Bill Cosby never met state Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, until Wednesday. But after hearing her passion for mentoring urban youth, the actor, comic and activist had his own unique way of complimenting her: With a smile, he vowed to commit voter fraud on her behalf.

“I’m going to illegally cross the line in Connecticut and vote,” said Cosby, who lives in Massachusetts. “There are some people in this room who are ready to get things straight.”

Happily for Cosby, Harp’s re-election is not in question this fall.

Stopping in Hartford to honor Dr. Cato Laurencin, the former dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Cosby provided lawmakers an emotional boost as they prepared to begin the final day of the 2012 session.

“She’s brilliant, she should be called the speaker,” Cosby said of Harp, pumping his fists as Harp extolled Laurencin as a role model who could inspire Connecticut’s young urban poor to great achievement.

Laurencin, who, like Cosby, attended Central High School in inner city Philadelphia, recently left that post, but not the health center altogether.

One of the leaders who spearheaded the recent bioscience initiative at the center’s Farmington campus, Laurencin will continue to teach orthopedic surgery and to direct research institutions focused on regenerative engineering and clinical science.

“He shows us that a kid from urban Philadelphia can shine a light to others in our urban districts,” Harp said. “We need to be inspired. Dr. Laurencin’s story needs to be told.”

Cosby ran up to hug Harp after her remarks.

He said combating poverty and creating new opportunities for urban teens involves more than trying to add new jobs to the workforce. Harp understands, Cosby added, that it takes strong examples such as Cato’s roles both “as a genius and a father.”

“Black kids need jobs? Latino kids need jobs? Not really,” Cosby told the crowd gathered in the Capitol’s Old Judiciary Room. “They need to know what a job is. They need to know the responsibility of a job.”

“All of you need to find kids this summer, you need to have them here,” he said, quickly adding “not to let them get coffee. … Our children need to be able to shadow people and see it’s not that difficult. It’s not that hard.”

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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