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Originally Posted August 27, 1996

Clinton is what kids need: Stanford
Seattle schools chief lauds president's record

by David Postman
Seattle Times staff reporter

CHICAGO - Seattle Schools Superintendent John Stanford applauded President Clinton's record on education last night and said Clinton is the kind of president the nation's children need.

Stanford's words provided a light touch amid the partisan hyperbole that began a scripted four-day convention to promote Clinton's re-election. But for someone who has steered clear of politics in his long public career, it was an unusual speech.

"America's children need all of us. They need us to get our priorities straight - and they need us to act as leaders on their behalf," Stanford said in his five-minute speech.

"President Clinton is that kind of leader. He expanded Head Start so more children enter school ready to learn. He fought to set real standards for our public schools so that a diploma is a real measure of achievement. He stood up for safe schools to keep drugs and guns out, and discipline in. He protected school lunches to nourish young minds."

Stanford said he accepted the Democrats' invitation to speak for the opportunity to spread his education gospel to millions of prime-time TV viewers. But he was wary of appearing partisan and says he is uninterested in politics.

Washington Democrats, though, gave their own partisan read to the speech. "Did he sound like a Democrat?" asked state party chairman Paul Berendt. "Well, I'll tell you: Anyone who stands up for public education today sounds like a Democrat after what the Republicans have done."

Stanford's speech was sandwiched between dramatic appearances by Sarah Brady and her husband, Jim, who was wounded by a gunman's bullet in 1981 while working for President Reagan, and actor Christopher Reeve, paralyzed in a horseback-riding accident last year. Those speeches were largely nonpartisan, too.

Much of Stanford's speech, written with the assistance of Democratic speech writers, would have been familiar to Seattle residents who have listened to the retired Army general since he took the superintendent's job last year.

"To be promoted to the next grade or graduated from school, students must be required to meet well-defined standards," he said. "Passing them without achievement would be passing the buck. Teachers must be required to meet high standards for professional performance - and be rewarded for the good jobs they do."

Stanford also gave a nod to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and her recent book about children.

"We must recognize that the African proverb, `It takes a whole village to raise a child,' is truer now than ever," he said, referring to the book's title.

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