during his speech, ticket holders waited anxiously in the rain to be allowed the chance to wait again for doors to open at Riceland Hall.
The audience clapped with enthusiasm when the former President made his way to the podium, shaking hands with Chancellor Kelly Damphousse on the way.
“I feel like time has passed me by,” Clinton said as he recounted stories of being on the A-State campus.
“I have had a long and interesting history with ASU,” Clinton said. He remembered the Commencement Address he gave as Attorney General in 1977.
“Rain caused it to be moved to the field house,” the former President recalled. “Where it was set and hot and without any air-conditioning.”
That he said led to the Convocation Center being built.
“First National Bank Arena began by people sweating in the old field house,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s appearance at Arkansas State University was made possible by a Riceland Foods endowment, as part of the Riceland Distinguished Presentation Series. Harry Thomason, TV and film producer, convinced him that it would be a good idea.
“He loves Arkansas State and he was actually supposed to go somewhere else tonight overseas,” Thomason said.
The trip home to Arkansas won out for former President Clinton.
However, the evening wasn’t just spent on reminiscing.
“I think we are living in a time of stunning opportunities and deeply troubling challenges,” Clinton said.
The former President challenged the next generation to think of new ways to problem solve and “unstick” themselves from issues that bring them down such as poverty.
“I grew up in a very different time,” Clinton told the audience.
He spoke of the value of getting to know someone’s personal story.
“The people whom you disagree with are ‘people’ and because they are important to the outcome you’re going to play by certain rules, and there are some things you just won’t do,” he explained.
Instead of attacking people for their political positions, Clinton challenged the audience to embrace diversity.
“Diverse groups make better decisions,” he said. “Cooperation is a better strategy for living and working together than constant conflict.”
The former President never named the current administration in his presentation. He told students in the audience that education is the key to unlocking problems now and in the future.