Not long ago, the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was considered to be floundering, while his chief rival was enjoying an aura of near invincibility. However, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) large lead in New Hampshire — a key early primary state — has all but evaporated, while Obama's fortunes have shot up. At this point, Iowa seems like it could be a photo finish.
Obama's message seems to have gotten out: He would bring genuine change to Washington, while the former first lady represents the political status quo.
At a Dec. 11 fundraiser/rally in Philadelphia, former President Bill Clinton tried to counter Obama's credo, and make the case that his wife has always been one to shake things up and push for social change. Specifically, he talked about when she instituted a number of anti-poverty programs while first lady of Arkansas.
Where did she look for ideas on how to make a difference? According to the potential future first gentleman, she found her inspiration in the Jewish state.
"She saw that all these people [throughout the United States] were having children at younger ages, and they had limited education and were poor, but they desperately wanted to be good parents," Bill Clinton told the roughly 1,000 people who'd gathered inside the Electric Factory, a site far better known for rock concerts than political events.
"So, she looked around for some program — anywhere — that would teach people to be good parents. And she found in Israel a program, developed for immigrants there, that taught mothers to be their children's first teacher," he said, appearing without his wife, who was then barnstorming in Iowa.
The program was known in Israel as HAETGAR, and was funded by the government and developed at the National Council of Jewish Women's Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The idea involves sending teachers to the homes of underprivileged Israelis in order to train parents how to better assist their children with school preparedness and literacy.
The program is tailored, in a cultural sense, to serve the various needs of Jewish, Muslim, Bedouin, Druze and Circassian communities in Israel, according to Malka Melamed, director of early-childhood programs at the NCJW institute.
It's become known in the United States as Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, or HIPPY. It was actually first implemented in 1984 in Florida and Oklahoma.
According to an employee at the State HIPPY Office in Arkansas, Hillary Clinton attended a conference in Miami in 1985 about the program and pushed for its inception in Arkansas, which occurred a year later.
It's currently in place in 26 states and in the nation's capital.
'The Need for Urgent Change'
Tickets for the Electric Factory event — where Obama held a rally last summer — went from between $25 to $100. That same night, Bill Clinton headlined a private fundraiser at the National Constitution Center, one that reportedly raised several hundred thousand dollars.
A local rock band called Ike opened the event with a 40-minute set. With Clinton's flight from Chicago running late, outgoing Philadelphia Mayor John Street — who'd gotten some help from the Clintons when he ran for reelection in 2003 — took the stage to warm up the crowd.
But it was Michael Nutter, the mayor-to-be, who entered the room with the former president. Nutter announced that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton.
"Philadelphia — we need a friend in the White House," declared Nutter. "We share a belief in the need for urgent change. She'd pledged to make tackling the major issues facing our major metropolitan areas a major priority for her administration."
Earlier in the year, Obama endorsed one of Nutter's opponents in the mayoral Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-District 2).
During his 30-minute-long speech, Bill Clinton repeatedly said that he'd be campaigning for Hillary Clinton even if he weren't married to her, because "she's the best candidate I've ever come across."