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Democratic Candidates Forum Sponsored by WIS-TV South Carolina, the Center for Community Change, and the Tom Joyner Morning Show

Location: Columbia, SC

January 30, 2004 Friday







MR. JOYNER: I'm Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

MR. STANTON: Presidential Candidates Forum, a Dialogue with America's Families. This forum is sponsored by WIS-TV, the Center for Community Change, and the Tom Joyner Morning Program. I'm David Stanton with WIS-TV.

MR. JOYNER: I'm Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show. What we have this morning are real families selected and these real families will ask questions of the candidates. The candidates will come out here one at a time, and these families will talk to these candidates one-on-one about the issues that affect them. This is not a debate, this is a dialogue with America's families.

Are we ready to get started?

MR. STANTON: Before we begin, we're going to review our format. Each candidate is going to be introduced and will have 45 seconds to respond to an opening statement responding to this question, would you set a goal of reducing poverty as president, and if so what would the goal be, and how would you achieve it?

MR. JOYNER: We have to do the legal disclaimer.

MR. STANTON: The families will ask the questions, the candidates will have a minute 30 to respond.

MR. JOYNER: I mean, the views, and how the lawyers always have you say, the views do not reflect the views of the radio station, the television station, and the Center for Community Change.

MR. STANTON: I think you just did. Thank you very much.

MR. JOYNER: Legal is in my ear.

MR. STANTON: Tom and I are going to also be asking questions, and the candidates will have a minute to respond to each of our questions. And we also ask the audience, if you would, please, keep your applause down until the end of our program so we'll have more time to hear from the candidates. Six of the seven candidates for president are here today. Senator Joseph Lieberman declined our invitation.


MR. STANTON: Ladies and gentlemen, we would ask you again if you would please hold your applause until the end of the program. And our next candidate is the Reverend Al Sharpton. Reverend Sharpton. (Applause. Cheers.) Reverend Sharpton, you'll have 45 seconds for an opening statement on poverty in America.

REV. SHARPTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. First of all, I'm very happy to be here, but even more important, happy to ask you to consider supporting me as the Democratic nominee in 2004. (Applause.


This race must be about the mass mobilization of this country to remove from office a man who has brought us into war on a false premise, and who came into office on a false premise. (Cheers, applause.)

We must recovery the economy by creating jobs. I am the candidate that has said specifically that I would propose a $250 billion, five-year plan --

MR. STANTON: Out of time.

REV. SHARPTON: -- to rebuild the infrastructure. And to immediately bring our boys home from Iraq now! (Cheers, applause.)

MR. STANTON: Reverend Sharpton, now you can meet the families. Tom Joyner will introduce them to you.

MR. JOYNER: Reverend, meet Angela Perez (sp). Angela Perez is a high school student in New York City. (Cheers.) She's preparing for college in the public school system. But many of her friends are having a tough time.

Angela (sp), tell us about your experience with the public school system.

Q Thank you, Mr. Joyner. I am Angela Perez (sp). I come from New York City, and I'm representing students from our nation's school-public school education. This year marks the 50 anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown versus Board of Education decision. (Applause.) But many children of color and low-income students continue to be subjected to a separate and unequal education. (Cheers, applause.) My friends and I are fortunate to attend a good public high school and we are well prepared for college. But many of our community members go to schools that lack quality teachers, decent facilities and good textbooks. We want you, as president, to improve the quality of our public education system. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. STANTON: Go ahead, Reverend.

REV. SHARPTON: First of all-first of all, I went to public schools in New York, and I know what you're speaking of. I have advocated unequivocally throughout this race that we must have an unequivocal commitment to public education. The privatization of schools, even with the use of vouchers, is really to select some students. The job of government is not to select some, the job of government is to guarantee equal quality education to all students. (Cheers, applause.)

And I think I'm the candidate in this race that has said unequivocally I'm against vouchers, I'm against privatization. We need to put money back into Title I. We need to raise teachers' salaries (with a standard ?). (Applause.) We need to give debt forgiveness to college students that are trying to be teachers. We cannot afford -- (applause) -- we cannot afford to put billions of dollars in foreign adventures --

MR. STANTON: (Inaudible.)

REV. SHARPTON: -- while we watch schools crumble in the United States. (Applause.) And we can't equivocate about that.

MR. STANTON: Reverend Sharpton, meet your second family. Tom Joyner will introduce them to you.

MR. JOYNER: This is Rosa-you're --

Q Arevalo (sp).

MR. JOYNER: Right. (Laughter.) She's from Los Angeles, and she runs a child care center in a low-income area.

Q Yes. Good morning, and thank you, Tom. I do run a high- quality child care center. When the kids leave my center, they know their numbers, they know their letters, but most importantly, they have the social skills to begin school and succeed.

Unfortunately, most of the public schools in our areas are overcrowded. Teachers are underpaid, and then frequently, because of that, they are teaching to the lowest common denominator.

Within a matter of years, our more promising kids are beaten down by the system. And it's no wonder that 50 percent of the students in the local high schools fail to graduate.

Now, Reverend, in Los Angeles we have schools of the haves and schools, like the ones in my neighborhood, of the have-nots. How are you planning to use the power of the federal government to ensure that all schools are created equal? (Applause.)

REV. SHARPTON: I think that-I think the way you do it-going back to her question, 50 years after Brown versus the Board of Ed-and I'm the only one that's been a civil rights activist in this race, so I know about that. The rest of these people talk about what should be done. I did something about it. (Applause.) I put myself on the line.

But the way you do it-the federal government had to guarantee equal access to all after Brown versus Board. I would, as president, say that for any state or county to receive federal funds, they must show where they have equal educational opportunities. (Applause.)

The president can decide, by the use of budget and executive order, to make sure that schools are operating equal. I'll give you an example. Opening day of school this semester, they closed 16 schools in St. Louis, all on the black and poor side of town. I went and marched with those parents. How do you close one side of town, give all the resources to another side of town, and act like that's fair and equal? (Applause.) So in the old days, they used to send us to a different school. Now they just send the money to a different school.

MR. STANTON: We need to start-we need to start wrapping up.

REV. SHARPTON: We have got to have the money be everywhere. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. JOYNER: Follow-up question. Reverend, a one minute response to our follow-up question. Rosa (ph)?

MR. STANTON: You have one minute, Reverend.

Q Now, in my state and in some other states around the country, kids are required to take a high-stakes test in order to graduate. Some of the same kids don't have access to textbooks or even teachers. Reverend, these kids are not only left behind, they're left in the dust. So why does the government makes these children take tests when they don't have the resources to learn, and what would you do to change that? (Cheers, applause.)

REV. SHARPTON: First of all-first of all, to ask children to take a test that you know they're not prepared to take is to try to document why you are not servicing those children. It's a setup. It's a catch-22. We need to throw out these tests until we can show equal quality education and preparation. In many ways, it's an unfairness that is institutionalized that we must rid ourselves of, and that can only come, like in the civil rights movement days, from the federal government protecting citizens. It's just like in this race. Reporters, they will ask Kerry, "What was a great maritime disaster?" He'll say, "Titanic." Edwards, "How many people died?" "Well over a thousand." "Sharpton, give me their name, addresses and phone numbers." (Cheers, applause.)

MR. STANTON (?): Reverend Sharpton? Reverend Sharpton? Reverend Sharpton, the next question here -- (cheers, applause) -- ladies and gentlemen, if you would hold your applause so the reverend can continue with this question. (Cheers, applause.) Ladies and gentlemen, we would ask that you please hold your applause so we can continue with the program.

Reverend Sharpton, many business leaders say the cost of business and medical liability hurts them, especially in competition with foreign businesses, which often don't have to bear those burdens. What would you do to help to ease these burdens on businesses?

REV. SHARPTON: First of all, I'm against a lot of the trade agreements that have cost us jobs, first of all, not only in terms of businesses but in terms of jobs. We have lost thousands of jobs right here in South Carolina. I would rescind NAFTA.

I would also help businesses get started. What is part of the problem? I visited U Street in Washington, D.C. Some of the local businesses' problem is that they're stifled with taxes the first couple of years. Rather than giving tax cuts to billionaires and tax cuts to multinational corporations, I'd give a two-year tax deferment for businesses to get started, get on their feet, because they will hire people in the community. (Cheers, applause.) That's real entrepreneurship.

MR. STANTON: The next question is from Tom Joyner.

MR. JOYNER: This is an e-mail question. "Do you agree with the statement: Are the jobs going overseas the next best thing to slavery, from free labor to cheap labor?"

REP. SHARPTON: Absolutely. I think that when you see the exporting of jobs with no labor guarantees, with no kind of standards and protections for those workers, we are allowing, one, people to become unemployed here, put on at cheap-to-slave wages abroad, and act like that's some kind of new global trade. It is not new global trade. It's the same thing all over again. I got here as an African because of bad trade policy. I'm against bad trade policy now. (Extended cheers and applause.)

MR. STANTON: Ladies and gentlemen, please hold your applause -- (applause and cheering continue) -- please hold your applause so we can get to our next question.

Reverend Sharpton, we have a question from one of our WIS viewers. It's on tape, and you can see it right there. This is Kate Landis (sp) of Columbia.

Q What are they going to do to cut the deficit while at the same time maintain a strong defense?

REV. SHARPTON: I think the way you cut the deficit is you have to have a fair tax policy. One, people that make over $80,000 a year don't have to pay FICA. I would have have it go all the way up. We all should be investing in FICA and health care. We should bring those monies in.

Second, I would reregulate big business. Deregulation has made it possible for companies like Enron to have 3,000 offshore companies paying no taxes. We ought to make those that enjoy the country most pay their share. (Cheers, applause.) That would bring in billions and trillions of dollars.

Third, I would rescind Bush's tax cuts, which would bring trillions of dollars into these coffers in the United States, into the federal government, which would cut the deficit.

And lastly, I would stop the war in Iraq. They spent $70 billion, came back and got $87 billion. They want billions more. We need to put that money into education and health care. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. JOYNER: Time's up.

MR. STANTON: Reverend Sharpton, thank you very much for taking part in our forum today. (Cheers, applause.)

REV. SHARPTON: All right. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. STANTON: Ladies and gentlemen, Reverend Al Sharpton. (Cheers, applause.)


Copyright 2004 Federal News Service, Inc.

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