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Bill Clinton Supports Million More March
By: Jamal E. Watson
New York Amsterdam News
Originally posted 5/10/2005


NEW YORK (NNPA) Former President Bill Clinton said that he supports the efforts of African-American leaders who are organizing the Million More March, a national gathering of Blacks scheduled to take place in October in Washington, D.C, a decade after the Million Man March was convened.

In a rare interview at his Harlem office with the Amsterdam, Clinton said that the gathering—formally announced last week by Minister Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson—could train a positive spotlight on critical issues impacting African Americans.

“I think this is a very positive idea,” said Clinton, who spoke to the Amsterdam News on his first full day back in his office since his second operation following his quadruple bypass surgery last September. “I think the country’s focus understandably has strayed a little over the last few years,” Clinton said, adding that while America should focus on homeland security, it must also solve the racial and economic disparity that still exists.

Clinton, who remains extremely popular among African-Americans, said that another march, followed by aggressive organizing efforts, could help to curtail some of the challenges in the Black community, which range from high unemployment and alarming prison rates.

“Jesse [Jackson] and Mr. [Louis] Farrakhan and Rev. [Al] Sharpton probably have internal domestic political differences, but they’ve agreed on this and I think it’s a good thing,” said Clinton. “I like the idea of a march, but I think it would also be good at the march for them to say, ‘We want to call your attention to this problem and here’s something else you can do. And that it’s fine to be concerned about [homeland] security, but we also have to keep trying to make America strong and better here at home. And we can’t neglect the quality of our jobs, the quality of our education, the quality of our environment.’”

The event, scheduled to take place in October, is expected to draw millions of African- Americans to the nation’s capital for the three days to participate in a Day of Absence from work and school on Friday, Oct 14, followed by a march on Oct. 15, and religious services the next day.

Although Clinton objected to Minister Farrakhan’s leadership of the original march, he said supported the march.

“They were basically standing up for the dignity of family and asking African-American men and fathers to be more responsible,” Clinton said. “It was totally non-violent and got a big participation and it also showed frankly, a face to a part of America that is not as sympathetic to the problems that African-Americans in the cities and the poor rural areas have … that hey, there’s all these people and they are advocating a responsible agenda and not just asking for something, and they’re saying, ‘This is our responsibility; this is what we’re suppose to do.’ I personally thought it was quite positive.”

Clinton also defended Bill Cosby’s recent comments, in which the actor called on poorer African-Americans to take greater responsibility for their actions. Critics, including Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who authored the new book “Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind,” said that the comedian unfairly targeted poor Blacks.

Clinton, however, said that he understood the spirit of Cosby’s comments.

“I think he thought, ‘If I can’t say this, then who can?” said Clinton. “And I think he thought that anybody can come and talk about the consequences of neglect, what should’ve been done and who should’ve done what.

“For people like me, I think it’s a little different. I think that what most people in policy-making positions ought to say is that you can’t have a successful society without responsibility and opportunity. But if you take all of the opportunity away, you also remove a lot of the incentive to be responsible. So, what Cosby was saying is ‘Okay, so whether there is enough opportunity or not, if you’re not responsible, you’re not going to have a good life.’ I thought it was a good thing for him to say it, and I think the rest of us should be in the opportunity business, of saying we want to create opportunities for every responsible citizen. If you’re not responsible you squander the opportunity, but if you don’t have the opportunity it breeds much more disconnects in society.”

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