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Dellums Endorses Clinton for President at Laney College Rally

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday October 02, 2007

U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won the running battle she held over the weekend for the attention of the Oakland electorate with her Democratic Presidential rival, Senator Barack Obama, announcing the endorsement of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums during a hastily convened Monday afternoon appearance at Laney College.  

Clinton also announced that Dellums has agreed to serve as the national chair of her Urban Policy Committee.  

The intense jockeying by the two top-polling Democratic candidates showed the importance they give to Oakland’s multi-ethnic, mostly Democratic electorate in next February’s California Democratic primary. 

Obama had originally scheduled the opening of his downtown Oakland campaign headquarters for Monday, but moved the event to Sunday morning in the hopes of upstaging a Clinton downtown Oakland speech and rally held Sunday afternoon. 

But on Monday, Clinton stood next to Dellums in an upstairs assembly room above the Laney College Student Center in front of a crowd of about a hundred people to hear the Oakland mayor announce that after carefully studying the platforms and speeches of all of the candidates, he decided to back Clinton “because of substance, not symbolism. She has spoken brilliantly and powerfully to the issues that are of importance to Oakland and all of urban America: crime and violence, affordable housing, global warming, and universal access to health care.”  

The substance-not-symbolism remark by Dellums appeared to be a not-so-veiled reference to speculation that the African-American mayor might be persuaded to endorse Obama solely because the Illinois senator is the first African-American candidate in United States history to have a serious chance of winning a major political party’s nomination. 

Dellums also said that Clinton has embraced the recommendations of last year’s report by the Dellums Commission on the crisis among American’s young men of color. The commission, chaired by Dellums, was organized by the Health Policy Institute (HPI) of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 

Dellums said he believes that as president, Clinton will attack the problems of racial inequality in health care and education, and “too many people of color in our prisons,” adding a quote from the senator in which she said that “to continue down this path is unacceptable, intolerable, and un-American.” 

During her half-hour speech following Dellums’ remarks, Clinton praised the mayor, saying that as an ex-Marine who was at the forefront of the Congressional battles of the 1970s to end the war in Vietnam, “no one ever questioned his patriotism or his support for the troops.” Referring to current attempts to end the war in Iraq in which war opponents have been branded as unpatriotic, Clinton added that “American patriotism combined with speaking out against the war are needed now, more than ever. As president, I am going to draw upon Ron’s wisdom and experience in this area to end the war in Iraq.” 

Clinton said that she was tired of hearing people say “we can’t end global warming, we can’t end the problems of crime and violence in this country, we can’t provide universal health care.” Saying that the late African-American author James Baldwin had once remarked, at the height of the civil rights movement, that “those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by those who are busy doing it.” Clinton said “I believe it’s time we begin saying ‘yes, we can,’ and get about showing the world that we will.” 

Both Dellums’ and Clinton’s speeches were well received by the audience, a mixture of college officials and staff members, mayoral staff members, and local politicians, with applause and shouts of encouragement interrupting both speakers several times. But the event was not without controversy. Although a large number of students crowded in front of the student center seeking a chance to get a glimpse of Clinton, only a handful of them were allowed inside and upstairs to the assembly, and those that did were forced to stand along the railing at the side of the meeting room while the dignitaries and staff members took the seats. 

That seemed at odds with Laney President Frank Chong’s opening remarks that said the students were present because Clinton “wanted everyone to have the opportunity to hear her remarks.” 

Reginald James, a student of both Laney and College of Alameda and one of two student members of the Peralta College District Board of Trustees, said in an interview that he “didn’t like” the fact that the students were either left outside or relegated to the sidelines. “Why have the event on campus if you are not going to include the students?” he asked, adding that there were other, larger venues available on the campus that could have accommodated a larger crowd. 

Laney College and Clinton campaign officials were not available following the event to talk about who had made the decision on the accommodations.