Bill Clinton Lauds Nashville Charter Founder And Potential Mayoral Hopeful

Bill Clinton spoke to LEAD Academy students on Monday at a North Nashville baptist church. (Photo by Spencer Combs)

Bill Clinton spoke to LEAD Academy students on Monday at a North Nashville baptist church. (Photo by Spencer Combs)

Former president Bill Clinton told students from a Nashville charter school to find inspiration in the school’s founder. Most of Clinton’s invitation-only speech on Monday focused on Jeremy Kane, who started LEAD Academy seven years ago.

Nearly 2,000 people jammed into a North Nashville Baptist church to hear Clinton’s 20-minute speech – mostly students and teachers from LEAD’s five schools. Others who attended included a smattering of Democratic fundraisers and education insiders.

Thirty-five-year-old Kane originally used a home mortgage to fund LEAD’s first school. He says he went door-to-door recruiting students who would eventually become this year’s graduation class, mostly black students from working-class backgrounds whose parents did not attend college.

Kane, who dated Chelsea Clinton while they both attended Stanford University, interned in the White House during Clinton’s term. That launched Kane to a speech-writing job for then-Senator John Kerry. Years later, when Kane opened LEAD, Clinton donated to the school and served as an informal advisor.

Clinton recalled when Kane told him he was dropping out of politics to pursue teaching.

“I said, ‘you know you might be turning down a chance to go to the White House?’ He said, ‘I know. It’s not really my thing. I want to go home and teach.’”

But Kane may re-enter politics. He’s weighing a run for mayor in 2015 after he steps down from LEAD at year’s end.

Clinton, who delivered in his signature off-the-cuff, folksy manner, told a story of how a freak injury prevented Kane from being an Olympic swimmer:

He says it’s a lesson LEAD’s first graduating class should take with them – most of the graduates, it should be noted, were just toddlers during most of Clinton’s presidential tenure.

The event was originally closed to the press. Moments before Clinton took the lectern, however, a team of public relations people hired for the event informed the media that they would be allowed in.

All 44 of LEAD’s first graduating class have plans to attend some type of college – many with plans to transfer from community colleges to other four-year institutions. More than two-thirds of the students will be first-generation college students.

While in town, Clinton planned to attend an event at the home of another potential mayoral candidate, real estate developer and Democratic insider Bill Freeman. He’s hosting a fundraiser on Monday night for Clinton’s foundation at his home in Forest Hills.

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