First hint that the summer news lull has begun: Vice President Gore spent half of his "speech" yesterday to the American Federation of Teachers telling jokes and family tales.

In fact, in his leisurely hour-long chat that meandered from civil rights to teachers' salaries to high technology, Gore never ventured into territory that might be described as "breaking news."

The thousands of teachers jammed into a downtown ballroom didn't seem to mind. They clapped, hooted and giggled through Gore's paean to all things teacherly.

One little-known fact the audience loved -- Gore's late father, the ex-senator, was a teacher for a time in Tennessee before entering politics. And his mother, Pauline, won a Rotary Club scholarship to attend law school.

"Their ambition drove them to get educated, and they lifted themselves up," he said, in one of the more detailed accounts of his parents Gore has offered on the campaign trail.

The VP has some new family material for his stump speech -- his first grandchild, Wyatt, was born on the Fourth of July. "He is clearly a precocious child."

Gore's education rap has been finely tuned over the last several years. He tells the story of a school in California where an "oversized janitor's closet was turned into a classroom"; he asks for a show of hands of teachers burdened with out-of-date textbooks that claim "someday man will land on the moon." He speaks of the need to raise teachers' salaries and his goal to reduce class sizes.

Gore calls his education approach radical, though his school proposals are couched in moderate rhetoric. The vice president, for instance, supports mandatory testing for new teachers but says it's up to the locals to decide on tests for mid-career types.

And on the controversial HB-1 visas, given to immigrants for high-skill jobs American companies can't fill, Gore took a decidedly fuzzy stand. The visas are okay, he said. But wouldn't it be great if more Americans were sufficiently trained to fill those jobs? Who can argue with that.

Forbes Reels In a Couple

The endorsements continue to roll in as Republican governors and members of Congress jump on the bandwagon of Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Correction: Make that Steve Forbes.

Two medium-size catches escaped the Bush dragnet this week. Friday in Atlanta, Forbes introduced the honorary chairman of his Georgia campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr., one of the celebrated House managers of the impeachment charges against President Clinton. Barr said, "I have never heard him evade an issue, refuse to answer a question. . . . I like that in a man."

Forbes's other endorsement came from New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson, who also commended the publisher for "being so honest and forward with his views." Johnson's decision not to join the parade of Republican governors backing Bush perhaps related to the old saying: "Poor New Mexico. So close to Texas, so far from God."

From One Contender to Another

Republican Elizabeth Dole couldn't make it to the Women's World Cup championship in Pasadena, Calif., but she wanted to show her solidarity with the sisters.

Dole, the only woman in the 2000 presidential contest, hired a plane to fly over the Rose Bowl with the message: "Go Team USA! Make History -- Elizabeth Dole."

Make history, by the way, is Dole's slogan in the campaign.

Staff writer David S. Broder contributed to this report.