Without leaving the White House, President Reagan yesterday campaigned for Hispanic-American votes and partially won over a prominent black minister who had criticized his policies.
At an East Room ceremony, the president proclaimed Hispanic Heritage Week and said that in doing so "we're reminding our fellow citizens that our Hispanic heritage is something of which all Americans can be proud."
Reagan ticked off a list of Americans of Hispanic descent he had known in show business, among them Anthony Quinn, "the beautiful Delores del Rio," Desi Arnaz, Jose Feliciano, Jose Ferrer, Cesar Romero and Ricardo Montalban.
"In other professions, the list is equally impressive, from opthalmologist Dr. Castra Viejo to fashion designer Oscar de la Renta," Reagan said. "And today we honor them, but more importantly, we honor all those many millions of our citizens who so exemplify the values of family, work and respect for God and love of country."
Reagan also paid tribute to Allen Clark, who lost his legs in the Vietnam war but survived to become a successful businessman "and an inspiration to all who know him." Reagan said the source of Clark's strength is the values imparted to him by his Hispanic mother.
"Let's be grateful to heroes and to the mothers of heroes as well," Reagan said. "And, as we sign this proclamation, let us particularly note the strength and dignity of Hispanic women."
Earlier, Reagan met in the Oval Office with Rev. T.J. Jemison of Baton Rouge, La., president of the 7 million-member National Baptist Convention, and six other black leaders.
Jemison supported Jesse L. Jackson in the Democratic primaries and last week told his convention: "I don't believe the present administration feels the heartbeat, the desires, the concerns of black people . . . . I don't believe our nation under the present leadership will move us into the mainstream of American life."
Reagan telephoned Jemison to complain that "my views have been greatly distorted" and to invite him to the White House.
After their 30-minute meeting yesterday, Jemison told reporters that "perhaps" Reagan's views on blacks "have been distorted some." He said his perception of Reagan had been changed by the meeting, particularly his view that the president had no sympathy for blacks.
"I believe he does," Jemison said.
He said he told Reagan of his concern for economic policies that benefit blacks and urged support for black colleges.
"We left with the understanding he is going to do a lot for black small businesses . . . ," Jemison said. "We feel that the president is going to do some of the things we asked."
Yesterday's meetings typified the kind of focused, limited-access campaigning favored by Reagan's managers. Only one newspaper reporter was allowed at the Hispanic ceremony, which lasted less than 10 minutes, but the president performed for the television cameras by scooping up and hugging Tiffany Lujan Browne, the 3-year-old granddaughter of Rep. Manuel Lujan Jr. (R-N.M.).
She gave him flowers on behalf of the Hispanic community, causing a delighted Reagan to quip: "Some days are a lot better than others."
The Hispanic ceremony was part of what the president's aides have dubbed "ethnic week." Reagan solicited Polish-American votes on Sunday and will campaign among Italian-Americans later in the week.