STRATHAM, N.H. — ALONG with the usual Saturday morning yard-sale signs, Route 101 winding through the New Hampshire town of Stratham was lined with messages like: "Welcome Mr. President," "We're counting on you, Bill," and "Mr. President. Our haircuts cost $12."
The reference to last week's haircut on a Los Angeles tarmac was not the image President Clinton sought to affirm on this day. His decision to deliver the first graduation address of his presidency not to an Ivy League college or big state university but to a small technical college with a graduating class of 164 students was deliberate. And graduating students at New Hampshire Technical College at Stratham appreciated it.
"If [the president] wanted to address those who do the work of this nation, who make the products, run the hospitals, who service the public, he has come to the right place," said university president Jane Power Kilcoyne.
Mr. Clinton's message - "We don't have a person to waste" - played well here. He said: "For the majority of people who do not go on to a four-year college, it is imperative that we join the ranks of the other high-wage countries and provide a system by which 100 percent of them at least know they have the opportunity to move into a program like the one that you have been a part of."
Graduating student Greg Fuller, who first invited Clinton to the graduation ceremony during a campaign swing last year, dismissed criticism of the president's first 100 days. "I think we live in a microwave, instant-gratification society, and I think the things that are important don't happen quickly.... The press makes a lot of 100 days, but it's the long term that counts."
John Broderick and Terry Shumaker, co-chairmen of Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire last year, urged a similar reading of the day. "He's a phenomenal person. The only mistake you can make is underestimating this guy," Mr. Broderick said.