The Collegian
Thursday, December 08, 2022

Bill Clinton addresses Va. Dems at Jefferson-Jackson Gala

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton

President Barack Obama frees America from the burden of its past and represents the country's future, former President Bill Clinton told the Democratic Party of Virginia at its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

He noted the diversity of the 3,000 guests at the gala, held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on Feb. 7.

"Thirty years ago," he said, "most guys here looked like me: old, gray-haired men in suits."

Clinton was the featured speaker for the dinner, where activists, lobbyists and corporation representatives paid at least $175 per seat to attend.

He remarked at the historical significance of Obama's inauguration.

Sitting on the steps of the Capitol on Inauguration Day, he said, he was reminded of how Martin Luther King Jr. had given his "I Have a Dream" speech in the same city 44 years earlier.

"[Obama] represents what is happening to all of us in America," he said.

Clinton called Obama a "kaleidoscope," because he grew up in Indonesia, had a Kansan mother and a Kenyan father. The country was no longer biracial, he said.

Obama was proof that Americans could become whatever they wanted if they worked hard, Clinton said, but the United States needed to become a country of shared responsibilities.

"We have to find a way to build a future that we share," he said.

The partisan guests were still rejoicing about Obama's victory and how Virginia had turned blue for the first time since former President Lyndon B. Johnson's election in 1964.

Obama kicked off his Presidential campaign in Bristow, Va., and ended his campaign the night before the election in Manassas, Va., a strategy that paid off when he won the Commonwealth's 13 electoral votes.

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About 52 percent of Virginians -- or 1,905,517 votes -- went to Obama in the presidential election, while McCain garnered 47 percent -- 1,703,424 votes.

"We have won the great culture war that has divided America for 40 years," Clinton said. "But before we celebrate too much, we have to realize that people hired us to lead."

Clinton urged the party to stay united in the coming governor's primaries, which will be held June 9.

"You should remember how long we have worked for this moment," Clinton said. "Stay together; work together; prove to the American people they made the right decision.

"We have been given something that we have not had in 40 years -- a genuine majority support. But we got it at an exceedingly difficult time."

The Democratic Party faces a gubernatorial primary in which three of the party's candidates -- Virginia Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former Virginia Del. Brian J. Moran -- will be running against presumptive Republican nominee, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell.

"They have just about done themselves in," Clinton said about the Republicans. "We should wish them well and hope that the politics of division ... no longer work in America."

Current Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine cannot run for re-election under Virginia's constitution. Once the new governor is elected, Kaine will work full time in his new position as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"We have a president who, so far, has made really good appointments," Clinton said. "I especially like that secretary of state one."

He reminded the audience that after losing the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, whom Bill Clinton had called "my candidate for president," campaigned for Obama.

Clinton received a standing ovation. U2's "Beautiful Day" echoed through the room as the former president made his way through the mass of people eager to shake his hand or take a picture with him.

Virginia Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner and Congressmen Reps. Tom Perriello and Gerald E. Connolly were among the other speakers.

"We are where we are today because of the efforts of people like those of you in this room who have devoted your lives to improving the future of this country," Webb said.

He reminded the crowd that when he was running for senator he faced former Republican Sen. George Allen, a candidate who had $50 million.

"We had 50,000 volunteers," he said, "and we won ... We are going to make a difference on issues of economic fairness."

Contact staff writer Kimberly Leonard at kimberly.leonard@richmond.edu

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