President Bush and Senator Kerry’s Addresses to the National Urban League
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JIM LEHRER: Now, words from the presidential campaign, delivered at the National Urban League Convention in Detroit. President Bush spoke there today, one week after he declined an invitation to address the NAACP in Philadelphia.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The thing I like about the National Urban League is you believe in the future of the African-American community. You’ve got this great faith that the future is going to be better. And I share that.
Progress for African Americans and all Americans depends on more citizens living the dream of owning their own home. There’s nothing better than somebody saying, “welcome to my house,” you know, “I’m putting out the welcome mat in my piece of property.” ( Scattered applause) And this has been a focus of this administration, because we want people owning their own home.
We’re proposing tax credits to encourage the building of more affordable housing, particularly in inner-city America. In other words, we want there to be a greater supply of homes. (Applause) I’m here to ask for your vote. (Applause) You know… I know, I know. Listen, the Republican Party has got a lot of work to do. I understand that.
(Laughter and applause)
I believe you’ve got to earn the vote and seek it. I mean, I think you’ve got to go to people and say, “this is my heart, this is what I believe, and I’d like your help.” And as I do, I’m going to ask African-American voters to consider some questions: Does the Democrat party take African-American voters for granted? (Applause) It’s a fair question. I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote, but do they earn it? And do they deserve it?
I’m here to say that there is an alternative this year. There’s an alternative that has had a record that is easy to see. If you dream of starting a small business and building a nest egg and passing something of value to your children, take a look at my agenda. If you believe schools should meet high standards instead of making excuses, take a look at… take a look at my agenda. If you believe the institutions of marriage and family are worth defending and need defending today, take a look at my agenda.
You see, I believe in my heart the Republican party, the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, is not complete without the perspective and support and contribution of African Americans. (Applause) And I believe in my heart that the policies and actions of this administration– policies that empower individuals and help communities, that lift up free enterprise, and respect and honor the family– those policies are good for the nation as a whole. That’s what I believe. And I’m here to thank you for giving me a chance to come and express those beliefs.
JIM LEHRER: Sen. Kerry spoke to the NAACP last week, and he addressed the Urban League yesterday.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Now, more than ever, when it comes to empowerment– social rights, civil rights, justice– we need to listen to every voice in this country that stands up and speaks truth to power. I want to say that for me this is not a stop that represents just a check-the-box campaign stop. Teresa and I, we are proud to say, are no strangers to the Urban League or to the causes that you champion.
Today I’m sad to say we have an administration in Washington that looks at the challenges that we face here and around the world and says, “This is the best that we can do.” They say that what we have now is the best economy of our lifetimes.
They’ve even called us pessimists for speaking the truth to power. Well, I say the most pessimistic thing that you can say is that America can’t do better than we are doing today. Don’t tell us that 1.8 million jobs lost is the best we can do when we can create millions of new jobs here in this country that pay more than the jobs that we’re losing.
We can change that, and we will. And I am running for president because I believe that what matters most is not the narrow values that politicians play and use to divide, but the shared values that unite all of us in this country and bring us together as a nation.
Let me tell you what values mean to me and John Edwards. Values means helping all Americans lay the cornerstone of the American dream with the purchase of their own home. The Urban League has a long track record in counseling people and helping consumers and fighting to make the dream of home ownership real for millions of people.Yes, it is true, since the 1990s, homeownership has gone up in America as a whole, and that’s a good thing.
But it’s not that simple. While home ownership has risen, programs that help hard-pressed families put a roof over their head have been cut. Those are the people that we need to help the most. We know that in all the great movements for civil rights, in all the great movements for equal rights, for the environment, for peace and for justice, we have to come together as one America in order to give life to our highest ideals.
JIM LEHRER: Kerry called on African Americans to register and vote in the November elections.