By Brett Peruzzi
FRAMINGHAM – President Bill Clinton’s visit to the hub of MetroWest in 1994 was the first presidential visit to the city, then the largest town in Massachusetts, in five decades.
Clinton came to Framingham High School on October 20 to sign the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, a $60 billion bill focused on education reform. It reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The school’s gym was packed with nearly 2,000 students, teachers, and politicians, and Clinton was introduced by the student council president.
“We wanted to come here because this school has a reputation for academic excellence and because it is so diverse,” Clinton said, “because it’s a school that really looks like America.” The school since then has become even more diverse, with nearly half of its students speaking another language in addition to English, with a total of 72 different languages represented in the student body.
Clinton was in Framingham for several hours, the first time a sitting president had stopped by since Harry Truman visited in 1948. After signing the bill at the high school, the president and his entourage drove downtown to a political rally for the re-election of Sen. Ted Kennedy at Nevins Hall within the Memorial Building. Kennedy was in, and ultimately won a tough race against Republican Mitt Romney, who would later be elected governor of Massachusetts and is currently a senator representing Utah. An array of Massachusetts politicians was also on hand, including U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, who still hold that office, as well as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Senate President William Bulger.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is wonderful to be back in Massachusetts, wonderful to be the first president since Harry Truman to come to Framingham,” Clinton said in his speech, which attracted a capacity crowd to the 1,200-seat hall. “Thank you all for participating in this election. I hope you’ll re-elect Sen. Kennedy.” Thousands of people had flocked to Framingham that day with the hope of getting a glimpse of or a handshake from the country’s president.
Clinton’s visit to Framingham is commemorated by a permanent display in the lobby of the Memorial Building downtown, which serves as the city hall.