Hillary Clinton received warmly by NAACP crowd

She calls for action on education, wages

Naacp 2000

July 12, 2000|By LAURIE WILLIS | LAURIE WILLIS,SUN STAFF

Igniting NAACP convention-goers yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton called for ending the digital divide, increasing the minimum wage and providing health care for all Americans.

During her 30-minute address, which often took the tone of a stump speech for her Senate candidacy in New York, she also took aim at GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush, who had received a lukewarm reception from the group the day before.

Like Bush, she did not offer specific strategies for attacking the issues she raised, but Clinton struck a chord with the historically Democratic crowd, focusing demonstratively on education, Social Security, health care and voter registration.

She also talked about the Confederate flag and politicians who "talk the talk" but don't "walk the walk."

"There are schools in the country that no child should have to attend," Clinton said, adding that she visited a New York school recently that was constructed in 1894 and last modernized in 1928.

"Those 400 children were rich in spirit, but of their 35 computers, 25 were not linked to the Internet," she said. "There are things that a president and senators and legislators can do. Some people are for 100,000 more qualified teachers being put into the classrooms ... and some are not."

Often raising her fist for emphasis, Clinton also reiterated her husband's posture on affirmative action, saying: "Let's mend it, not end it."

"Some of us still believe in One America, and that's why we support federal hate crimes legislation, Social Security, Medicare, reducing the national debt, tax cuts for child care and college tuition," she told attendees of the 91st annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"Let's close that digital divide. Let's close the credit divide. Nobody should be denied the opportunity to buy a home. We're going to have to work harder to keep pulling our country together."

Clinton had been unable to attend the NAACP's convention in New York last year but made good on her promise to attend the Baltimore convention, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said while introducing her.

Before she addressed the crowd of several thousand, the Baltimore City College High School choir sang "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," "Lovely Day" and other tunes.

Clinton followed with a speech peppered with quotes from Scripture and often interrupted by shouts, applause and standing ovations.

Clinton praised the NAACP for its 91-year struggle, but just as the Rev. Al Sharpton did during a keynote address Sunday, she urged members not to become complacent.

"None of us can afford to fall asleep because the revolution still continues, and we all have a role to play," she said.

"It'd be easy to fall asleep, with all of our prosperity ... but I am hoping as I stand before you today that we all remember ... to remain awake and vigilant and focused and [to] work together."

She also took a swipe at Texas Governor Bush, who is running a campaign of "compassionate conservatism," designed to appeal to independents, suburban women, Hispanics and other swing-voter groups who are key to November's election.

"I'm all for compassion," Clinton said to loud laughter and applause. "It's a wonderful emotion, and I know there are lots of people who feel bad when people are discriminated against.

"But we don't just need compassion. ... We need to move toward convictions and action and change on behalf of the principles of equality and justice in our country."

Later, in response, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett suggested the first lady has joined Vice President Al Gore's campaign for president.

"While we all knew that Bill Clinton was Al Gore's campaign manager, it's interesting to learn that his latest campaign shakeup included adding Hillary Clinton as a top campaign adviser," Bartlett said.

Clinton was initially thought to be a replacement for her husband, who could not make a scheduled speech yesterday because of the Middle East summit.

But Mfume announced yesterday that the president will speak tomorrow. Gore will address the convention today.

When she concluded her remarks yesterday, Clinton made her way to the front row of seats, where hundreds clamored to take her picture.

"I've just got to touch her," one excited woman said.

Many said they were impressed with her speech.

"I thought that she covered a lot of issues that weren't covered by Bush when he spoke," said Alexandria Savage, 16, an incoming junior at Philadelphia High School for Girls.

"She seemed really concerned for the best interests of youth and education."

Maya Martin, 18, who plans to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, said she was pleased to hear Clinton mention the possibility of tax-deductible college tuition.

"It's hard for middle-class families to get financial aid, especially if you have a two-parent household and they're both working," Martin said.

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