updated 11/2/2005 1:51:39 PM ET 2005-11-02T18:51:39

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Tuesday called poor children's lack of access to alternative education the most important civil rights issue in the country.

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"We have to do a better job of having the ladder of success there for everyone," Giuliani said at a charity dinner in Greenwich.

Giuliani was the keynote speaker at the annual fundraiser dinner held by the Inner-City Foundation For Charity & Education.

The Fairfield-based organization funds many inner-city programs and scholarships.

About 1,400 people were at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich to help raise money for the Bridgeport-based nonprofit.

The event raked in $2.6 million.

Much of the proceeds will help fund scholarships for students at Catholic high schools and universities.

"You can't rely on government to solve most problems," said Giuliani, adding that he went to a Catholic high school through a similar scholarship program. "Public and private partnerships are the answer."

Guests at Tuesday night's fundraiser included CBS President Sean McManus, NBC Universal Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Wright, NBC news anchor Brian Williams and U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. Financial supporters of the organization included Microsoft and Xerox.

Bishop William Lori of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport commended people at the fundraiser for their generosity.

He blessed them, "for not forgetting there are so many poor people right here in America's richest county."

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