An ecumenical crowd heard why Hillary Clinton should be president from a person who knows her intimately – former President William “Bill” Clinton.
More than 400 African American and Latino ministers gathered at Southern St. Paul Church in South Los Angeles on June 4 to listen to and ask questions of President Clinton about his wife’s platform. Mrs. Clinton, the former U.S. Secretary of State and a U.S. Senator, is campaigning to become the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
The clergy, representing a wide range of faiths and denominations, attended the closed session at the invitation of Southern St. Paul Pastor Xavier L. Thompson, who is also the president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California (BMCLA).
Explaining why the BMCLA hosted the meeting, Thompson said, “This is not about us endorsing Secretary Clinton for president. This is about giving an audience to her platform. We are not biased towards any candidate. We seek to be a conduit where we are able to present the information to the leaders and congregants and trust them to make intelligent, informed decisions.”
Audience questions covered issues that deeply impact Black and Brown communities such as police reform, voting rights, economic equity and the cost of higher education. In his responses, the president outlined candidate Clinton’s approach to addressing various concerns.
“Hillary has the right values, the right ideas and I believe she’s the best qualified person to do this job,” said Clinton. “She worked with Republicans when I was in the White House and as a senator. She has always found a way to get people to work together.”
Alluding to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, he noted, “We want a future with bridges, not walls. Trump speaks code when he says ‘go back to where it used to be.’ Democrats have a moral obligation to help people move forward and help those left behind (from the last economic recession). I believe are so close to having all of us rise together.”
Pastor K.W. Tulloss of Weller Street Baptist Church and BMCLA vice president asked, “How do we bring jobs back to our community?”
Clinton answered, “Through major investment in infrastructure so people without college degrees can work. She wants to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.”
Responding to a question from Pastor Mark E. Whitlock of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church about law enforcement reforms recommended by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Clinton agreed the reforms were needed, but he also urged the ministers, as leaders of congregations and the community, to get more involved in acquainting the police with the people in the neighborhoods they patrol. He referred to a pastor in Chicago that hosts monthly breakfasts for officers and community members as way to decrease tensions.
After Clinton concluded the nearly two-hour discussion, Pastor Melvin V. Wade, Sr., of Mount Moriah Baptist Church said, “I was glad to hear more information about policies and agendas and what could be done for our country rather than all of the mud-slinging.”
Bishop Johnnie R. Withers Unity Christian Fellowship said it was important for clergy to participate in political meetings. “A significant reason clergy needs to be here today is because we have a voice. We represent the body of Christ and the people of our community. Without our clarity of speech and convictions from the pulpit, our people would be lost.”
Whitlock added, “The presidency depends on the preacher to speak truth to power. We, as men and women of God, must begin to take our spiritual authority to right the wrongs that have taken place in America so that we have the right leadership in place. I support Clinton and I believe she is called for such a time as this.”