Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From the NAACP Convention: Senators Obama and McCain's addresses to the NAACP Delegates



I decided to hold this post until I had heard the addresses from both Senators Obama and McCain. Senator Obama addressed the convention on Monday night drawing approximately 4,500 delegates into the main ballroom of the Duke Energy Center. He spoke eloquently to a number of his campaign themes, most of which were in line with the issues and initiatives of the NAACP. Senator Obama also spoke to issues such as Health Care accessibility, police accountability, breaking the cycle of inter-generational urban poverty, predatory lending, rebuilding the public education system, the need for high quality after school programs, the need for green technologies, the continuing work of ending discrimination creating level playing fields throughout America, and specifically the persistent wage discrimination where African American women are paid on average 62 cents for every dollar earned by a white male counterpart.

But the Senator dealt most emphatically with the subjects of responsibility and accountability. He even jokingly referred to those who "may say that I've been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff", and then went on to say, "But I'm not going to stop talking about it". He was interrupted at that point by a thunderous applause that filled the room; one of many such moment during his speech. And while it will likely be reported that he merely "told the NAACP that the Black community must accept a greater responsibility for the conditions of the inner cities", he very certainly didn't stop there. He spoke about the need for Government, the Private Sector, and the Community to all accept a greater responsibility for addressing the problems of society and that we should all be more accountable for doing so. All in all, it was a well delivered and a well received speech before a packed house.

Scarcely an hour ago, John McCain finished his speech to the NAACP convention. And while the crowd was not quite as large as had been Obama's, his speech was well delivered and graciously received. Senator McCain spent the majority of his speech dealing specifically with the subject of education. He talked at length about the state of the current educational system. When he focused on these broad themes, his message found wide acceptance throughout the audience. He also spoke with some specificity about his support for school choice and school vouchers. These specific policy initiatives met with a more cool reception, but clearly he had anticipated that and he dealt with the differences quite well. He also spoke to his plans for increased drilling and adopting green technologies. I must admit, while I had heard about his humor, I was still quite surprised at how effectively and naturally he was able to interject humor into his address. It was one of the more personable speeches I've heard him deliver. Unfortunately, he spoke to very few of the priority issues of the NAACP. I think he missed a great opportunity to speak emphatically to his plans for dealing with the foreclosure crisis, health care, predatory lending, etc etc...

McCain did surprise the audience in that while we had been told that neither Senator Obama or McCain would be able to stick around for questions or answers, McCain walked away from the podium and picked up a wireless mic for a brief question and answer session. McCain was asked about Judicial Appointments, providing full funding for NCLB, providing funding for programs like Head-Start, plans to address the shortcomings of FEMA, and why he neglected to fill out the NAACP candidate questionnaire. He agreed to fill out the questionnaire and provided very strong responses.
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The question and answer session was a bonifide 'feather in the cap' of McCain, which was nearly scuttled by the candidates selection of questioners. When the question and answer session started, people moved up the aisles for the opportunity to ask the Senator a question. Since this question and answer session was not planned, there were only two hand mics readily available. The second person to reach a hand mic was Mr. Bob Zellner from the East Long Island Branch. Mr. Zellner, who happens to be white, intended to ask Senator McCain a 'softball' question; "Does your recent appearance in Selma signal and end to the Southern Strategy?" However, for whatever reason, Senator McCain chose not to allow Mr. Zellner to ask his question. In fact, the Senator actually cut Mr. Zellner off twice as he had started asking his question. I understand that perhaps Senator McCain believed that this being the NAACP, it was important that he hear from Black voters. But it is also important that Senator McCain and others understand that the NAACP is not an all black organization, and we must never be guilty of committing the very acts we organize to fight against. Bob is a member and a registered voting delegate, as such, he should have been allowed to ask his question...

That said though, I think I can speak for all when I say that we all greatly appreciated the willingness of Senators Obama and McCain to come before our convention and to speak. Both spoke passionately to their plans and proposals in enough depth to highlight the differences in their positions. And while clearly, Senator Obama seemed to have a greater grasp of the issues of concern for the Organization, I applaud Senator McCain's willingness to come to the convention and put his issues on the table. Both speeches were great, and on behalf of the organization, I'd like to personally say thank to each of the Candidates for their time and candor...


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