Clinton touts African-American backing on Watts campaign stop
By GENE C. JOHNSON JR., Staff Writer
White House hopeful unveils agenda she says will benefit ˜young men of color' in particular.
WATTS "” Touting her experience as first lady and the U.S. Senate, a number of black elected officials, community activists and business leaders threw their support behind the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton during a packed gathering at King Drew Magnet School in Watts on Sept. 14.
"Thirty years of experience. She is the most qualified candidate in this race, that's why I have endorsed her," said former basketball great and L.A. business titan Earvin "Magic" Johnson. "She cares, she's smart and the one thing that you can count on is that there will be changes in the White House. There will be changes in America once she comes aboard."
Clinton, who has stirred debate in recent days with a plan to provide healthcare for all Americans, also received backing from L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as well as activist "Sweet Alice Harris," and newly elected Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach.
Harris, who sat on the dais, wore a T-shirt dating back at least a decade, showing her previous support for Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton.
"Really, our country is in a state of the have and the have-nots," Richardson said. "In our community, here, we have the opportunity to work with someone we know "” not someone we met yesterday."
It what organizers called a "conversation" with Clinton, the candidate fielded questions from the audience "” with many lining the auditorium walls "” on such topics as health care, education, crime, faith-based initiatives and finding new energy sources.
"Think about it: Right here in South L.A. we could put people to work putting solar panels on folks' houses and schools, on the churches and on the businesses," she said. "We could use all kinds of alternative energy.
"Where there are vacant lots, we could put windmills up," she added. "Then all of a sudden everybody in the area is getting cheap energy."
On the war in Iraq, Clinton said she would be a president who will "listen to the military, but who will also seek out political, economical, cultural, diplomatic and other kinds of ideas so that we can make the world safe for us and for our friends and allies."
Attendees at the event included the Rev. William Epps of Second Baptist Church, L.A. City Council members Wendy Gruel, Janice Hahn and Jack Weiss, Los Angeles school board member Richard Vladovic, and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles. On Tuesday, the Clinton campaign announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton, a former lieutenant governor considered by many to be the dean of black California politics.
In her remarks, Clinton also took jabs at President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind education policy, saying: "We need to have a different approach. We cannot see our children as little walking tests. At the end of the day, what matters to me is how we treat our children and what kind of futures we give them."
"We don't have a child to waste," said Clinton, who said she supports more funding for Head Start programs and a universal pre-kindergarten program for every 4-year-old. "We need to get in and help [children] at a very early stage," she said.
She went on to attack the current healthcare system, saying that at least 47 million American are without healthcare.
"Part of the reason why I'm running for president is to make sure that nobody feels invisible anymore. I'm tired of Americans feeling invisible. If you don't have health care and you don't know where to go "” and your hospital closes, you sure feel invisible, don't you?"
Of particular interest to the South L.A. community, Clinton said she would like to create a "youth opportunity agenda for children of color "” particularly young men of color" such as more "second chance" programs and a charter school similar to the one started in the Bronx where students were paired with a successful African-American role model.
"I've outlined this full agenda for young men of color because I'm tired of them being seen as a problem," she said.
Friday's event also included a performance by the school's cheerleading squad and their choir.
"On a championship team we need experience. We need a veteran," Villaraigosa said. "We need someone who has been through a championship game, played on a championship level, someone with the strength and experience to lead this great nation."
"This is not the first time that the senator is in our community. This is not the first time she's come and supported people of all colors," added Johnson. "She has been about young people. She has been about poor people "”middle class people her whole life. She is the only candidate that can work with everybody in Congress, in the Senate and around the world."