washingtonpost.com  > Politics > Elections > 2004 Election

Kerry Stresses Government's Role in Helping Minorities

Candidate Addressed Journalists at Unity Conference

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 5, 2004; 7:06 PM

John F. Kerry today said entertainer Bill Cosby's recent admonition that black Americans need to take greater personal responsibility for poor education and high crime was "excessively exclusive" and ignored the government's role in helping minorities.

I understand exactly where Bill is coming from in his comment," Kerry said, measuring his words carefully as he spoke to a convention for minority journalists in Washington. "It may be excessively exclusive in the breadth of it, in the sense that it sort of targets just the responsibility side, but that's an important side."

Sen. John F. Kerry, speaking at a conference of minority journalists, said he was aware of "the special challenges facing people of color." (AFP/Getty Images)

_____Campaign 2004_____
Transcript: Kerry Remarks at UNITY 2004 Conference

_____Free E-mail Newsletters_____
• Politics News & Analysis
• Campaign Report
• Federal Insider
• News Alert

Cosby, a black actor and comedian, has recently harshly criticized the behavior of younger black males and scolded them in interviews for blaming their problems on everyone but themselves. Many blacks were highly critical of Cosby's remarks.

Kerry said government and society are to blame, too, for not providing adequate assistance and protections to minorities. "We also need to do the things we need to do as a society to empower those people, have plans for those kids, to make the world safer," Kerry said. "It's all of us together."

Kerry briefly left his post-convention, coast-to-coast campaign trip to speak to the Unity: Journalists of Color conference, which is sponsored by four minority journalism associations. He was scheduled to return to the campaign trail in St. Louis later today.

President Bush, who was campaigning in Ohio and Michigan today, will address the Unity conference on Friday.

In his speech, and the question-and-answer session that followed, Kerry made a strong appeal to minority groups, both with promises to run a more inclusive White House and pledges to fund federal programs targeting every group from Native Americans to veterans from the Philippines. He even promised to fight to increase the number of minorities in prominent media jobs, which government has no control over.

The Democratic nominee said he is the candidate who feels the pain of minorities. "I am also aware -- how can you live in America and not be aware? -- of the special challenges facing people of color." As president, Kerry promised a mixture of affirmative action, government spending and meetings with minority groups to end racial imbalances.

In one of his biggest applause lines, he also said every black vote would count in future elections. In 2000, many black voters were denied the right to vote as a result of breakdowns in the registration and vote-counting systems. "The harsh fact now is that in the last election more than 1 million African-Americans were disenfranchised in one of the most tainted elections in history."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company