Mrs. Clinton rocks hall with reply to critics Ovation for appearance lasts almost 5 minutes

Democratic Convention

Campaign 1996

August 28, 1996|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

CHICAGO -- With supreme self-possession, an air of quiet defiance and a touch of humor, Hillary Rodham Clinton took on her critics last night, defending her belief that "it takes a village" to raise a child, and rocking the convention hall.

As Mrs. Clinton stepped up to the podium here in her hometown, the convention hall exploded in a thunderous ovation -- with the crowd waving "Welcome Home Hillary" signs, chanting and stomping their feet -- that lasted almost five minutes.

"I'm overwhelmed by your warm welcome," she said. "I know and you now know that Chicago is my kind of town and Chicago is my kind of village."

Seeking to have the American public give her a second look and see her as a caring children's advocate rather than an intrusive policy-making spouse, the controversial first lady spoke about parents and children, often giving personal examples from her own life.

Although she did not mention Bob Dole by name, she shot back at his attacks on her book, "It Takes a Village." Saying it takes a "family," not a village, to raise a child, Dole suggested the first lady was advocating some sort of socialistic idea.

"Of course, parents, first and foremost, are responsible for ensuring that children are raised in a nation that doesn't just talk about family values, but acts in ways that values families."

She said that for her and her husband, no experience had been "more challenging, more rewarding or humbling than raising our daughter."

"It takes a family," she said. "It takes teachers. It takes clergy. It takes business people. It takes all of us. And yes, it takes a village. And it takes a president."

Contrast with Dole

Mrs. Clinton's performance provided a stark contrast with Elizabeth Dole's unusual, Oprah-esque convention speech to the Republicans, in which she wandered onto the floor of the hall to speak about, as she said, "the man I love" and won rave reviews.

No less polished or articulate, Mrs. Clinton instead spoke of her husband's achievements in passing bills that she said made life easier for parents and families, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act.

In a last-minute rearrangement yesterday, Mrs. Clinton's speech was moved up to guarantee that it would be showcased, in its entirety, in prime time. Originally scheduled to be the evening's final speaker, the first lady was moved up about a half-hour, leaving keynote speaker Evan Bayh to close the proceedings.

Last night's performance was likely to be her largest audience since January 1992, when she was introduced to much of the nation, sitting by her husband's side on "60 Minutes," defending him against charges of infidelity.

The first lady was introduced by Tipper Gore, wife of Vice President Al Gore, as a woman who always maintains her dignity and humor "even while being subjected to unimaginable incivility."

Even before Mrs. Clinton took the podium last night, speakers who preceded her spoke in her defense.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, receiving one of his heartiest ovations, said Republican attacks on the first lady's integrity were "beneath the dignity of American citizens."

'It takes a lot of gall'

Georgia Gov. Zell Miller said that everyone who has read "It Takes a Village" knows that "for Bob Dole to be attacking [Mrs. Clinton's] family values, well, it takes a lot of gall."

Mrs. Clinton has maintained a high profile since returning to her hometown this week, addressing women's groups and state delegations and yesterday, a Chicago art gallery where she put in a pitch for federal funding for the arts.

Later yesterday, she visited a center for the elderly where she warned against Republicans' plans to slow increases for Medicare and Medicaid.

Pub Date: 8/28/96

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