To Be Equal Column #27: We Are Making History
(NEW YORK - August 9, 2008) - The 2008 National Urban League annual conference is now history. But, as our Chairman, John D. Hofmeister so eloquently put it, we were in Orlando from July 30 to August 2 to make history and we did. Several thousand attendees from every corner of this country joined with us to renew our commitment to the movement, develop new strategies for the 21st century, and challenge the current Administration and the presumptive presidential nominees to make the development of an urban agenda a top national priority. We did it with an impressive array of plenary sessions and workshops which explored the wide range of issues pertinent to urban America from the loss of jobs, to the mortgage foreclosure crisis, to the dire condition of public education, to the special challenges facing African American women.
I want to personally thank everyone who attended the conference, especially Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. Both presidential candidates devoted extensive time sharing their views about how they would move the country forward during the next four years. They also took some tough questions and engaged in a dialogue with us about the needs and importance of urban America .
I am happy to report that while we never endorse political candidates, both Senators McCain and Obama endorsed the National Urban League and the objectives of our Opportunity Compact. The Compact is a comprehensive set of principles and policy recommendations designed to empower all Americans to be full participants in the economic and social mainstream of this nation. The four cornerstones of the Opportunity Compact are: The Opportunity to Thrive, Earn, Own and Prosper.
While both candidates impressed the Urban League audience with their commitment to build a stronger America , it was clear that they have very different views about how to get there. They both agreed that fixing our broken public education system is key to healing what ails our cities. But, Senator McCain touted the benefits of private school vouchers while Senator Obama argued that rather than using public money for private education, we need to demand more resources and more accountability for public schools. Senator Obama supports targeted use of Affirmative Action, while Senator McCain objects to what he calls "quotas."
One of their biggest divides is over war spending. Senator Obama argued that the tens of millions of dollars we are spending on the war in Iraq could be best spent here at home improving our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure and creating "green' jobs. Senator McCain insisted that the surge which he supported has reduced casualties and given the United States the best chance for victory.
There is so much more I want to tell you about the 2008 National Urban League conference. Fortunately, much of it, including the full speeches and dialogues with Senators McCain and Obama are now available via web cast at www.NUL.org. The conference proceedings and the dialogue with the candidates will be a valuable tool as you make your voting decisions this November.