Gore plugs green eggs, education

Seuss reading offers chance to campaign

March 03, 2000|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

DISTRICT HEIGHTS -- Vice President Al Gore brought Sam I Am's campaign for green eggs and ham to an elementary school in suburban Washington yesterday, celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday by reading that classic story to 45 elementary school children.

He used the setting of this sparkling year-old Prince George's County elementary school to push his education proposals less than a week before Maryland votes in its Super Tuesday primary.

"What I came here to say is that, with the primary next Tuesday, education will be my No. 1 priority as president," Gore said to about 100 people who crowded into the Media Center of Francis Scott Key Elementary School.

The audience included many teachers who stayed after school for the speech as well as the usual array of local office holders who have endorsed Gore and turn out for his appearances, including Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Congressmen Benjamin L. Cardin and Steny H. Hoyer, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and the county executives of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, Wayne K. Curry and Douglas M. Duncan.

Maryland polls show Gore with a 2-to-1 lead over Bill Bradley, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The latest poll, from Mason-Dixon Research, puts Gore at 59 percent and Bradley at 28 percent among likely voters.

"People believe that this race is over in Maryland," Miller said. "But they still have to vote. We've got to make sure they get out and show up at the polls."

Gore, who did not mention any of his opponents, Democrat or Republican, emphasized his plans to expand preschool programs to all 4-year-olds and many 3-year-olds.

"Scientific studies have shown that children's brains grow more or less depending on the educational stimulation they receive in the early years of life," he said. "I make a commitment to ensure a high quality preschool for every child in the nation."

Gore said the country needs to make the same commitment to education that the parents of the baby boomers made when those children started crowding schools.

"For the next 10 years, we will set a record every year for the number of new children entering school," he said, but added that parents with school-age children are declining as a percentage of the population, making it difficult for local governments to pass the tax measures needed to fund school expansion.

"That is just human nature," he said, calling for increasing the federal share of school budgets to 50 percent "while keeping control on the local level."

"And we have to start treating teachers like the professionals they are," he said to loud applause from the school faculty.

Referring to the killing in Michigan of one first-grader by another, Gore said, "It is hard to imagine that this happened in America." He renewed his call for child safety locks on guns.

Earlier, Gore entered a third-grade classroom, crossed one cowboy-boot-shod foot over the other and read to the 45 neatly uniformed pupils who ranged from kindergarten to fifth grade and participate in the school's after-school program.

Interrupted a few times by loud-speaker announcements of buses leaving, Gore wondered if Sam I Am would be successful in persuading his antagonist to try the green eggs and ham. The pupils assured him that Sam I Am was up to the task.

"You're making me hungry," one child called out as Gore extolled the virtues of green eggs and ham.

When he reached the end of the book, and not only had the Seuss creature tried the oddly colored meal, but liked it, another child said, "We told you."

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