Sara Palin is Still Very Popular
LEMOORE — Former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin touched on everything from the nation’s mounting debt to Valley water issues during a 35-minute speech and fundraiser Sunday at West Hills College.
Dressed in a dark-blue suit and speaking against the backdrop of a large American flag, Palin was rewarded with roaring applause and several standing ovations. At one point, a woman in the crowd yelled: “We love you, Sarah!“
There were no signs of protesters at the event. A West Hills student said last week that a peaceful protest was planned an hour before Palin’s scheduled 5 p.m. speech.
Palin, who was in Lemoore to help celebrate the opening of the school’s $24 million Golden Eagle Arena, criticized the government for a national debt that she said is out of control.
“We are printing up and buying our own notes at an unprecedented rate … adding to our $14 trillion debt,” she said, questioning whether the U.S. can afford to be engaged in another war in Libya.
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Palin made points tailored to her Valley audience. For example, she talked about the plight of farmers in an area that supplies food to most of the nation.
She said Valley farmers are facing a federally imposed drought because the government is protecting a 3-inch fish. Protections for the delta smelt have
cut off water that otherwise would be used for crops — affecting farmland, farmers and workers, she said.
“Where I come from, a 3-inch fish … we call that bait. There’s no reason to destroy people’s lives for bait,” Palin said. The remark drew widespread applause.
Palin drew a huge response when she talked about the dedication of military men and women in a city that is home to Lemoore Naval Air Station.
She thanked military veterans and asked them to stand up and be recognized as the audience erupted in applause. “God bless the United States military,” she said.
She also credited West Hills College President Don Warkentin for having the guts to feature her as keynote speaker, considering the kind of controversy she often generates. “He’s a bold man,” Palin said.
Event organizers said they sold 1,661 tickets for the speech in an arena that could accommodate 2,500 people. Ticket prices ranged from $25 to $250.
However, a VIP dinner following the speech — 27 tables for eight at $5,000 each — sold out several weeks ago, said event organizers.
Those who attended the event said they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see and hear Palin.
Marlene Evers of Fresno called her a great role model for women. “I would love to see her run for president,” she said as she waited in line with her husband Carl to enter the arena.
Evers had a copy of Palin’s book, “Going Rogue,” stuffed into her purse, hoping to get it signed.
“I like her attitude, she speaks in simple terms,” said Bob Francque of Clovis, who stood out in an American flag-themed shirt while waiting in line. “And, I find her an attractive, conservative woman,” he added.
Peggy Lara said that as a mother with two children, she can relate to Palin. Lara was attending the speech and the VIP dinner with her parents, two sisters and brother-in-law.
Susie Apkarian, who traveled from Paso Robles to hear Palin, summed up her thoughts afterward with one simple phrase: “I thought she was fabulous.”
The event was sponsored by the West Hills College Foundation, which paid $115,000 for Palin’s appearance.
Event organizers said they won’t know for several days how much money was raised. Proceeds will go to scholarships, programs and facilities at the college.