More than 2,000 people jammed into Schuetzen Park to hear Clinton speak, some after having to wait more than an hour outside to get through the security metal detectors at the front door - then wait about 90 minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. start time to see the former First Lady make her Presidential campaign promises.
"Will you help me?" Clinton urged the enthusiastic crowd, who chanted her name "HILL-AH-REE, HILL-AH-REE," over and over in a salsa-based rhythmic tone. "I need your help to make a change in Washington, to make sure that we do more for the American family and do more to help families help each other."
A plan for change
Sen. Robert Menendez, the Hudson County native and the defacto leader of all Latin-American elected officials, was the one to introduce Sen. Clinton and spoke in both English and Spanish.
"We have a chance to make history by electing the first female President," Menendez said. "Here in New Jersey, we know Hillary as our next door neighbor. I have been proud to have my seat next to Sen. Clinton in the Senate. We know that she has the experience to lead us and the experience to carry the nation."
Clinton never once mentioned her Democratic challengers like Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards in her 35-minute speech. She also made sure that she made no mention of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. She was standing on her own thoughts and merits and did so to an audience that was certainly Latin-based.
In her speech, Sen. Clinton spoke of several different issues that would hit home with Latino voters, which comprise approximately 16 percent of the New Jersey voting block.
She spoke of new immigration laws, education, the current state of the economy, creating new jobs, formulating a national health care policy and the future of Social Security.
Her enthusiastic speech drew loud cheers, especially at times when she mentioned that, if elected as the first female President of the United States, she pledged to bring the U.S. troops home from Iraq as soon as possible and she would push to eliminate the "No Child Left Behind" education act that was installed by current President Bush seven years ago.
"We will end the unfunded mandate known as 'No Child Left Behind,'" Clinton said. "That's especially important to Hispanic children in order to allow them to live up to their God-given potential. We need to identify our young Latino people and make them achieve in life, make them stay in school and finally, make college affordable once again. I believe in the American dream for everyone."
Clinton appeared at the rally as a favor to the Latino PAC Alliance, a newly-formed political activist group determined to make more Latin-Americans to get out to the voting booths for the New Jersey Democratic Primary Feb. 5.
While Quinnipiac polls show Clinton with a commanding 48-32 percent lead over Obama in the upcoming primary. As a shoo-in, the former First Lady maintained a vigorous campaign hitting a fundraiser in Bergen County and another rally at Bergen Tech High School in Hackensack before coming to North Bergen.
Lining up for Hillary
People started lining up to get their rare chance to hear a Presidential candidate speak in Hudson County around 4 p.m. Wednesday - three hours before her original scheduled appearance time.
One of the first people to arrive at Schuetzen Park was Bill Parkinson of West New York.
"I got here at 4:30 to make sure I got in," Parkinson said. "I'm a lifelong Democrat and I'm for Hillary. I think she represents change. Her experience in the Senate and her experience as a First Lady proves that she's been through the wars. It's a real exciting time for the Democratic Party, with a woman running for President and an African-American. They all have good upsides, but I like Hillary more and I had to be here today. It's very exciting. It's worth the wait to be here."
At one point, the crowd outside Schuetzen Park was reaching mob-like proportion. The line to go through the security check was a tedious one, even for elected officials. Police officers from five different municipalities were outside dealing with crowd control. The township council of Weehawken had to wait almost an hour to get through. Even North Bergen's officials had to patiently wait in the cold.
"I stood outside for over an hour," said North Bergen resident Raj Vats. "My legs are still freezing. But I wanted to be here to show how much we're supporting her. We need a good President. We've had enough of George Bush for the last eight years. We've had a lot of tough times with Bush."
Fellow North Bergen resident Carlo Gesualdi also waited a while, but felt it was worth it.
"I can't wait until the day that she's our next President," Gesualdi said. "I know it was cold outside, but what can you do? If you have something in your heart, you have to do it. I had to be here. I like Hillary because if she gets elected, it's like having two Presidents, the husband and the wife. He can give advice to his wife. So in that respect, she has to win."
Rishi Mehta is another North Bergen resident who made sure he was in attendance.
"It's definitely exciting to have the future President of the United States come to North Bergen," Mehta said.
"When people talk about the 1960s, they remember John F. Kennedy coming to the area. Now, this is like the same thing. It's not every day you get someone like this to come to your hometown."
It didn't take long to realize that this rally had a Latin flavor. All of the signs praising Sen. Clinton were in Spanish. Loud salsa music played. A Latin singer performed as they waited for Hillary to arrive.
Rep. Albio Sires believed that it was important to have Clinton make an appearance in the heart of his Congressional district.
"She's going to carry the Latino vote in a big way," Sires said. "Immigration is a big issue in this election and she represents the best and most comprehensive immigration reform. It's incredible when you have someone of her caliber coming to a working class area like Hudson County. When she's elected, she's vowed to come back and visit again as President."
Samantha Pazmino of Union City is an avid supporter.
"I think it's important as a Latin-American woman to support another woman," Pazmino said. "I think she's going to represent a positive change, as a mother and as a wife. I think she would represent the Latino people well, like her husband did. I have faith that she will represent us well."
A historic moment
Karen Brady of Weehawken made sure that she was in attendance.
"I wanted to hear what Hillary had to say," said Brady, who ran for town council in Weehawken a few years ago. "If she becomes President, then I can say I saw her in my own backyard."
Her husband, Alan Brady, agreed.
"The big candidates never come here," Alan Brady said. "It's almost like they take us for granted. You never see these kinds of rallies here. It's pretty remarkable and pretty impressive."
North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco likened Sen. Clinton's political rise to the Giants.
"The Giants are going to the Super Bowl, but it's important for them to win the Super Bowl, just like we need Hillary to win on Feb. 5," Sacco said.
Cynthia DePice is a long-time Democratic committeewoman from North Bergen.
"I was amazed when I got the call that she was coming to North Bergen," DePice said. "I called all of my people to make sure that we could get as many people here as possible. It's very exciting to have her come here."
DePice said that she has been volunteering for the Clinton campaign, registering people to vote.
"I think Hillary sees all the hard work we're doing and she knows we're making a difference," DePice said.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com