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  • Onlookers display views in signs of the times

    Friday, May 5, 2000

    By Ruth E. Sternberg
    Dispatch Schools Reporter

    It looked as if a parade were coming. People sat on their front stoops along Stratford Way. Some were on their lawns, many stationed expectantly along the sidewalk.

    Some held signs. They wanted President Clinton to know what they thought -- about abortion, about Elian Gonzalez, about legalizing hemp.

    Main story:

  • School helps Clinton make his case
  • Barbara Carmen: Clinton brings right message at wrong time
  • They didn't think they actually would get to talk to the president, who was coming to visit Eastgate Elementary School to talk about his education policies. But they hoped the nation's chief executive would at least glance their way and take in their messages.

    Members of the Center for Biomedical Ethics, based in Westerville, held up large signs splashed with pictures of aborted fetuses.

    "He calls himself the education president, but he's the abortion president,'' said Mark Harrington, spokesman for the anti-abortion group.

    Icylene Scott, who drove over from Berwick, talked about Elian Gonzalez. Her sign protested the handling of the boy's return to his father.

    "I just feel as though the action on the part of the president and Gore and Janet Reno would be the kind of thing that you would expect to happen in Cuba,'' she said.

    A group fighting a hazardous-waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, showed up to hand out literature. Ohio Citizen Action joined families seeking help for the contaminated campus of River Valley High School in Marion County. They hoped some of their leaflets would make their way into the president's hands.

    Some people had simpler agendas.

    Peter Trzcinski came to tell Clinton he has done a good job. He held up a message on red poster board: "Thank you, President Clinton, for the job you have done.''

    "I think people are going to miss him when he leaves office,'' Trzcinski said.

    Some teachers brought their classes. They wanted the children to see the president in person.

    In the end, none of the 300 people -- including many who waited more than four hours -- got a chance to talk to Clinton. Most never even saw him. His motorcade pulled into the driveway at the edge of the school property and vanished.

    About three hours later, the cluster of limousines, police cars and sport-utility vehicles left during a downpour.

    Still, Chris Beardman, 11, was satisfied. He got out of school at Worthington Park Elementary to view the president with his mom and younger brother, and he got to see the part he liked -- the Secret Service agents.

    "I've seen a lot on them in the movies,'' he said.


    Copyright 2000, The Columbus Dispatch