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Clinton visit 'Awesome'

February 10, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers gave bipartisan approval to President Bill Clinton's speech Monday to the General Assembly.

"I thought he did a great job," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, chairman of the county delegation.

"It's really very awesome to be in the presence of the president of the United States, regardless of the party," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, a Hagerstown Republican.

The 55-minute speech, the first ever by a sitting president before the state legislature, focused on improving education and making sure welfare reform holds promise, not penalty, for those leaving public assistance.

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Munson, who was once a school teacher, said improving education should be a top priority.

"Education really needs all the attention we can give it," he said.

Clinton called for national standards to be set for reading and math, a proposal Donoghue said "made all the sense in the world."

Several lawmakers said it was appropriate for Clinton to come to Maryland to discuss education and welfare reform - two issues that have been heavily debated in the legislature during the past several years.

"His message was, I thought, really on target and showed how Maryland is on the forefront with both of these initiatives," said Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington.

It was an unusual day for lawmakers, who were summoned to the State House at 10 a.m. for the 11 a.m. speech. Normally, the Monday session does not begin until 8 p.m.

To mark the occasion, many legislators brought their cameras. Some, like Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, taped the speech with video cameras.

"It's not something you get to do every day of the year," McKee said.

The audience included Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, another Republican who came away impressed with the president's message.

"It's good that everyone comes together and focuses on issues that affect us all," Snook said.

He and the lawmakers got a bonus following the speech when they were photographed individually with Clinton in a receiving line. They used the opportunity to get a few brief words with the president.

Clinton was reminded by Snook of the several visits he has made to the county during his presidency, including stops at Black Rock Golf Course.

"He said, `Oh yes, I love it up there. Whenever I go to Camp David, I try to come to the county,'" Snook said.

Donoghue also reminded the president of the Black Rock visits, but he brought up another connection the two men have, dating back to 1977 when Clinton was running for governor of Arkansas.

At the time, Donoghue was a staff assistant for U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and Clinton went to Capitol Hill to seek Kennedy's endorsement. It was Donoghue who escorted Clinton from the Senate office building to the Capitol to meet Kennedy.

"He remembered that," Donoghue said.

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