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It was what WSMN Radio talk-show host Woody Woodland called a "serendipitous moment." His guest Jan. 11, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, was on the phone from Washington to talk about education and the campaign agenda of Vice President Al Gore.

And the first caller to the Nashua, N.H., program? Bill Bradley, Mr. Gore's challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Riley, who has actively campaigned for the vice president, and Mr. Bradley were asked to distinguish the two candidates' approaches to education.

"We both believe there should be a strong federal role in education. There's no question about that," said Mr. Bradley, a former three-term senator from New Jersey. "I think that I conceive of education, though, not simply K-12, but beginning at birth and extending through every life stage, and also being for everyone."

Mr. Riley argued that the vice president has made education more a centerpiece of his campaign."I think [Mr. Gore] has been a lot more specific and a lot more activist," he said, "but I think they are both strong supporters of education, much more so than any of the Republican candidates."

The two also were asked about school vouchers. Conceding that he had voted for experimental voucher programs while in the Senate, Mr. Bradley said, "I don't think vouchers are the answer to the problems of public education."

Mr. Gore "has been against vouchers all along," Mr. Riley countered.

Apparently, both sides were surprised by the radio encounter. According to Mr. Bradley's spokeswoman, Kristen Ludecke, the candidate had called the show spontaneously, not realizing that Mr. Riley was a guest. She said Mr. Bradley likes to call into such shows "from time to time."

As for Secretary Riley, "You never know what to expect in this free country," he said.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 19, Issue 20, Page 19

Published in Print: January 26, 2000, as Federal File

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