- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2000

NEW YORK First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton told supporters of the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday that when people ask her why she is considering a run for the U.S. Senate, she thinks of Martin Luther King's "unfinished journey."

As a 15-year-old, Mrs. Clinton heard King speak in Chicago and was "mesmerized," she said.

"When people ask me … why I would consider entering electoral life and running for the Senate from New York, I think about the unfinished journey of Dr. King and the question he always asked us: 'What are you doing for others?' " she said.

The expected meeting between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sharpton has been long anticipated, especially since the flamboyant minister has been taunting the first lady for the past few months.

Recently, he said, "I do not need Hillary Clinton to do what I do, but she's going to need people like me to achieve the U.S. Senate."

But yesterday, Mr. Sharpton was beaming with Mrs. Clinton by his side, turning his wrath on her expected opponent, Republican New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and accusing him of "polluting the spirit of New York." She was to meet with Mr. Sharpton privately later.

Mrs. Clinton also commiserated with Saikou and Kadi Diallo, the parents of Amadou Diallo, who sat facing her in the front row.

"I, too, wish to extend my and personal condolences and sympathy to the Diallo family. As a mother, I can't even begin to imagine your pain and grief over the loss of your son, and I know that your effort to seek justice is our effort as well," she said.

Mr. Diallo, an unarmed West Indian street peddler, was shot and killed by police in a hail of 41 bullets in February.

Mrs. Clinton has adopted a more animated approach in her speeches, repeatedly stabbing the air with her finger and raising her voice in a staccato on-the-stump style. If elected, she said, honing in on Mr. Giuliani, "I want to be defined as someone who unites, not divides; I want to be defined by who I lift up, not who I put down."

Members of the city and state Democratic leadership prowled the jammed meeting room, a dozen of them addressing the more than 400 people patiently waiting for Mrs. Clinton, who was running more than an hour late. The first lady was wearing her trademark pantsuit, accented by a sparkling necklace and earrings.

She concluded her speech to Mr. Sharpton's supporters saying, "God bless the America we are trying to create."

Despite the display of black unity, however, other civil rights activists criticized the meeting.

"I have a news flash for Hillary Rodham Clinton," said Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. "Al Sharpton does not talk, walk or look like Martin Luther King Jr."

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) invited Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani to attend a dinner in honor of King last night, but she declined citing schedule conflicts.

"She would rather go the altar of the Rev. Sharpton. He's an entertaining character who doesn't have time for a real job," said CORE spokesman Niger Innis.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and presidential candidate, was expected to accept a CORE award on behalf of former President Ronald Reagan, who signed the King federal holiday into law in 1983.

Earlier, Mrs. Clinton spoke at memorial tributes at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem.

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