Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 23, 1996

Coverage Of Mrs.
Clinton's Speech At
Shriver Hall

Speech: City, university
lauded for public health

Mike Field
Staff Writer

Hillary Clinton paid her fourth visit to Johns Hopkins in as many years Sept. 16, telling a capacity audience at Shriver Hall that "caring for the last and least among us" is the true test of a nation's greatness.

The first lady visited the Homewood campus to deliver the closing address of a three-day conference designed to bring winning foreign aid strategies home to America's poorest citizens. The first national "Lessons Without Borders" conference was sponsored jointly by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the City of Baltimore and The Johns Hopkins University.

Declaring that "Baltimore was the first city to embrace the idea that the work the United States has been doing overseas for decades could be done here," Mrs. Clinton lauded the city and Johns Hopkins for initiating public health efforts that have significantly improved certain health indices among the urban poor. In particular, she cited a door-to-door immunization campaign, modeled on a successful program in Kenya, that boosted Baltimore's school-age vaccination rate from 62 to 96 percent in one year.

The public health focus of Mrs. Clinton's remarks provided an ironic contrast to her previous visit to the Homewood campus in 1994. Then, accompanied by her husband, the two spoke on behalf of the ambitious health care reform bill unveiled by the president only days before.

That speech--delivered before a telegenic backdrop of scores of School of Medicine students and faculty in their white lab coats--emphasized the need for ready and equal access to medical care on behalf of all citizens. It marked the beginning of what was to prove the biggest defeat for the Clinton White House, a disaster that some political analysts have linked directly to the Republican take-over of the House and Senate after nearly 40 years of Democratic dominance.

During last Monday's visit, Mrs. Clinton spoke only of small, relatively inexpensive programs targeted toward specific problems with measurable outcomes. Looking relaxed and confident in a brown suit with matching brown pumps, the first lady smiled appreciatively when Baltimore mayor and former Yale law school classmate Kurt Schmoke introduced her by exclaiming, "Mrs. Clinton, Baltimore is your kind of town!"

Clinton's visit to the strongly Democratic city occurred, at least in part, as a result of campaign politics. Although the Shriver Hall address was deliberately non-political--students were advised in advance that signs would not be allowed in the auditorium--when the speech was concluded Mrs. Clinton was whisked away to a Democratic fundraiser at the city's Hyatt Regency Hotel.

There, Gov. Parris Glendenning, Mayor Schmoke and Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski joined Mrs. Clinton and about 800 others in an effort that raised, according to the Baltimore Sun, a quarter million dollars for the Women's Leadership Forum, an affiliate of the Democratic Party.

At one point it looked as if Mrs. Clinton's visit to Shriver Hall wasn't going to happen at all. Bad weather and a delayed schedule caused the first lady to be more than an hour late to the event, scheduled to occur at 4:45 p.m. A patient, but clearly excited, audience of about 250 conference participants and another 700 or so Hopkins students and community members waited expectantly in the hall under the watchful eyes of more than a half dozen Secret Service agents.

More than once the entrance of a woman in a business suit caused a spontaneous outburst of applause, followed by a wave of laughter as the embarrassed recipient smiled meekly at the audience.

A few minutes before 6, USAID spokeswoman Jill Buckley got up on stage to deliver a progress report. "I'm told that Mrs. Clinton is in the city--Dayton, Ohio," she deadpanned. There was some appreciative laughter, and one or two got up to go home. Most, however, hunkered down and remained in their seats, determined to see the speaker they had come to hear. A set of portable speakers placed on the outside steps of Shriver Hall to accommodate the overflow crowd broadcast the message to no one, as the long delay and a steady, downpouring rain had driven away those unable to get a seat within.

At 6, university president William R. Brody took the stage to enthusiastic applause. "Good afternoon and soon to be good evening," he said by way of acknowledging the delay. Brody, USAID administrator J. Brian Atwood and Mayor Schmoke each made brief welcoming remarks, foreshortened by the lateness of the hour. "I have made a decision to forgo the first 45 minutes of my talk," Schmoke joked before introducing the first lady.

Mrs. Clinton spoke for less than an hour. During her speech, she cited several programs that had been successfully transferred from use in developing countries to communities here in the United States. "Many of you may not know what this is," she said at one point, holding up for all to see a sample oral rehydration therapy packet. She explained the contents of the packet, a combination of sugars and salts, can save a life when mixed with clean water and administered to someone suffering severe diarrhea, particularly children.

"This therapy has proven to be an inexpensive and effective way to save lives all over the world," she said, citing the need for the availability of similar treatment to prevent costly hospitalization among poor Americans. "When we look at what we've done as a country abroad, it's just common sense that USAID share its experience and programs with those in need at home."

"We want to continue leading the world, not just in doing well, but in doing right," Mrs. Clinton said at the end of her remarks. "This country is the strongest nation on earth. But we will not be judged on our strength, but whether we care about the littlest child, the smallest creature. That's what will truly make America great."

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