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First lady asks voters to carry on

Hillary Rodham Clinton praises the work of her husband and Al Gore, and says voters can continue that work.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 15, 2000

LOS ANGELES -- Hillary Rodham Clinton thanked Americans and an adoring convention audience Monday night "for your faith and support in good times -- and in bad," completing her unprecedented transformation from first lady to New York Senate candidate.

In a to-die-for opportunity for a fledgling candidate, the first lady's 15-minute, prime-time address to the Democratic National Convention came just before President Clinton offered his political farewell to the party faithful.

Taking the stage as the band played New York, New York, thunderous cheers cascaded upon her and hundreds of "Hillary" signs waved in the sea of delegates. New Yorkers held up individual letters spelling out "Senator Hillary."

In her speech, she hailed her husband's administration and called for voters to elect Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman to carry on that work.

"They have what it takes," the first lady said. "And they'll do what it takes."

She drew the strongest applause when she spoke about the need for abortion rights, gun control and tax cuts for the neediest and reprised her oft-repeated contention that "it takes a village."

In an address that turned highly personal, Clinton said, "Bill and I are closing one chapter of our lives and soon we'll be starting a new one. For me, it will be up to the people of New York to decide whether I'll have the privilege of serving them in the United States Senate."

She also said: "The other day, Bill and I were looking at pictures of our daughter from eight years ago, when this journey began. It's been an amazing eight years for Chelsea, too. And we want to thank the American people for giving her the space to grow."

Her mother, husband and Chelsea watched the speech from a holding room behind the podium, the president waiting to take the stage.

Delegates couldn't get enough of her.

"It's the beginning of a great career, a great mission," said Michigan delegate Lupe Ramos Montigny. "It's the beginning of the beginning."

Her speech touched on familiar themes from the Senate campaign she has been waging for 13 months.

"There is only one choice in this election whether we're talking about president, vice president or senator from New York and the right choice is to keep going forward together," she said earlier in a speech to New York delegates.

"We've made so much progress in the last eight years. We are a stronger and better country than we were in 1992, but we have work to do and we have challenges ahead," she told delegates from her adopted state.

Her appearances before adoring crowds here completed her odyssey from a "Goldwater Girl" in the 1960s to a darling of the Democrats.

In her evening speech, Clinton stressed her 30-year fight on behalf of children, saying "Don't let anyone tell you this election doesn't matter. The stakes in November are the biggest for those who are the littlest among us."

Her thank you to the nation came at the end of her speech, and seemed an oblique reference to President Clinton's infidelity and impeachment.

"Thank you for your faith and support in good times -- and in bad," she said. "Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the honor and privilege of a lifetime."

The first lady's starring role was in sharp contrast to the role her Republican opponent played at the GOP convention in Philadelphia two weeks ago. Rick Lazio, a little-known congressman from Long Island, stopped at his party's convention for only one day and didn't speak before the gathering.

For the first lady, her four-day visit to Los Angeles was a non-stop celebrity affair.

She appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Friday and picked up $1-million for her campaign at a star-studded Hollywood tribute to her husband on Saturday. Before her convention speech Monday, she had interviews with the three major television networks.

In one pre-convention interview, CNN's Larry King asked the first lady how she was doing emotionally after her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

As she has in the past, Clinton refused to talk about that.

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