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Clinton says Democrats hold keys to bright future

President gives emotional address to party convention

President Bill Clinton
Clinton waves to the crowd before beginning his speech to the Democratic convention, Monday night  

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Saying the Democratic Party held the keys to "progress and prosperity," President Clinton made the case for his protege, Vice President Al Gore, in an emotional address to the party convention Monday night.

"Are we going to keep this progress and prosperity going? Yes we are," Clinton told convention delegates, who cheered at length and chanted as he began the night's major address.

"Forty years ago, the great city of Los Angeles launched John Kennedy into the New Frontier. Now, Los Angeles is launching the first president of the new century -- Al Gore," Clinton said.

The president called Gore "one strong leader," and said the vice president had made tough choices throughout his tenure. "The greatest champion of ordinary Americans has always been Al Gore."

But the president also made sure to remind voters of his accomplishments -- and those of his party.

"My fellow Americans, are we better off today than we were eight years ago? Yes we are, but we're not just better off, we're also a better country," Clinton said.

"We are today more tolerant, more decent, more humane and more united. Now, that's the purpose of prosperity," he said. "We built our bridge to the 21st century. We crossed that bridge together and we're not going back."

The president began the much-anticipated speech after his wife, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, wrapped up a convention address of her own Monday night.

"We began a journey that took us through America's heartland. Along the way we saw faces of hope -- but also faces of despair -- fathers out of work, mothers trapped on welfare, children with unmet medical needs," she told delegates.

"How can we continue our nation's progress but by electing Al Gore and (vice presidential nominee) Joe Lieberman as the next leaders of the United States?" she asked.

Convention pays tribute to women senators

The speeches came at the end of a busy first day for the Democrats. Earlier Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California appeared with five of her colleagues as part of a presentation honoring Democratic women serving in the United States Senate.

"Aren't we lucky to be represented by a group of women in the Senate who are so eloquent, so thoughtful, so passionate and so determined?" Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, asked the convention.

"Tonight, you are hearing from the Democratic women of the Senate," echoed California Sen. Barbara Boxer. "We stand together on so many issues: economic prosperity, quality education for all, protecting a woman's right to choose."


Sen. Patty Murray of Washington emphasized Gore's 10-year education plan to build more public schools and hire 100,000 teachers while also implementing higher accountablitily standards -- issues that Republican nominee George W. Bush has made the mainstay of his own education agenda.

"Some people talk about education at election time. Al Gore has worked to improve it over a lifetime," Murray said. "He will revolutionize public education by investing more and demanding more. He'll treat teachers like the professionals they are. And with Joe Lieberman by his side, he'll continue what we started."

The speeches received increasing enthusiastic rounds of applause from the delegates as they awaited the speeches from the Clintons.

Democratic delegates were also treated Monday to a film presentation highlighting the life and political career of former President Jimmy Carter, who along with his wife Rosalynn Carter, acknowledged a rousing standing ovation from the convention crowd earlier Monday night.

Carter skipped the 1996 Democratic convention in Chicago and wasn't planning to come to this year's gathering until Gore asked him to attend Monday night's special tribute.

The convention began Monday with a day session that focused on convention and party business. With unusual ease, the slate of convention delegates and the rule book that will govern the machinations of the Democratic Party in the course of the next four years were approved quickly in the convention's first hour.

In political eras past, such seemingly routine actions might have been at the center of internal power struggles, and could have tied up convention business for hours, or even days. But Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln -- co-chair of the Democrats' credentialing committee -- declared that none of the over 5,000 delegates and alternates in attendance were contested. reporter Ian Christopher McCaleb contributed to this report.


Monday, August 14, 2000

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