Democratic loyalists turned out in force today to give Hillary Rodham Clinton a morale-boosting show of support on the eve of her appearance before a grand jury investigating the Whitewater real estate investments.

A wave of applause swept through the gathering of about 600 men and women at Keene State College as she told the group at the start of her remarks:

"Four years ago, the people of New Hampshire made my husband the comeback kid," she said, referring to the president's second-place showing in this state's 1992 primary in the midst of controversies involving his draft avoidance and allegations of an extramarital affair. "Today, you make me feel like the come-home kid."

Hillary Clinton has been subpoenaed to testify on Friday about billing records from her former law practice in Arkansas that prosecutors sought two years ago. A White House staff member recently said she found them on a table in the White House last August and this month realized they were the records in question.

White House officials and outside consultants advising Hillary Clinton had a day of discussions Tuesday on how to approach the grand jury appearance. They rejected what one called the "deny them the picture" option of dodging reporters and said she is likely to make a public statement outside the courthouse.

Although several White House officials were furious that the first lady was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury rather than be allowed to answer questions at the White House, the official White House reaction is that she is pleased to be able to explain herself.

White House press secretary Michael McCurry said yesterday that the first lady "is looking forward to . . . having an opportunity to cooperate with the legitimate inquiry underway."

Today, she appeared relaxed and in command as she gave a 25-minute talk. In an interview with television station WMUR, she said about her unprecedented appearance before the grand jury: "It's not a first that I'm particularly pleased about, but I think that it's a necessary part of this investigation, and I intend to cooperate."

And, speaking to a Girl Scout troop later in the day in Lebanon, N.H., she described her life as first lady: "Some days it feels good and other days it is kind of hard." She said that "the political climate in our country today is kind of difficult."

In her public remarks here, Clinton did not make reference to the grand jury. Instead, she used her campaign appearance to reiterate the message her husband presented in his State of the Union speech -- with a special emphasis on issues involving children.

Clinton said all adults "have a special responsibility to do all we can to make sure every American child grows up with two parents, in a stable, dependable home."

Citizens, she argued, "have to do what we can to cut the rate of teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births" by developing programs at home and in the schools to help children "acquire the skills to say no -- no to tobacco, no to alcohol, no to drugs, no to early sexual activities, no to things that will undermine their capacity to become the kind of adults and citizens America needs."

The audience was a mix of students and local Democrats, most of whom said they got tickets either through the Clinton-Gore campaign or from the county Democratic Party. Random interviews showed strong support for Hillary Clinton, whose approval ratings have nose-dived in recent weeks.

"I think it is the strong woman thing," said Suzanne Milkovitz, a 22-year-old senior at Keene State, referring to the motivation behind the attacks on Hillary Clinton. "If she wasn't the type of person she is, it wouldn't be such a big deal. I think it is people who are set in the mind-set that women should not be in the work force, women should not be be powerful."

Paula McMillan, 41, who works at the local Community Action Agency, said people in their forties and younger "do not find it unusual that she could support a career of her own and express herself very forcefully. Unfortunately, the people who are the elder generation can't accept that as easily, and they find it very intrusive."

"I hope that she stands up before the grand jury and speaks clearly about what she has done," said Nat Ober, former superintendent of schools in Evanston, Ill., who retired here. "I think she's a target because she is a woman. It happened to the vice president candidate we had {1984 Democratic nominee Geraldine Ferraro}, and they crucified her."

"She's bright and articulate and powerful, and that makes her a target," said Marcia Ober, a retired assistant principal from Evanston. "It would be wonderful if in the year 2000 the roles were reversed and she would be the president and he the partner." Staff writer Ann Devroy in Washington contributed to this report. CAPTION: Hillary Rodham Clinton takes the Girl Scout oath at a stop in Lebanon, N.H.