Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday urged students of a school for African-American and Latino boys to heed “the example of Nelson Mandela,” who she said shunned bitterness and even embraced his longtime jailers.
Clinton addressed a breakfast Friday morning in midtown Manhattan of students who attend the Eagle Academy and donors who help fund the school’s programs. She recalled meeting the late South African leader, who had spent 27 years in prison, many on an island, before becoming the nation’s president in 1994.
“When he was finally released, he knew he had a choice to make: He could carry the bitterness and hatred of what had been done to him in his heart forever, but if he did that, he knew he would still be in prison — not the prison on the island, not the cell that he took me to see, but his heart and his mind would still be imprisoned,” Clinton said.
Clinton was the keynote speaker for the fundraiser. About 3,000 boys attend the 6th through 12th grades at the academy, which has locations in the five New York City boroughs and in Newark, N.J.
Clinton had spoken at the academy’s first graduation several years after its 2004 founding.
“The graduates, as I recall, walked in to the theme song from ‘Rocky,’ because everyone there that day knew what it was like to be knocked down and get back up,” Clinton said.
Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York and first lady, has 2,165 of the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination for president. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has 1,357 delegates.
Friday’s fundraiser was at Gotham Hall on West 36th Street and 6th Avenue, in an elliptical rotunda of steel, limestone and sandstone. Clinton lamented statistics showing that 75 percent of New York’s prison population once came from just seven New York City neighborhoods.
People in such neighborhoods have “often been left behind and left out, feeling that their future was inevitable, which to me is such a rebuke to the American dream and the potential that our country should represent,” Clinton said.
Schools like Eagle, she said, “go right at what had been called the school-to-prison pipeline” — a reference to criticism that school disciplinary policies in schools with large black and Latino populations often steer children into the criminal justice system.
Clinton told academy graduates to “follow the excellent advice that Mrs. Obama gave the other day to a group of seniors up in Harlem: never, ever hesitate to ask for help.”