AUDIO: LA Mayor speaks to IA delegates in Charlotte

At about 8 o’clock this morning in Charlotte Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke to Iowa delegates who’re in this southern city for the Democratic National Convention.  He is the chairman of this national convention, BTW.

AUDIO of his speech to the Iowa delegates.

Villaraigosa touted his own past as a “community organizer” in California during his speech to the delegates. When I had a chance to interview Villaraigosa this morning, I asked him about the subject.

Henderson: “I wanted to ask you, specifically, about being a community organizer. If you listen to Republicans, their main criticism of Barack Obama is that all he was was a community organizer. How would you counter that specific message?”

Villaraigosa: “Public service, service on behalf of others, advocating for working men & women, for community empowerment is a noble enterprise. I look back on those years and I tell people when I started working on the farm worker boycott in 1968 I didn’t speak any Spanish. I had never worked in the fields. I am third generation American of Mexican descent, but I knew I had a responsibility to fight for those people. I stood up for immigrants even back in the 1960s. I did so because I knew I had an education and I had a responsibility to speak out for them. When I was involved in the civil rights movement, registering voters, so I think the president should be acknowledged for the values that being a community organizer represent. I’m mean, you’re not getting paid much, many times not at all and you’re barely making ends meet, but you’re doing it because you believe and if they’re criticizing the idealism that drives a community organizer, the sense of the possible, his commitment to empowering others, well so be it, but I just don’t agree.”AUDIO of his answer.

Villaraigosa deflected questions about whether he might run for president when he visited with a group of reporters outside the Iowa delegation event.

“I’m looking to finish my job the way I started, with a bang. I’m working ’til 11:59:59 on June 30 and then I’m riding into the sunset for a while,” he said. “I really after, you know, 6 years in the legislature, majority whip, majority leader, speaker of the assembly,  a crazy ride, an audacious ride for mayor in 2001 — you know two years on the city council and seven as the mayor of the second largest city — I think it’s time for a little reflection and that’s what I’m looking to do.”

AUDIO of brief Q&A with reporters.

The mayor will be the keynote speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser, the 2012 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.