Hillary Clinton Thanks Rutgers Coach for Standing Up to Don Imus

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton met Friday with Rutgers women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer, and proclaimed that Rutgers "has a chance to be the leader of this teachable moment" on standing up to discrimination and marginalization.

Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, asked people across the nation to take what she called "the Rutgers pledge."

"Will you be willing to speak up and say, 'Enough is enough,' when women or minorities or the powerless are marginalized or degraded?" Clinton said in her speech to about 700 people at a university forum on women and public leadership. "Will you say there's no place — if there ever was, there certainly isn't now — for disrespect or bigotry to be seen as funny?"

The event celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Eagleton Institute of Politics and the 35th anniversary of the institute's Center for American Women and Politics.

Referring to Stringer and her players, Clinton said, "They are living, human markers of our progress in this country, how far we have come, and how much farther we have to go together."

"She and her players have shown us the difference between bravery and bravado," Clinton said.

Clinton said she met Friday morning with Stringer, as well as assistant women's basketball coach Marianne Stanley. Neither appeared with Clinton during her speech. Stringer planned to issue a statement later in the day on how the meeting went, according to a university spokeswoman.

Clinton was not scheduled to meet with players, most of whom were studying Friday morning, the university said.

Stringer and her players were the object of an on-air slur by nationally syndicated radio talk show host Don Imus that resulted in his firing. He referred to the team as "nappy-headed hos."

The team's poised response to the slurs drew nationwide praise.

"I was so moved by the extraordinary grace and dignity of the coach and the athletes that I wanted to meet Coach Vivian Stringer," Clinton said. "These players and their coaches have taken a truly ugly situation and transformed it into a transcendent one. That's real leadership."

Clinton praised Stringer and the team for not walking away from a fight, and for conducting themselves with class in doing so.

"They could have said, `Ah, forget it. We hear those things in music, on radio, on cable. We won't dignify it with a response,"' Clinton said. "It would have been a perfectly justifiable reaction. But when do we say, `Enough?' This moment is that opportunity."

Clinton also said she has some experience with media personalities using her hair and appearance as on-air material.

"I have been called some names I'd be embarrassed to repeat in public," she said with a laugh. "My hairstyles and fashion choices provide endless fodder for public discussion and dissection."

Shortly after the Rutgers event, Clinton was to head to New York City to speak at a convention of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

Clinton was originally scheduled to speak at Rutgers on Monday, but the appearance was postponed after a fierce spring storm caused flooding in the New Brunswick area.