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Romney: 'I Hope to Represent All Americans, of Every Race, Creed or Sexual Orientation'

11:01 AM, Jul 11, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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If someone had told us in the 1950s or 1960s that a black citizen would serve as the forty-fourth president, we would have been proud and many would have been surprised.  Picturing that day, we might have assumed that the American presidency would be the very last door of opportunity to be opened.  Before that came to pass, every other barrier on the path to equal opportunity would surely have come down.  

Of course, it hasn’t happened quite that way.  Many barriers remain.  Old inequities persist.  In some ways, the challenges are even more complicated than before.  And across America -- and even within your own ranks -- there are serious, honest debates about the way forward.  

If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone.  Instead, it’s worse for African Americans in almost every way.  The unemployment rate, the duration of unemployment, average income, and median family wealth are all worse for the black community.  In June, while the overall unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.2 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans actually went up, from 13.6 percent to 14.4 percent.  

Americans of every background are asking when this economy will finally recover – and you, in particular, are entitled to an answer.  

If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, black families could send their sons and daughters to public schools that truly offer the hope of a better life.  Instead, for generations, the African-American community has been waiting and waiting for that promise to be kept.  Today, black children are 17 percent of students nationwide – but they are 42 percent of the students in our worst-performing schools.  

Our society sends them into mediocre schools and expects them to perform with excellence, and that is not fair.  Frederick Douglass observed that, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  Yet, instead of preparing these children for life, too many schools set them up for failure.  Everyone in this room knows that we owe them better than that.

The path of inequality often leads to lost opportunity.  College, graduate school, and first jobs should be milestones marking the passage from childhood to adulthood.  But for too many disadvantaged young people, these goals seem unattainable – and their lives take a tragic turn. 

Many live in neighborhoods filled with violence and fear, and empty of opportunity.  Their impatience for real change is understandable.  They are entitled to feel that life in America should be better than this.  They are told even now to wait for improvements in our economy and in our schools, but it seems to me that these Americans have waited long enough.

The point is that when decades of the same promises keep producing the same failures, then it’s reasonable to rethink our approach – and consider a new plan.  

I’m hopeful that together we can set a new direction in federal policy, starting where many of our problems do – with the family.  A study from the Brookings Institution has shown that for those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and wait until 21 before they marry and then have their first child, the probability of being poor is two percent.  And if those factors are absent, the probability of being poor is 76 percent.

Here at the NAACP, you understand the deep and lasting difference the family makes.  Your former executive director, Dr. Benjamin Hooks, had it exactly right.  The family, he said, “remains the bulwark and the mainstay of the black community.  That great truth must not be overlooked.”

Any policy that lifts up and honors the family is going to be good for the country, and that must be our goal.  As President, I will promote strong families – and I will defend traditional marriage.

As you may have heard from my opponent, I am also a believer in the free-enterprise system.  I believe it can bring change where so many well-meaning government programs have failed.  I’ve never heard anyone look around an impoverished neighborhood and say, “You know, there’s too much free enterprise around here.  Too many shops, too many jobs, too many people putting money in the bank.”

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