Three days ago, Tipper Gore witnessed the horror of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees dying of disease and starvation.
Thursday afternoon, she was lunching with Utah Democrats who forked over $100 a plate to hear the vice president's wife speak about health-care reform, involvement in the political process and, yes, Rwanda.Officially, Gore was in town to bolster the campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Pat Shea (the political speech raised between $35,000 and $40,000). And she also met with officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about relief efforts for refugees displaced by civil war in Rwanda.
Gore recently returned from Zaire where she worked one day in an orphanage and another day in a refugee camp. "It is not something anyone is prepared to see," she said, adding even relief workers were not prepared for what they saw. "We haven't seen genocide on this scale in a long time."
After the fund-raiser at the Olympus Hotel, the vice president's wife traveled to LDS Church headquarters where she thanked church leaders for their help with the Rwandan relief effort. She also briefed them on her own observations there.
She said the relief effort needs more workers, more medicine and more basic supplies. She praised the tireless efforts of relief workers and the U.S. military, which has established an infrastructure to deliver medicine and supplies to the refugees.
Gore said the U.S. involvement in relief efforts epitomizes the American attitude of helping neighbors and she praised those efforts as a fight against cynicism and a victory for compassion.
In true political fashion, Gore compared the U.S. participation in relief efforts with Shea's political campaign, saying both campaigns are about helping people and standing up for values.
She said she is convinced Utahns share the same values as those fostered by the Clinton-Gore administration with its efforts to reform health care. "We need to have universal health care for kids, for moms and dads, for families," she said, adding that access to health care will strengthen families and the basic moral fabric of society.
Gore challenged the 350 people who attended the fund-raiser to stand against cynicism and to fight for family values. It is no longer good enough, she said, to simply believe in values.
"Take responsibility for doing something about it. Nothing is more important than to stand up for what you believe in."
The fund-raiser gives Shea's campaign a shot in the arm. Shea has had a hard time raising money to unseat three-term incumbent Orrin Hatch. The $35,000 is much-welcomed by the campaign.
Gore's speech attracted a who's who of Utah Democrats. Also on hand was Independent congressional candidate Merrill Cook, who was invited by Shea to join the Democratic fold.