By Madina Toure
Former President Bill Clinton and Queens elected officials described his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as a strong advocate for minorities at an organizing event in downtown Flushing Tuesday morning.
Clinton, along with Hillary for New York, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Hillary and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) hosted the event at Mudan Banquet Hall at 136-17 39th Ave.
Clinton said that when he was president, there were $800 billion in small business loans available in the United States through the Community Reinvestment Act and that women and minorities were given more loans.
“We doubled the number of small business loans to women and to minorities…that’s what Hillary wants to do again,” he said.
Meng, who introduced Clinton, praised Hillary for her work in the international community and her commitment to both human rights and women’s rights.
“As a mom, as former first lady, as senator from this great state of New York, as secretary of state and as a lawyer and activist, Hillary Clinton has always fought for the rights and interests of every person in this room,” she said.
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) described Clinton as the best advocate for the Asian-American community, which he said has suffered from stereotypes and discrimination for a long time.
“For as long as I have known and observed Hillary, she has consistently been inclusive of all communities and embraced people from all backgrounds,” he said. “She embodies the word ‘empathy.’”
Several other Queens lawmakers attended the event.
Clinton reminded the audience that after his wife graduated from Yale Law School, she helped register Mexican-American voters and worked for the Children’s Defense Fund.
She also taught and led legal clinics representing disenfranchised individuals in Arkansas, he said.
“The reason Hillary ought to be president is that she’s a world-class change maker,” he said. “She may not be the best talker — although I think she’s pretty good — but I know this.”
He touted her role in the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, a program run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that she supported when he was president.
He also cited her vote for the comprehensive immigration reform bill sponsored by the late U.S. Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2007 while she was a U.S. senator and her support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act introduced in 2015.
Clinton added that Hillary and her Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), have had “a very elevated and fierce debate about the issues facing America” compared to the Republican presidential candidates.
But he rejected the notion that only Hillary is part of the Washington establishment, saying that “they (Hillary and Bernie) voted together 93 percent of the time.”
Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan, a former figure skater who now works for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, also spoke in support of the candidate.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour