Bill Clinton rallies Pee Dee for Hillary

Former President Bill Clinton speaks about his wife Hillary’s bid for president to a crowd of 650 at Francis Marion University on Saturday.

FLORENCE — Former President Bill Clinton said the Emanuel AME Church shooting showed America that South Carolina can move forward — united — as he promoted his wife Hillary Clinton and her pledge to heal racial divides.

“South Carolina, after the horrible shooting in Charleston, gave the country an incredible gift because we got to watch democracy come alive again,” Clinton said.

He pointed to the day in July “when your Legislature voted for, and your governor signed the bill to take away the Confederate flag” as an example of how progress can be made.

Bill Clinton, who spoke at Francis Marion University, told 650 attendees that his wife is the best choice to advance the country in such a way that it brings all of its citizens along.

“We got to go forward together but we have to do it finding common ground,” Clinton said. “In a troubled time you need a world-class change maker.”

Hillary Clinton’s Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wasn’t directly mentioned by Bill Clinton or by former S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges, who was in Florence on her behalf. However, Hodges told the crowd that electing Hillary Clinton would prevent one-party rule.

“The choice you all have to make is whether or not we are going to make the right choice as Democrats about who leads us,” Hodges said while introducing Bill Clinton. “And a choice that might lead to some of those bad one-party rule things that happen. We know what it’s like to have one-party rule here.”

South Carolina at the state and federal level has been run by Republicans for more than three decades.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been on the ground heavy in South Carolina since April, aiming to ensure a reversal of her 2008 campaign in which she won only Horry County in the Democratic primary against now-President Barack Obama.

Bill Clinton also spoke of the high cost of college education that students like those at FMU are facing.

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“A lot of young Millennials who finish college have a lot of debt,” he said. “Hillary supports an education program where nobody graduates with debt. Under her plan you can refinance at a lower rate, the federal government would cease making profits on all federal loans and everybody would be able to finance their repayment over a 20-year period.”

SnowAnna Brown, a 22-year-old junior at FMU, who has evaluated all the candidates, said the issue of student debt sealed her vote for Hillary, especially over Sanders.

“His (Sanders) is free tuition and I’m not exactly sure free (exists.) I was always raised that nothing’s free, that somebody’s going to have to pay for it,” Brown said.

Clinton told residents of the Pee Dee, home to high unemployment rates, above-average poverty rates and low median incomes, that its best days are ahead.

A woman fainted at one point during Bill Clinton’s speech.

“That’s a metaphor for my message about the economy, even when you’re down, as long as you can get back up you got a shot,” he said after she recovered.