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The Life Of Barbara Jordan

•Barbara Jordan was born in February 1936 and died in January 1996. •She was a National Championship Debater during college. •She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in Political Science and History. •Barbara Jordan was the 1st African American senator since 1883. •In 1972, she was then elected to the United States House of Representatives, becoming the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in the House. •Tonight you will hear an excerpt of Barbara Jordan’s 1976 Democratic Convention Keynote Address. •This speech was ranked 5th in the Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century. And was considered by many historians to have been the best convention keynote speech in modern history until the 2004 keynote by Barack Obama. It was 144 year ago that members of the Democratic Party first met in convention to select a Presidential candidate. Since that time, Democrats have continued to convene once every four years and draft a party platform and nominate a Presidential candidate. And our meeting this week is a continuation of that tradition. But there is something different about tonight. There is something special about tonight. What is different?

What is special? I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker. A lot of years passed since 1832, and during that time it would have been most unusual for any national political party to ask a Barbara Jordan to deliver a keynote address. But tonight here I am. ————————————————————— And I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred. —————————————————————— Well………Now that I have this grand distinction, what n the world am I supposed to say? I could easily spend this time praising the accomplishments of this party and attacking the Republicans. But I don’t choose to do that. —————————————————————— I could list the many problems which Americans have. I could list the problems which cause people to feel cynical, angry, frustrated: problems which include lack of integrity in government; the feeling that the individual no longer counts; the reality of material and spiritual poverty; the feeling— that the grand American experiment is failing or has ailed. I could recite these problems, and then I could sit down and offer no solutions. But I don’t choose to do that either. The citizens of America expect more. They deserve and they want more—than a recital of problems. ————————————————————- We are a people in a quandary about the present. We are a people in search of our future. And now we must look to the future. Let us heed the voice of the people and recognize their common sense. If we do not, we not only blaspheme our political heritage, we ignore the common ties that bind all Americans.

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Many fear the future. Many are distrustful of their leaders, and believe that their voices are never heard. Many seek only to satisfy their private wants; to satisfy their private interests. But this is the great danger America faces—that we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual; each seeking to satisfy private wants. If that happens, who then will speak for America? “WHO then WILL SPEAK FOR THE COMMON GOOD? ” ———————————————————————–

This is the question which must be answered in 1976: Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided nation? For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future. We must not become the “New Puritans” and reject our society. We must address and master the future together. It can be done if we restore the belief the we share a sense of national community, that we share a common national endeavor. It can be done. ——————————————————————– Now I began—this speech—by commenting to you on he uniqueness of a Barbara Jordan making a keynote address. Well I am going to close my speech by quoting a Republican President and I ask you that as you listen to these words of Abraham Lincoln. Relate them, to the concept of a national community, in which every last one of us participates: ——————————————————————— “As I would not be a slave—so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of Democracy. Whatever differs from this! To the extent of the difference—is no Democracy. ” Thank You & God bless America.


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