Remarks at a Town Hall Meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire


Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

CLINTON: Wow. Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you. I am really delighted to be here on the first winter day of this season. [laughter]

To be here in this beautiful city and church that has been the site of a lot of occasions. And especially to be introduced by Brenda, who, as she said, I first met in a town hall in Dover all those months ago. 

And you know, when you call on people in town halls, as you’ll see in a minute, you have no idea what they’re going to say or what they are going to ask. And when I called on her, she basically said I have a husband with early onset Alzheimer’s, I have a mother with Alzheimer’s. I’m taking care of them. What are you going to do about Alzheimer’s?

And it really caused me to think hard about the kind of president I want to be. Obviously, I want to be a president who gets the economy moving for everybody and get incomes rising and more good paying jobs. And I want to be a president that keeps us safe and secure, and takes on the threat and dangers that we face.

But I also want to be a president who works for families, like Brenda’s. Who understands that the problems we keep you up at night are ones that we also have to take seriously. So, it means the world to me to have her support in this campaign.

And as I’ve said to her and to others who have raised issues with me during the course of my time here in New Hampshire, I will do everything I can to try and find answers. You know, in Alzheimer’s, as she said, we have got five million people currently suffering. The projection is for many millions more.

It is the sixth leading cause of death in America. But unlike the other causes in the top ten, there is no real path to prevention or effective treatment, or a cure, as there is with other diseases that take so many lives.

So, my proposal is that we tackle all three of those. What can we do to try and prevent it? What can we do to try to more effectively treat it? And what would it take to invest in finding a cure? And after talking to experts, the leading experts in our country—not just in Alzheimer’s, but in other neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s, the overwhelming response was, if we invested just $2 billion more a year, we would make tremendous progress.

And we would have a real shot at understanding more about this disease and trying to cure it. And the heavens support what we are going to do on behalf of Alzheimer’s, and the patients, the families and the caregivers. [applause]

So, I want to thank my friend Terry Narelli , who I see here, for her great service and leadership over so many years, and for her friendship. And I want to just make a few other quick acknowledgments. And then we will move on to be ready for the questions.

The mayor. I want to thank the mayor. Where is Mayor Lister? I saw him earlier. He’s here somewhere. There he is. There he is. Thank you so much, Mayor. Wonderful to see you, thank you for your support. And to the South Church, thank you for letting us be here today. [applause]

And to the overflow, which I stopped by to see on my way here. It was packed. We thank you for your patience. They have got a big screen, they are having a good time watching. And we are delighted they are here as well.

As Brenda said, on January 20, 2017, someone will raise a hand and take the oath of office, and become our 45th president. That person will, after being sworn in, and the celebrations that go with an inauguration, go into the White House, go into the oval office, and face the challenges that await.

This will be a consequential election in so many ways. Because we have work to do. I’m excited about the work. I’m confident and optimistic about the work we can do together. [applause]

But I need all of you to be part of this campaign, to be part of the first in the nation primary, because in many ways, you are the first—or depending on how you define it, the last line of defense.

The decision that New Hampshire makes is so important. And I’ve had a great time traveling across the state, meeting, by now, thousands and thousands of people. Having a chance to set forth my ideas and answer questions on whatever might be on someone’s mind.

And I know that we are going to make the right decision—not because my name will be on the ballot, but because all of us know what the stakes are, and how high they happen to be.

So I’m excited and very much looking forward to the sprint towards the primary and to have a chance to hear even more for more folks here in the granite state about what is on your mind, about the big economic challenges, the security issues, and all those problems they keep you up at night.

I have learned a lot listening to folks here in New Hampshire. I learned a lot about the struggles, the opportunities, the disappointments. As you know, I have had two full town hall meetings just on the issue of substance abuse. When I made a list of what I was going to talk about in this campaign, it wasn’t on that list.

But on my first trip here to New Hampshire in Keene, that was what was raised with me. And then on visit after visit, I was given mass cards showing the pictures of beautiful young people no longer with us because of overdoses. I met those in recovery, who thankfully, were able to get help when they needed it. I met grandmothers like myself, raising children because their children couldn’t, lost to opioid addiction, heroin addiction. So that’s why taking the big issue to me.

I will never stop leading with the values that I was raised with about who we are as Americans, what we’re capable of doing. I will never stop listening, learning about what’s on people’s minds. I think you actually learn more when you listen. And I will never stop trying to work with you to solve problems.

That’s the America that I was raised in, that’s the America that I think we all cherish and that’s the America that I’m going to do everything I can as your president to make sure it’s stronger and better and fairer for everybody going forward. [applause]

So let me now turn to all of you and if you raise your hand, I think we have some microphones somewhere that we will try to get to you and give you a chance. This young—this woman right there. Yes, right there. Yes. Please stand up. Great.

QUESTION: Hi. Hi. This is such an honor. You look stunning and I’ve always wanted to talk with you. [applause]

I have been on your bandwagon since you were first lady. We are nine days apart, but I know why you look so much better, because you’re younger. [laughter]

But it’s a dream come true to have this interaction. As a cancer survivor, three years ago and going through surgery, chemo, radiation, and having a job I loved, I was let go from my job in the private sector. However, I did come to redo myself as a justice of the peace in Massachusetts and I work now with elderly through Brookline Council on aging.

And I have seen people up close and personal that are delights, as well as being able to hear them. And one of the issues I have heard lately is the hearing is a problem and that they cannot afford to buy hearing aids because they are thousands of dollars. As a senior myself now, the affordable health care for getting the supplements to Medicare is an issue as well, because if you’re not—if you’re too far above $100, $200 above the guidelines for Medicaid or mass health, then you cannot—you have to pay full prices to supplements, but the seniors are saying they need help in hearing.

CLINTON: Have any of you heard this before, that seniors who need help with hearing can’t afford to get the hearing aids because the hearing aids are so expensive? This is something that… [applause]

I think a lot of people thought we would figure out a way to solve in the Affordable Care Act, but we haven’t yet, and it’s something that I take really seriously because if you can’t hear well, very often, people kind of withdrawal and they become more isolated, and in fact, some of the recent research shows that, you know, that can be a trigger for other kinds of conditions and diseases.

So I don’t think hearing aids when you can’t hear are a luxury, I think they’re a necessity. And I’m going to do everything I can… [applause]

… to move—to move them from what would be the elective list to a supported list so that people who have financial problems will be able to get help to afford them because you’re 100 percent right.

It’s a growing concern, in part because we have a lot more people living longer and part because we have a lot more people losing their hearing earlier. Some people say it’s because of loud music that some of us remember listening to, but for whatever reason it might be, there are a lot of issues around it. So I’m going to do what I can to make sure we make hearing aids financially available on a sliding scale so more people who need them can actually get them. [applause]

Yeah, this gentleman right there. Yeah, right there in the yellow tie. Here comes the microphone.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. My name is Mr. Rogers. I happen to be in your neighborhood. [laughter]

I have a message for you; I’m from Liberia. Liberia, we elected the first female president in the continent of Africa. You already talked about… [applause]

… your hand is raised up to take that oath. I’m here on behalf of the Republic of Liberia, from Johnson-Sirleaf the president of Liberia, to say hi to you.

Since 5 o’clock this morning—I don’t know where I was going—I have to find my way here. But do me one favor. I want to take a picture with you and send it to her that I was here as I promised. [laughter]

If you don’t mind please. If you don’t mind.

CLINTON: We will do that when we finish. Don’t let me forget, and I have a feeling you won’t. [laughter]

But the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who has been elected twice—as you rightly say, the first woman president anywhere on the continent of Africa—has been… [applause]

… has been an extraordinary leader. I mean, she inherited an economy and a government that was bankrupt. They had had this terrible long civil war that had just destroyed so much of the productive capacity in addition to taking so many lives and leaving so many maimed and injured people behind, and a lot of Liberians left Liberia because of the lack of safety.

She has been, I think, incredibly focused on trying to improve the government, improve the economy. Then she was dealt the terrible blow of Ebola and all that it meant to her country. And I want to tell you just a quick story because it’s good to remember how important it is to keep trying to work with people even if you have serious disagreements with them.

I went to visit President Sirleaf when I was secretary of State and got a big briefing from all of her top officials about what was happening in her government and what they were trying to accomplish, and then I was supposed to go speak to the parliament, their Congress. And she took me aside and she said I want you to go and speak about how hard democracy is, how hard we must work together, how we have to move past the past and then said to me some of the very people who are now in the parliament were people who were very much involved in the civil war and some of the terrible things that happened there.

The leaders went to war crimes tribunal, but others for whom there wasn’t evidence or they played minor roles were actually elected. Well, you can imagine. So I go to the parliament and I speak about democracy and all the rest of it and take some pictures and do some visits afterwards, and I thought boy, we think we have it hard, here she is trying to work with a Congress that includes people who were mortal enemies with one another against her, against others, and she’s working so hard to make this democracy what it should be against tremendous odds.

So when we complain about our problems here in this country, we need to put them into some perspective and we need to figure out how we’re going to work together even with people we disagree with… [applause]

… going into the future. So thank you. We’ll take a picture, I promise. OK, we’ve got this young lady in the red. Yeah. And then I’ll go further back to…

QUESTION: Thank you so much for being here and taking my question.

I am the mother of a 16-year-old boy who is smart and beautiful, but he also really struggles with mental illness and he’s currently in an in-patient program right now. And I think my family, I think anyone would agree that my family has incredibly great health insurance. And I know that mental health parity is the law. But we still have to fight for every single admission, every single bit of treatment that we have asked for him—that the experts, his doctors who know him well all agree that this is what he needs to get better. And the health insurance company constantly tries to whittle it down and only provide the minimum amount.

And, you know, as a parent with a sick child, I only have so much energy to fight this fight and something just really needs to be done.

CLINTON: How many of you know somebody with mental health problems? [applause]

How many of you know how difficult it is to get the medical care you need to help somebody with mental health problems?

What—what you’re describing is exactly the case. We passed a law—I remember voting for it back in the day—and then there was another law passed and it was incorporated in the Affordable Care Act, for what they call parity for mental health. In other words, if you have a physical illness, whatever it might be, you’re supposed to get treated for it. If you have a mental health illness, you need to get treated for that, too.

Number one, we need finally to remove the stigma from mental health, because… [applause]

… too often I hear from parents who say, “I no longer even tell people that my son has schizophrenia; my daughter is bipolar; my child has got, you know, chronic depression, because I feel like I’m judged.” No. We’re learning more about how the brain operates. That’s one of the things we want to do. That’s part of what my goal is for Alzheimer’s research. We have to understand the brain. We have to unlock its secrets. I really applaud President Obama for the investment in the brain project that his administration has made.

So we need to remove the stigma and we need to enforce the law so you get the quality and the number of treatments you need, whether it’s out-patient or in-patient. And I’m going to work with the mental health community, which has laid out an agenda about how we get this right once and for all, because it’s not fair. It’s not fair to the person suffering and it’s certainly not fair to the families who are trying to cope with that suffering and get the medical care that is needed.

So I’ll do everything I can to make it somewhat easier for you and your son going forward. [applause]

Yes, this young man right here.

QUESTION: When you become president… [crosstalk]

QUESTION: When you become president, what is your plan to connect mental health problems and guns to make sure that me, my brothers and my friends are safe from violence at school?

CLINTON: Oh, wow. [applause]

I’m going to do everything I can do. And I’m never going to stop trying. Because right now, we lose 90 people a day to gun violence—homicides, suicides and tragic avoidable accidents. That’s 33,000 people a year. I think we need to pass the laws that I have been advocating for. We need comprehensive background checks. We need to close the gun show loophole, close the online loophole. [applause]

And we need to make sure that the information that is needed to make the judgment about whether someone is qualified to buy a gun is in the record. And very often, we don’t have real-time information because we also have to close what’s called the Charleston loophole, where the killer in Charleston went to buy a gun. He filled out the form. Under the loophole, he could come back and get it after three business days. The information that he wasn’t eligible because he had a felony conviction didn’t come through until after he went—used that gun and murdered nine people in a church like this in Charleston.

So we have work to do. And the mental health piece of this is especially troubling, because you don’t want to unfairly stigmatize people, but you want to protect the community, so you’ve got to have information. The killer at Virginia Tech, you might remember, had been committed. But that information was not in the records.

We need to prohibit people who are drastic abusers with restraining orders against them from getting guns. And we certainly should get the Congress to prohibit anyone who is on the no-fly list, the would-be terrorists, from buying guns in America. And… [applause]

CLINTON: … and we need to repeal the immunity from liability that was given to gun makers and sellers by the Congress… [applause]

… so that we can do as good a job as possible trying to prevent people who shouldn’t have guns in the first place from getting them. And I know we can do this in a constitutionally consistent way.

So I’m going to reach out. I’ll work with anybody, but I will also continue to advocate for this, because we are in a whole different era, where these mass shootings, these 33,000 people killed every year, has become a rebuke to us, that we can’t figure—figure out how to deal with this. And I, personally, am asking gun owners to support these changes. Because right now, what I just outlined—comprehensive background checks and the like—is supported by 92 percent of Americans and 85 percent of gun owners. But the gun lobby lives off of fear and misinformation and is willing to say and do whatever it takes… [applause]

CLINTON: And it is really time for gun owners to form a different organization that will do more on gun safety, do more on gun responsibility, and stand up for the safety of our children and our communities. [applause]

CLINTON: OK. This gentleman with the cap on has been standing up. So why—why don’t you ask the next question, sir?

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Hillary. First and foremost, I want to say that I love you. [laughter]

And I really mean it.

And so—my name is James Mackey , I’m a community organizer for a non-profit organization called Teen Empowerment. And what we do is we hire young people to talk about issues, and we create initiatives around those issues to build relationships with young people in the community.

And so, I work in Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, all the—all the… [applause]

… thank you. All the communities that are underserved. And so my question to you is, is that—so we just lost one of our youth organizers, two days ago, from a tragic accident. And there are 5.6 million young people around our nation who are 16 to 24, who are disconnected from school as well as from work.

And when they are not in school or at work, what are they doing? And—and plus, they’re in underserved communities. And so my question to you is, what is your stance on supporting young people who really need opportunity, and more resources out there for better education, as well as better employment? And what will you do as president to help support those 5.6 million young people around the nation who it is affecting? Yeah. [applause]

CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. And first of all, thank you for being an organizer and reaching out to young people. That is so important. And… [applause]

… I hope you heard what he said, because think about this number: 5.6 million young people between 16 and 24, who are neither in school nor at work. That is a recipe for unemployment, for incarceration, for all kinds of behavior that has bad consequences for themselves and for their families.

And it’s something I care deeply about, because if you look at where we are, underserved communities have had a resurgence of poverty. Inner-cities, old suburbs, small towns and rural areas, Native American reservations, coal country, this is across America where we have disconnected young people from a path to a productive life.

And I think we’ve got to figure out how we rebuild that. So I am absolutely committed and I am going to say quickly three things. I want to support programs like what you described you do, because we’ve got to get people in the communities—it’s literally a one on one project in many cases.

What is it that can be done for John or Mary or whomever? So we need to support nonprofit groups, advocacy groups, organizing groups, faith communities to do this work. But secondly, we have to take a hard look. And one of the ideas that I have been thinking about is we take a hard look at communities where you have very persistent poverty, poor education outcomes, other kinds of indicators of problems.

And we really have to figure out what works. People have tried a whole bunch of different things, and a lot of it doesn’t work. Throwing money at it doesn’t necessarily work. Building relationships is the work that has to be done. How do we do that?

I don’t think the answer lies in Washington, although as president, I can be a convener, a coordinator, a catalyst. I think we have to do this in communities. And I want to provide support and resources, where possible, to give more people a chance to do that relationship building.

We are going to need more GED programs very we need more community college programs. We are going to need more apprenticeship programs. We’re going to need more pathways out. And we are going to have to also take a hard look at the living conditions and the schooling conditions that a lot of these kids face.

I used to have what I would call the Chelsea test, when I would go into the school. And as the first lady in Arkansas, the first lady in the United States or the Senator in New York, I would walk into a school and I would spend some time, I would look around. I would look at the physical facilities, I’d talk to the staff area and I would say, would I want my daughter to go to the school?

A lot of times the answer was yes, absolutely. A lot of time the answer was no. Some of the conditions, the physical conditions in these schools was deplorable. And then you have to look at the housing that a lot of people are living in. A lot of this housing is really substandard but in dangerous ways. and I will just end with this.

Lead paint poisoning effects many, many children in the northeast, the mid-atlantic, and the midwest, where we had a lot of old housing. Where we have old pipes on water supplies. Lead poisoning is an academic and behavioral deficits inducement. People end up being worse off. And we are not doing enough to notice it, to deal with it, to eradicate it.

So there’s a lot I think we have to take a hard look at. And I will do that. But it will be in partnership with young people like you and the groups you recognize and represent. Thank you. [applause]

CLINTON: I see a hand way back there. Yes, yes. Black and white, yes. Right there. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. It is an honor. I’m from Alabama and I know it is important for candidates to focus on undecided voters in swing states. But for liberals and conservatives states, we sometimes feel left out of the fray.

And I would hope that the Democratic Party and your campaign will go into those conservative states and really push and give us hope and encouragement that your platforms will be heard there. And I ask you, please don’t leave us to the Republicans. [laughter] [applause]

CLINTON: Well, I have been down to Alabama twice already in this campaign. And I will do my best to help rebuild the Democratic Party in places where it hasn’t been particularly successful in recent years. Because I think there is a lot we can recommend. I really do.

I think that our view about what we need to do to get the economy going again, and fix all the problems that we see with the Affordable Care Act, and get early childhood education—you know, there is a very inconvenient fact that my Republican friends hate when I mention. But it is true. Our economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House. [applause]

And that is true in Alabama, just like it’s true anywhere. And we are going to make that case, do the very best we can to kind of get people to recognize that we are all in this together. And getting the economy to work better, getting our government to be more effective and productive in producing results, building on the progress that President Obama made it—remember, he inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Recession.

And then he had to make sure it didn’t fall into a Great Depression. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for making sure that did not happen. [applause]

So, we are going to make that case. We are going to make that case throughout the country. I hope, effectively. At least, I’m counting on that. Yes, the man in the blue vest. Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: This is an honor. I’m a retired teacher from Massachusetts. I’ve never been involved in any political aspects. I’ve—we are about the same age, actually, Hillary. So, it’s only—I respect one woman in my life, which is my wife.

You are the No. 2 woman I respect more than any woman on this planet. I have watched you since your—you know, your early political days. We are both grandparents of very young grandchildren. I’m a little bit nervous here.

But I just wanted to tell you that there is one thing that has—in the minds of most people—we have doubt. We have doubt about so many things that we’ve hoped for, and we’ve seen evolve.

You eliminate doubt for someone like me. You eliminate doubt. I have—your knowledge and your grasp of what’s happening, and what you’ve been through, and what you see—and things that you know that we don’t know are what make me feel confident that you were going to be the next president. [applause]

Thank you. Thank you. There is a little hand right there, that little girl right there. I like having all of these young people here.

QUESTION: Hi. Hi, I’m Ella. I think that there is a lot of people who don’t have enough money for college, and schools and that kind of stuff. So, how can we help that?

CLINTON: It’s a very good question, Ella. [applause]

That is a great question. How many people have student debt, or ever had student debt? Guess that’s nearly everybody here, practically. Look, I think there are two things, two big things we have to do. First, I want to make college debt-free, so that you don’t have to borrow money for tuition to go to a four-year public college or university. [applause]

And it will work, because what we are going to do is to focus on it being a compact between the federal government and state governments, and institutions. Because I do think that colleges and universities have to take a really hard look at what they are spending money on. [applause] So, that they make sure what they are spending on is related to helping prepare a student for life, for profession or career. I think states have dis-invested in higher education. A lot of the money that states use to put into colleges and universities has gone into everything from prisons to roads, you name it.

So, we got to figure out how the state does more of its fair share. I think that in order for it to be debt free, families above a certain income level will have to continue to fund college. I think that’s only fair. And I want students to work 10 hours a week. Because I want students to know they are working for their education. And that it’s something they really value. [applause]

And I want to do more on national service so more students get big discounts because they will have done national service. Military service, civilian service. [applause]

And we’ve got a good G.I. bill now coming after 9/11—a new G.I. bill for the new generation of vets, but I want to make sure they don’t get ripped off because sometimes that veteran education money is going to institutions that don’t really serve them well. So we have some work to do to make sure that it is done right.

And then I want to help you pay down your debt by refinancing your debt. Just like you can refinance a mortgage or a car payment, you ought to be able to refinance your college debt. [applause]

And it really is quite disturbing to me that we have had, as everybody knows in the last several years, because of the great recession, mostly—we’ve had really low interest rates. And yet, when I ask students what interest rate they are paying on their debt, lots of them are paying six, seven, eight, nine, 10 percent. Some of it private, some of it to the government. And I do not believe the federal government should be making a profit off of lending money to students to be able to go get a college education. [applause]

So we’re going to—we’re going to make a lot of changes, Ella. So certainly by the time you get there, but hopefully sooner, we will have a lot of good changes that you’ll be able to take advantage of.

Yes. There’s a lady right here and maybe—let’s see. Here comes the microphone. Right there.

QUESTION: Thank you for coming to Portsmouth. I was very disappointed in the last debate that the international agreement on climate that was agreed upon in Paris was not even mentioned. So could you comment on that and tell us as president, what you would do?

CLINTON: Yes. I happen to think the… [applause]

The Paris agreement was a historic achievement and I give a lot of credit to President Obama’s leadership because if the United States had not led, it would not have happened, and I know how hard it was, because President Obama and I went to the big international climate meeting in Copenhagen in 2009. And literally, we could not even get a meeting with the Chinese, the Indians, the South Africans and the Brazilians.

Led by the Chinese, who did not want to have a meeting with us where they might make a commitment to actually doing anything. And so we had to chase them around this big convention center in Copenhagen, and we finally found them. Chinese guards were preventing the entry in and the president is a lot taller than I am, and so he just kind of pushed through in the hands went up so I ducked under and we got in the room. [laughter]

And then, you know, the president says, “We’ve been looking all over for you.” We pulled up chairs and we sat down and we said, “You know, look, we have to begin this process.” And their argument was the typical argument. “We didn’t cause the problem. It was the developed countries.” We said, “Look, that’s fine, but you are now the biggest emitters and you are going to have to help solve the problems,” and they began to agree to do some internal accounting and public reporting.

Fast forward from ’09, we had a series of climate meetings in Cancun and Durban, and we made progress. So the agreement coming out of Paris does, for the first time, include every nation, regardless of level of development or need or threat from climate change.

And now, we have to enforce it. So as president, I would do everything I can, using every tool that I had to hold other nations accountable, including our own, about what we need to do both to try desperately to move more quickly away from fossil fuels towards clean, renewable energy, to try to at least put a cap on temperature rise and emissions and try the best we can at the same time to do more on resilience and adaptation to try and help countries and parts of countries that are particularly at risk.

Portsmouth is the seacoast city. You all—I know the mayor and everybody, you’re working hard on resilience and you’re really taking a hard look, but you need a partner in Washington and in the Congress, as well as the president. There are a lot of places in our country—Alaska has already been hit hard. They’ve had to relocate some villages from the coastline. I know that Miami is really facing some big challenges.

So we’ve got to get serious about this because it’s happening. We are seeing the results of this drastic increase in temperature that human activity has not just contributed to, but caused. So, it’s time for us to… [applause]

… deal with the problem, but I believe it’s also a great opportunity. And this is what I have a hard time understanding from my Republican counterparts. You know, they all are into denial and when asked about climate change typically will say well I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. You know, the answer to that is go talk to one… [laughter]

… and listen to what the scientists tell you, and… [applause]

… so from my perspective, we have economic opportunities here that we’re leaving on the table. We can do so much more, putting people to work in wind, in solar, in advanced biofuels. We can make a difference in the economy with new, good-paying jobs. And I will say this. You know, when I’m not in New Hampshire, I’m often in Iowa. Iowa now produces one-third of its electricity from renewables, predominantly wind.

Seven thousand people now work in the wind industry. They are now assembling turbines in old, abandoned factories, they are educating young people in the community colleges to actually work on these turbines. So they have gone the whole supply chain, and good for them. Every state should be doing the same. Every state has that same economic potential here… [applause]

… and when we—when we let politics, really politics that are under the thumb of the fossil fuel industry—and in particular, the Koch Brothers—decide the future of our country, shame on us. We’re better than that, we’re smarter than that, and we all—Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever—we all need to say we are taking on this challenge and we’re going to make jobs and incomes rise because of it. That to me is the right approach for us to be taking. [applause]

Oh my goodness. So many hands, so little time. Well, you’re standing right there. Why don’t we go with that lady right there. Yeah.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’ve spent a lot of time teaching art in women’s prisons, and the majority of the women I’ve worked with are from minority, low-income families and the majority of them are in their second, third, fourth visits to prison, and they say it’s easier to just live in that cycle than try to break out of it. How would you approach helping end that cycle? [applause]

CLINTON: First of all, thank you for working in our prisons. You know, we are still in the midst of the holiday season, and for those of us who celebrate Christmas, it’s good to remember that we are called upon to care for the homeless and the stranger and the prisoner, the refugee.

Those are important reminders at a time when there’s so much political dispute about all of this, and I think we have incarcerated too many people. We have 5 percent of the world’s population… [applause]

… but 25 percent of the prison population, and we actually have one-third of women who are imprisoned anywhere in the world imprisoned in the Untied States. So we have to begin in a thoughtful way to deal with the effects of incarceration.

Obviously, from my perspective, we need to take a hard look at the low-level, non-violent offenses for which people end up incarcerated. We have to take a hard look at our bail system because we have too many people in jail and prison who haven’t even been tried yet. We don’t know if they’re guilty of anything other than poverty because they can’t meet the bail that has been set for them. And we need to do a careful analysis of who can and should be released from prison while we try to deal with people who don’t pose a threat to the community, particularly the numbers of people with low-level drug offenses who need treatment, not imprisonment. And so we’ve got to look at all of this and… [applause]

… yet, I don’t think that’s enough, and it goes back to the gentleman’s question over there in the hat. The issue is, OK, if we’re going to divert people from prison, what are the things we’re going to do?

Well, I’m a big believer in drug courts, I think drug courts are a much better option than imprisoning people. They should be given recovery, they should be held accountable. I believe that there are more programs that are cheaper and better.

And I want to just quickly tell you about a program I visited in Reno, Nevada. And it was a program originally started for alcoholics—people that were found on the street and were picked up, taken to jail. A month later, they’d be on the street again, taken to jail, or maybe they’d end up being put into an ambulance, taken to the emergency room, maybe admitted. A month or two later, back on the street.

So, a really great partnership between the county sheriff’s office and Catholic charities said, “there’s gotta be a better way. First of all, it’s really expensive to jail and imprison people.” So they built a facility that had small bedrooms, that had work to be done, that offered this option to people they were picking up, saying, “you can either go back to jail, back to—you know, the life you’ve had, or you can try this.”

And they got enough people to try it. They tested them three times a day to make sure they weren’t cheating. And the sheriff said to me—he said, “you know—want to know the best thing about this?” He said, “because I can—I can justify this anywhere.”

He said the first year, the sheriff’s office and the hospital and the jail saved $4 million, because they were no longer putting people in high, intensive places like jails and emergency rooms.

Now they’re moving on to drug addiction, because we’ve got to think differently about how to help people overcome the problems that they confront. And I just don’t think jail is a place for people with substance abuse or mental health problems. And therefore, we need different approaches… [applause]

… that will be actually better and cheaper. So let’s—let’s try to figure out how we’re gonna do that, too.

This young man.

QUESTION: Hi. I have a dad that works for people with developmental disabilities. And I have an uncle with autism. And I was wondering, what are some of the ways that you can help people with disabilities and people with special needs that need help?

CLINTON: Great question. You know, thanks. [applause]

Thank you dad for us, too, OK? Is your dad here? Thanks, Dad.

Yeah. People with disabilities—you know, I was very proud that the United States became the first nation in the world to open schools to people with disabilities. And it was the—I worked on that, when I was with the Children’s Defense Fund. And we went door to door, asking people, “do you have a school-age child who’s not in school?”

And we found a blind kids and kids in wheelchairs and kids with behavioral problems, and then gave all that data to the Congress, and the Congress acted, and schools were opened. And then the—the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed, another great accomplishment. A bipartisan accomplishment that really made a huge difference. [applause]

So now we have to do more to make sure that we provide supportive housing, that we support families. The biggest concern people talk to me about when they have children with disabilities, and particularly with autism, is what happens when they are no longer there to take care of their children, and how will that work out.

I’m actually rolling out a plan about autism in about a week, where I talk about all the different things… [applause]

… that we need to do to try to support families and people who are diagnosed as on the autism-spectrum disorders.

How many of you know somebody with autism? Wow. Wow. Well, you know, the latest data from the Centers on Disease Control is that -you know, 1 out of 68 children have some feature that would place them on the autism spectrum.

So that’s something we need to deal with. So we’re—we’ll be addressing that. But I guess my bottom line would be we—we, as communities, need to support families and need to support people with disabilities so that they can go as far as their talent, their hard work, their skills will take them.

And I think there are a lot of opportunities that we’re just learning about that we can apply, and that I will talk about when I roll this out.

I’ve just been told this is my last question. And so—oh, my goodness. This is totally—I should not have said that. This is totally, totally unfair. Oh my gosh. I—I …

QUESTION: Here! Here! [laughter]

CLINTON: You—OK. So you’ve got promoters right here. This young man, right there? OK. You got a whole team here that is—is giving you a chance. Go ahead. Because I really do love to call on kids, because that’s what this election is actually all about, is their future. [applause]

QUESTION: My name is Relic Riley. I’m from Massachusetts, and my mother over there is complaining that she does not get much more money than my father. My mother is an… [laughter] [applause]

My mother is an engineer. I meant teacher. My father’s the engineer. And I—I think that my mother is working more harder than my… [laughter] [applause]

I don’t know my grammar. I just don’t know my grammar.

I think my mother isn’t working much harder—is working more harder than my father, and she deserves to have more money. [laughter]

Like, get more money than my father. [laughter]

Because she’s taking care of children, and—I just don’t think it’s fair.

CLINTON: That is really so sweet. [applause]

CLINTON: I—you have a great future as an advocate, and—look, I—I do think equal pay for equal work is still a problem. And I think the Paycheck Fairness Act, which I supported every year it came up when I was in the Senate, is really important to try to open up the—the pay arena to more transparency.

Because right now, if you are doing a job, and you ask how much somebody else makes, you can be fired or retaliated against. And how are we ever gonna know that we get fair pay for—you know, not just women, although that’s the biggest discrepancy, but particularly people who are in—you know, positions where it’s hard to ask for more, because of their—you know, their working conditions.

I had a young man here in New Hampshire tell me the reason he was supporting me is because I was in favor of equal pay. And when I asked him why, he said because he got his first grown-up adult job when he was 17, and he went to work in the same store where his mother had worked—that’s how he got the job—and, his first pay period, brought his paycheck home, he showed his mother, and he watched her face fall.

And he asked her why, and she said, “you’re making more now than I am making after four years on the same job.” And I said to him—I said, so what was the reason? I mean, how—how did this add up?

He said, “you know, I tried to find out,” and he said, “basically the manager said, ‘well, we like to identify young men who can go far in the company, and so we want to give you the incentive to stay and maybe get into one of our training programs.'”

And I really—this young man was very touching. He said, “but they never asked my mom, and she’s much more organized than I am.” [laughter]

So I think that we still have problems, and if you deny those problems, you are denying the fastest way to increase incomes in America. And that is to make sure women are paid what they deserve in the job that they do. [applause]

Thank you all, very much. Thank you. [applause]