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Elementry School Named in Honor of Former President Clinton

Aired September 15, 2003 - 14:47   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: So, of course, if you haven't been watching CNN or you're in the dark, you know we've been following breaking news all throughout day.
First of all, you're actually looking at a live picture out of Compton, California where Governor Gray Davis and former President Bill Clinton have been campaigning and fund raising together. Right a young gal at elementary school that is getting ready to be named after Bill Clinton is speaking and getting ready, I understand, to introduce Bill Clinton. Do we want to listen into that for a little bit?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Gonzalez and Mrs. Roberts, will you please come to the stage and help me with a special presentation? President Clinton, will you please stand?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Gonzalez, you're going to do this. you're going to...

DR. JESSE L. GONZALES, SUPERINTENDENT, COMPTON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: On behalf of the Compton Unified School District and the students of the school, we'd like to present former President William -- Bill Clinton a rendering of Clinton Elementary School.

OK, thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you remain standing, Dr. Gonzalez. OK, just a moment.

PHILLIPS: Live from Compton, California you saw the official ceremony. It's kind of organized, kind of not organized there. The former president side by side with some of the school kids as the elementary school here in Compton, California being dedicated to the former president. This elementary now being called the William Jefferson Clinton Elementary School.

Mr. Clinton is also -- the former president also in Compton with Governor Gray Davis, working on fund raising and campaigning there in light of all the news breaking today with regard to the recall election. As you know, if you've been watching CNN, a court decision came down today delaying the recall election as the courts call it due to an inadequate voting system. One big concern, the punch card voting system, you'll remember from the election in the year 2000. As we continue to watch the former president receive gifts from school officials we also wait to hear from the former -- or Governor, rather, Gray Davis as he's side by side with Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante also at this elementary school.

Bring in our Bill Schneider who's, of course, in Los Angeles, following the developing news on today's court decision to delay the recall election. In light of that serious note, Bill, we also see pretty cute pictures from this elementary school. It's interesting, a lot happening today, not only right here in light of this dedication ceremony, but you see a lot of Democratic support coming forward for Gray Davis as this news develops today.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What is happening is that the Davis -- the Democrats in California want to nationalize this campaign. Gray Davis is not a very popular figure, even among his fellow Democrats here in California. Nor is Cruz Bustamante, his lieutenant governor who's running in the election to replace him.

And so what they're trying to do is make this a partisan issue. Democrats outnumber Republicans here in California, 44 percent of the state's registered voters registered as Democrat, 35 as Republicans. So they say if we can nationalize this and make this against the Republicans, we can win.

Here's president Clinton.

PHILLIPS: And, Bill, we're going to listen in to the former president.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She represented the school so well. I'd also like to thank the band back there for playing. Let's give them a hand. They're in those hot uniforms, they're doing a good job today.

I want to say a special word of appreciation to your superintendent Dr. Jesse Gonzalez whom I first met when we were in New Mexico together. To your principal Virginia Ward-Roberts, to all the board members.

I'd like to also express my appreciation to the architects and engineers and all the people that put this beautiful school up in only six months. I think they did a great job.

I'd like to thank Barbara Kerr, the president the California teacher's association. Dan Zegan (ph) from the Board of California Teachers. And Lois Hale, the NEA director for California. And all the teachers who are here and the teachers of this great school.

I'd like to thank a couple of personal friends of mine who came here. My good friend Chris Tucker who probably would be more popular than me making this speech, thank you. Stand up. And the only person I believe who's ever been the bishop for the African Methodist Episcopal Church in both California and Arkansas, Bishop Hartford Brookins (ph). Thank you for being here, my friend.

I would like to express my thanks to your Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald who was here earlier and had to leave and represents Congress so well in the United States State House of Representatives.

And a special word of appreciation to Governor Gray Davis and Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante. Please, gentlemen, thank you for being here. Stand up and take a round of applause. There you go.

Ladies and gentlemen, and students of this school, let me say first of all, I know you've been in a sun a long time, and I'm going give a short speech, but I want to make a couple of points.

In America, many things are named for presidents. Our first president George Washington has a great bridge in New York City where I work in Harlem now named for him, and a whole state out in the Pacific Northwest. There are towns and roads and all manner of things named for former presidents.

But there is nothing, nothing in the world I would rather have named for me than this school. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This school embodies three things that I cared a lot about as president. First of all, it's a modern school with all the latest technology. Lots of computers and lots of access to the Internet. In 1994, Al Gore and I came to California to kick off our attempt to wire all the schools in America to the Internet and every classroom.

At the time, only 11 percent of America's classrooms were connected to the Internet, only about a third of our schools had an Internet connection. When we left, over two-thirds of the classrooms and 95 percent of the schools were connected.

The second thing this school represents to me is good values of people working together and no one being lifted above anyone else. And you see that by these school uniforms, which I began to promote on a day's stop in California and in New Mexico, where I first met Dr. Gonzalez. So I thank you for having a school uniform policy. I believe in it.

But the third and by far the most important thing this school represents is the future of America. I know, I was talking to the mayor of Compton who's here today, and your nearby city of Lynwood. Thank you, mayors, for being here today.

California is the first state in the entire United States that has no majority, race or ethnic group. The first state that does not have a majority of the people of European heritage. This school represents the future of America. This school represents the diversity and strength of America. But we have to figure out how to make the most of it. I spent a lot of my time as president trying to convince people all around the world, from the Middle East to Northern Ireland to Bosnia and Kosovo to Indonesia and East Timor to India and Pakistan of the lessons that you teach here in this school. The simple lessons that if children learned at the ages of 5, 6, 7 and 8, people would not be killing each other all over the world over.

That we have to share the future, we have to share responsibilities, share benefits and share values. If we could only believe that everyone counts, everyone deserves a chance, everyone has a responsible role to play we all do better when we work together. Our differences make life interesting. It was more interesting that Dr. Gonzalez got up here and said good morning, and then he said buenos dias.

But our common humanity matters more. The lessons you teach in this school are the lessons that people all over the world fail to learn on every continent and that's why we've got 90 percent of the problems the world has today.

So, I value what you are doing here. You know it's amazing how many people came up to me -- Lisa (ph) had made that comment that I met John Kennedy when I was 16, she was born the year I became president. Who knows what her future is now that she shook hands with me?

Well I'll guarantee you, someday we will elect a Hispanic woman president of the United States, and it might as well be her.

So people ask me, young people all the time, if I wanted to go into politics, if I wanted a chance to be president one day, what advice do you have for me? The first thing I always tell them is, I don't care how poor you are, I don't care what your race, is I don't care what your problems are, you have to believe that can you live your dreams.

I have lived a totally improbable life. I was born to a widowed mother in a little town in Arkansas, in a state that had never produced a president. I could never had imagine they'd had the life they had. But my mother made me believe I could do anything that I wanted to do. And so can you, every one of you. But you have to believe.

The second piece of advice I have is that you are smarter than you think you are. You can learn more than you think you can. And education is the key to everything you want to do.

I'm just writing my memoirs now, and I can tell you my teachers come out big. From kindergarten to great school to junior high to high school, to college, to law school, I write endlessly about my teachers, about the lessons I learned, and the things they taught me.

So, again, I thank the teachers here, but I want to tell the students, you have to learn what it is they're trying to teach. So develop your mind. You're smarter than you think you are, you can learn anything you need to know.

And the last piece of advice I have is you have to also understand people, understand people's hopes and dreams, understand when people get their feelings hurt and why they get their feelings hurt, and try to figure out a way to make people think that they could always be better and do better. That's about the only advice I have.

Finally, let me say that all of you are citizens of a great state and a great nation. I hope when you grow up you will vote and be active. I hope you will do what you can to support your country in every way.

I am profoundly grateful that your governor and lieutenant governor are here today, because they show their belief that you are the future of California and that education is our most important job.


CLINTON: So that's all I have to say, kids.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Bill Clinton speaking at an elementary school here in the Los Angeles area on this day when the politics of California has been turned on its head.



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