Former President Bill Clinton
Frank Franklin Ii  /  AP
Former President Bill Clinton speaking during the 9th annual National Action Network convention Thursday, April 19, 2007 in New York.
updated 4/20/2007 10:13:39 AM ET 2007-04-20T14:13:39

Promoting the concept of good global citizenship, former President Clinton implored black leaders Thursday to take better care of their health, reduce their use of energy and recognize the promises and peril of globalization.

Appearing before the National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, Clinton gave a wide-ranging talk on topics from the genocide in Darfur to his efforts to reduce the calorie content of soft drinks. He spoke of a booming global economy that has enriched many but has remained unattainable for most.

"People say, 'This deal is not working for me. It looks pretty good from a distance, I turn on the TV and it looks good. But it's not working for me,'" he said.

Non-political politician
The former president largely avoided politics and never mentioned the presidential bid of his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. But he urged attendees to press candidates to detail their plans for universal health care and how they plan to promote a "culture of wellness" to reduce health care costs.

With black voters a key part of the Democratic Party base, Sharpton's gathering attracted almost all the major Democratic presidential contenders.

A highly popular figure among black voters, President Clinton offered an added boost to his wife, who was scheduled to address the group Friday. Sen. Barack Obama, who hopes to be the first black president, was set to speak Saturday.

Candidates' parade
Joe Biden, who followed the former president to the podium, jokingly thanked him for warming up the audience and said he'd also "warmed up the presidency" for him.

Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman, called for military action to resolve the killing in Darfur and promoted his plan for peace in Iraq that would divide the country along ethnic lines.

He said Republicans - from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to President Bush and White House political adviser Karl Rove - had "wallowed in the politics of polarization."

"I would argue, since 1994 with the Gingrich revolution, just take a look at Iraq, Venezuela, Katrina, what's gone down at Virginia Tech, Darfur, Imus. Take a look. This didn't happen accidentally, all these things," he said.

Earlier Thursday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he would make Africa a foreign policy priority as president.

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"Somehow it's not considered by American policymakers to have the importance it deserves," Richardson said. "Issues related to AIDS, refugees, issues related to governance, international poverty - somehow this continent is forgotten."

Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, said that as president he would press to add an African nation to the U.N. Security Council. He also touted his recent efforts to help bring about a fragile cease-fire in Darfur.

An Hispanic American, Richardson said he was proud to be part of a diverse field of candidates that includes a woman - Hillary Clinton - as well as a black man, Barack Obama.

"I'm going to be, hopefully, the first Hispanic elected president," he said to applause. "If it's not me, we may have the first African-American president, or the first woman president.

"We may also have the first Mormon president," he said, referring to Republican Mitt Romney. "Although I'd prefer the other three."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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