Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney spoke to a generally warm and welcoming crowd at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention in Houston Wednesday, thanking them for their hospitality and assuring them that as president it would be returned.
“This is an honor to address you, one I had not expected and one I value very highly,” Romney said, adding that he appreciated the chance to speak a day before Vice President Joe Biden would address the organization.
“I just hope the Obama campaign won’t think you’re playing favorites,” he said jokingly.
Romney’s talk ranged across a wide variety of subjects, including unemployment, education, the family, the free enterprise system, the economy, success in business, Social Security and religion in a speech designed to show congruity with the mostly Black convention-goers.
The Republican presumptive nominee made only one noticeable slip-up. Halfway through his talk, when he said part of his plan to reduce government spending would include removing Obamacare, he was interrupted by a prolonged chorus of groans, if not boos.
Romney’s speech lasted just over 24 minutes and seemed to go over well. At several points he was interrupted by clapping, even at times enthusiastic.
“With 90 percent of African Americans, who typically vote for Democrats, some may wonder why a Republican would bother to campaign in the African American community and address the NAACP,” Romney said early in his speech. “One reason, of course, is that I hope to represent all Americans of every race, creed and sex orientation, from the poorest to the richest to everyone in between. But there’s another reason: I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families, you would vote for me for president.”
Romney said if he did not believe his policies and leadership would help families of color “more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I wouldn’t be running for president.”
“The president wants to make this campaign about blaming the rich, and I want to make this campaign about helping the middle class in America.
“. . . my campaign is about helping the people who need the help.”
In an obvious jab at the Obama administration’s record in the African American community, Romney pointed out that many Americans “might have assumed that the American presidency would have been the last door of opportunity to be opened” . . . but “many barriers remain and old inequities persist. People would think that a bad economy would be equally bad for everyone, but instead it’s worse for African Americans in almost every way–the unemployment rate, the average income, median family wealth are all worse in the Black community.
“In June, while the overall unemployment rate remains 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 the economy will finally recover, and you in particular are entitled to an answer.”
On the subject of education, he noted that “Black children are 17 percent of students nationwide, but they are 42 percent of students in our worst-performing schools. Our society sends them into mediocre schools and expects them to perform with excellence, and that’s simply not fair.
“The point is when decades of the same promises keep producing the same failures, it’s reasonable to rethink our approach and consider a new plan.”
Romney said he hoped that together “we could start a new direction in federal policy starting with the family.”
“A study by the Brookings Institution shows that of those who graduate from high school and get a full-time job, and wait until they are 21 before they marry and then have their first child, the probability of becoming poor is 2 percent. And if those factors are absent the probability of becoming poor is 76 percent. 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.”
On the free enterprise system, he said, “I’ve never heard anyone look around an impoverished neighborhood and say, ‘You know, there’s just too much free enterprise around here–too many shops, too many jobs, too many people putting money in the bank. What you hear, of course, is ‘how do we bring in jobs? How do we make good, honest employers want to move in? With the shape the economy is in today, we’re asking that question more and more. Free enterprise is still the greatest force for upward mobility, economic security and the expansion of the middle class.”
Romney promised that on day one he would begin turning the economy around for the benefit of the middle class. He pointed to his “25 years of success in business” as the starting point.
He said he wants to open new markets for American goods, and would clamp down on cheaters like China, and “make sure they finally play by the rules and don’t steal our jobs.”
The Republican candidate said he would work to reform Medicare and Social Security. “I will fix them and make sure they are permanent and secure for our seniors today and seniors tomorrow.”
Romney said the economy runs on business, freedom and entrepreneurs, but they are being crushed by high taxation and unnecessary regulation, excessive healthcare costs and destructive labor policies. “I will work to make America the best place in the world for innovators, for entrepreneurs, businesses large and small.
“If I’m president, job one for me will be creating jobs,” Romney said, and he would address the inequality in the education system.
Several times he referenced his term as governor of Massachusetts and the successes with the educational system, especially concerning charter schools, which he said were “giving children a chance” and closing the achievement gap.
He also referenced his father as a fair and godly man who taught him the knowledge of God.