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Columbia Missourian

Jill Biden speaks at Stephens College on education, war

By Amanda Woytus, Catherine Martin
October 17, 2008 | 1:45 p.m. CDT
Promoting the Obama/Biden ticket for the presidential race, Jill Biden gave a speech at Stephens College in Columbia on Friday morning. The wife of vice presidential candidate Joe Biden urged Columbia residents to help "convince those who were still undecided about the election."

COLUMBIA — Jill Biden made the first stop of her Missouri tour this morning at Stephens College.

The event started at 10 a.m, but people began arriving as early as 9 a.m. The audience was made up of not only Stephens College students, but was also alumni, community members and even people from out of town.


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The event was held in the Historic Quad outside of Senior Hall. Despite the cold weather, all 150 seats were filled by 10 a.m., and additional attendees stood off to the side to watch the event.

Among the first to arrive were Jen Terry and Andrea Shoup, two Stephens College students.  

Terry said she hoped Jill Biden would talk about women's health rights because it is an important issue to her.

"Missouri is facing [Gov.] Blunt's anti-abortion plan, and Planned Parenthood has a hard time getting funding," she said.

Terry identifies herself as a Democrat, and she said she feels Columbia is an important campaign stop for Biden because it's mostly liberal.

Regina Guevara, who is a field representative for the Labors International Union of North America, an organization supportive of Obama, also attended the event.

Guevara is a mother of two daughters, ages 12 and 9. As a mother, Guevara said that one of the most important issues to her in this election is college affordability.

"It's hard to get ahead, especially growing up in the inner city where education standards are lower," Guevara said.

She also said she felt that Biden would understand this issue as a teacher, and she wanted to hear her talk about education in general.


Biden did address education in her speech, as well as several other important issues affecting Americans right now.

Biden, who has been an educator for more than 27 years, is still teaching four days a week at Delaware Technical Community College.

"It's my belief that education is the key to opportunity here in America," Biden said.  "I always say my students are my heroes. Most of them are already working but are going to school in hopes of getting better jobs." Biden said that her students "believe in the power of education."

She also said that the Bush administration is leaving students with the burden of finding jobs and paying off student loans. She said that the Obama-Biden administration would give tax credits to families that have children in college.

"I'm thrilled that with Obama and Biden, America will finally have the leadership in Washington that my students deserve, that you deserve, that everyone deserves," Biden said.

Another issue important to Biden is the war in Iraq, which also affects her personally. Biden's son, Beau, a member of the Army National Guard, was deployed to Iraq last week.

"I'm a blue-star mom. I wear my pin every day," Biden said proudly.

Biden is also a member of Delaware Boots on the Ground, an organization that helps military families with the struggles they face.

"No red tape, no questions asked, if a military family needs help, Delaware Boots on the Ground is there," Biden said.

Biden has seen first hand how military families are struggling.

"Traveling around the country, I've met so many military families with loved ones who are deployed and they are so proud of what their loved ones are doing to serve this country. But often when you ask how they're doing, you also hear about how our country has failed them," she said.

For Biden, one of the most important things that an Obama-Biden administration would do is end the war in Iraq and make sure that veterans have proper care and education.

"Joe calls it our ‘sacred obligation,' and he's right," she said. Making the economy work for everyone will lift a lot of the burdens that military families face.


Biden also addressed the issues of the economy, family values and a desire to help working families, such as the families both she and her husband came from.

"He's never forgotten where he came from," Biden said in reference to her husband. "Barack and Joe will fight to restore the middle class. They'll bring down heath care costs and deliver affordable health care to every single American."

Biden not only encouraged people to vote for the Obama-Biden ticket, but also to volunteer for the campaign and to tell their friends and family to vote for the ticket.

"I want a better future for all of our families. Let's elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and let's make history," Biden said.

Biden's speech was well-received by the audience and may have even changed some minds.

Lydia Brown, a high school student from Tennessee, was visiting Stephens College for an open house when she heard about the event and decided to attend. Brown was not sure which candidate she favored before the event, but said that she now favors the Obama ticket, because "Jill brought up issues that are to my benefit." 

Brown personally related to issues of education and health care, and she liked the way Biden talked about students.

Although Brown is 17 and not old enough to vote in this election, she did say she would encourage friends to vote for the Obama-Biden ticket.

"I'm probably going to go home and get an Obama sign and put it on my Volvo," Brown said.