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By Jojo Santo Tomas

HAGATNA, Guam (November 24, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---In the largest gathering of people since the Pope came to Guam in 1980, the island turned out in full force to welcome President William Jefferson Clinton.

More that 45,000 people braved a scorching sun to line the streets or gather at the Ricardo Bordallo Governor's Complex at Adelup. Conservative estimates listed the gathering at Adelup at 25,000 to welcome the most powerful man in the free world.

"My fellow Americans," he began, only to be drowned out by the cheering throng waving flags amid a sea of bodies. When the cheering subsided, he spoke of a pride, a pride to be among Americans so far away from the continental U.S.

He spoke of the role Guam played in the history of American, and how important that role has become in the last 50 years. He spoke about returning excess military land back to the people, and promised to ask the new Congress to form a task force in returning 7,200 acres of land at the Naval Air Station. He spoke about preparing the youngsters of Guam for the 21st century, about health benefits, and how he had a couple of years left to make it happen. And oh, how the crowd responded.

Following his speech, Clinton came down from the stage and shook hands with as many of the crowd as his Secret Service agents would let him. As if that weren't enough, he doubled back for another round of hand-shaking, sometimes reaching back four or five people deep in the crowd for a firm, hearty handshake.

"He usually doesn't do that," said Assistant Press Secretary Roger Salazar, about Clinton turning doubling back for handshakes. "But that's the President for you. He likes to get out and meet the people."

He even picked a young child, Hilario Mendez, and held him for a few moments before handing him back to his beaming father.

Clinton touched down on Air Force One at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport exactly on time, at 1:15 p.m. yesterday. From there, it was a flurry of excitement as Clinton gave a brief address at Government House before the entourage visited the Memorial Wall at the top of Nimitz Hill to present a wreath to the thousands of Chamorros who lost their lives in battle.

Then, it was on to Adelup, where tens of thousands showed no sign of fatigue from standing for several hours, listening to young performers like Julian Aguon sing the National Anthem, and hearing speeches from Mike San Nicolas and Roseanne Apuron.

San Nicolas said it was the first visit by a President in more than a hundred years for the sole intent to get a better understanding of the people.

"You guys give great speeches," Clinton said. "If we do come back, we can at least learn to give them like you do here."

Congressional Delegate Robert Underwood, who accompanied Clinton aboard Air Force One en route to Guam, gave a spirit-lifting speech about Chamorros showing faith in a man they could not vote for.

Speeches by Mayor Paul McDonald of Agana Heights and Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez roused the crowd to even greater heights in anticipation of Clinton's address.

After Adelup, Clinton and his 40-car motorcade drove back to the airport, where he said emotional good-byes to the First Family, and even stopped to pose for shots with the local media.

"I want to come back," he said, right before boarding the stairs to Air Force One.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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