Hillary Clinton stumps in south Jamaica

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Hillary Clinton sounded her familiar campaign themes on health care and education at a visit to the Brooks Senior Center in South Jamaica last week, but the U.S. senate candidate sounded more relaxed and confident than in earlier appearances.

She was greeted with loud applause by the roughly 250 people, most of whom were senior citizens affiliated with the senior center or other community organizations.

"I know where to come when I need a boost of energy," Clinton told the audience of obvious supporters.

Several months ago her speeches sounded more rigid and forced, but this time her delivery came across as smooth and unrehearsed.

"She's getting better," said a Queens politician's aide.

Clinton said that while she has visited every county in the state, she has come to Queens more than many other county because of its diversity and strong support for the Democratic Party.

Clinton appeared with state Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-South Ozone Park) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), who both helped organize the campaign stop.

"I've had a blast these last few months because I've been talking about things I love to talk about like education, good jobs, health care and housing," said Clinton during her half-hour speech at the 26-year-old senior center Aug. 23.

Clinton made several references to the Democratic National Convention held earlier this month and the policies of her husband, President Clinton.

"The president and vice president have made this country a better place," she said, citing reductions in unemployment, crime, and the national deficit since Bill Clinton took office in 1993.

"We'll have to keep going or we'll make a big U-turn to the policies of Bush and Reagan," she said. "You have stuck with the president and you have stuck with his policies."

Polls place Clinton in a virtual tie with U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio (R-Brightwaters) to fill the seat that will be vacated by the retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.).

Clinton spoke of offering a signing bonus to new teachers and putting more than 100,000 new teachers in the state's schools.

"The secret to good opportunities is good schools," said Clinton.

Clinton also said she would fight to strengthen gun control laws and for a patient's bill of rights.

Cook, who introduced Clinton, said she has been a supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton since 1992, when the presidential hopeful visited Queens Democratic officials at the county's party headquarters.

Following the speech, Clinton spent nearly 20 minutes shaking hands with audience members.

"It was a good speech. She addressed many of my concerns," said Jessica Walker of Jamaica. "We'll see if she's elected if she can deliver."

Manuel Mampouya, a 17-year-old high school student from Queens Village, said Clinton's comments about guns and school violence stuck a chord with him.

"I want to feel safe walking out late at night," he said.

After the appearance, Clinton shuttled over to the Rochdale Village Mall, where she was joined by Meeks and Councilman Thomas While (D-South Ozone Park) who lives in Rochdale Village.

Clinton spent 20 minutes greeting shoppers and then spoke for about 10 minutes, discussing many of the topics she addressed at the Brooks Senior Center.

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