Clinton exhorts students to value each child born Help those who live, Democrat says in Ind.

September 12, 1992|By Jules Witcover | Jules Witcover,Staff Writer

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Gov. Bill Clinton joined the campaign debate over family values yesterday, urging a cheering crowd of University of Notre Dame students to concentrate on improving the lot of "every child born in the U.S.A." regardless of their own views on the controversial issue of abortion.

Mr. Clinton, who supports abortion rights, never used the word as he spoke at the nation's most famous Roman Catholic university, ignoring intermittent heckling from a sprinkling of abortion opponents. But he clearly alluded to it when he said:

"If we truly believe, no matter what we believe on certain issues, that children are God's most precious creation, then surely we owe every child born in the U.S.A. the chance to make the most of his or her God-given potential."

Near the end of his speech, Mr. Clinton told of meeting a white woman holding a black baby while campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Mr. Clinton said he took the little girl in his arms and when he asked the woman whose baby it was, "she said, 'That's my baby, and my baby has AIDS.' "

The woman, Mr. Clinton related, said she had adopted the baby and then added: "I respect this debate we're having in this country about life. But how I wish we would all reach out and help the children who are living."

The Democratic presidential nominee drew cheers and applause from the vocally supportive crowd in what some took as another allusion to the abortion issue. "All of us must respect the reflection of God's image in every man and woman," he said. "And so we must value their freedom, not just their political freedom but their freedom of conscience -- in matters of philosophy and family and faith."

The Arkansas governor also took dead aim at the Republican National Convention in Houston last month, saying he was "appalled to hear the voices of intolerance that have been raised in recent weeks, voices that proclaim that some families aren't real families, some Americans aren't 'real Americans.' One even said that what this country needs is a 'religious war.' America doesn't need a religious war," Mr. Clinton said. "America needs a reaffirmation of the values that, for most of us, are rooted in our religious faith."

He reminded his audience that "it wasn't so long ago that some American voices suggested Catholics weren't 'real Americans' and invited religious wars against them." He quoted New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's comment in a speech here on politics and religion in 1984, that "the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us."

The Democratic nominee defended the role of government in childcare, a target of some rhetoric at the Republican convention. "No government can love a child," Mr. Clinton said, "and no policy can substitute for a family's care. But government can either support or undermine families. There has been an unfortunate, unnecessary and unreal polarization in discussions on how best to help families.

"The undeniable fact is that our children's future is shaped both by the values of their parents and the policies of our nation. I want an America that does more than talk about family values. ' 'TC want an America that values families."

Referring to the strong Catholic tradition for community service, Mr. Clinton talked of "parishes where family values are not simply evoked but actively guided and supported, where young people are offered preparation for marriage, opportunities for adoption and sensitive counsel on how best to fulfill parental duties as their children's first teachers."

He also reiterated his call for a domestic Peace Corps through which young Americans could obtain government loans to pay for their college educations and pay them back with two years of military or community service.

In largely skirting the abortion issue, Mr. Clinton repeatedly returned to the concern for the living expressed by the woman in Iowa.

"I want an America," he said, "that values families by recognizing that parents have the right to take off from their jobs when a baby is born or someone in the family is sick." He did not mention the Democratic-sponsored family leave bill passed by Congress in the face of a threatened veto by President Bush, but the partisan crowd got the drift and cheered lustily.

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