Former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Vice President Al Gore defined the issues of their campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination and preached the glory of their party Saturday on the final day of the Democratic National Committee’s fall meeting. Party members from across the nation and 230 GW College Democrats attended.
Bradley and Gore, who are vying for the party’s presidential nomination at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, both told the audience they are dedicated to the mainstay issues of the party this year. Those issues include gun safety, increased federal aid for public education, passage of a patient’s bill of rights, heightened economic success and campaign finance reform. Both candidates also pledged their continued support for civil rights issues and for hate crime legislation to add stricter penalties to crimes motivated by bigotry.
The two politicians described their backgrounds in their speeches, each with childhood vignettes illustrating their ideals. Bradley, a former basketball player for the New York Knicks, spoke of his youth in segregated Mississippi, where he refused to patronize public hotels and restaurants that denied entrance to his black little league teammates. Gore recounted how his initial aversion to politics, following his return home from duty in Vietnam, melted into passion during the several years he spent working as a journalist in Tennessee.
Speaking first in his famously understated style, a bespectacled Bradley urged his fellow Democrats to “think fresh,” then pitched his vision of a better country, including a national gun registration and licensing effort, ending child poverty and continued government assistance to students, working-class laborers and small business owners. Bradley, who led Gore for the first time in a CNN/Time poll of New Hampshire voters Friday, also assured the audience of his goal to see the success of the Democratic party in the 2000 election.
Gore, who bounced into the room amid thunderous applause, appealed directly for party support and outlined a platform similar to Bradley’s on civil rights, gun control and the economy. Focusing on strengthening the status of women, minorities and workers, as well as “raising up” America’s public schools, the vice president pledged to invest the resources of the government’s recent budget surplus into programs that aid working families. He also vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare from privatization, championed by some Republicans.
Anjan Choudhury, president of the GW CDs, said the event accomplished both of his group’s goals of exposing CDs to their party’s presidential candidates and introducing the DNC to GW students.
“The students definitely added a level of excitement to this meeting that I haven’t seen in the last three years,” said Choudhury, who serves as one of six field organizers in the country for the College Democrats of America. The students waved placards and cheered loudly for the low-key Bradley and formed a frenetic human tunnel for Gore’s splashy entrance to the sounds of “Love Train.”
CDs Michael Nerenberg and Vinay Murthy, Bradley and Gore supporters respectively, said they were impressed with both speakers.
“When you see them on TV, it’s easy to be skeptical of what they’re saying,” Murthy said. “But in person, they are just amazing. Only in D.C. could we have a chance to watch this happen.”