Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"We have realized some progress for sure," Sen. Eward Brooke (R-Mass.) said somberly, looking over the dinner audience whose collective status epitomized some of the gains of black America in the last decade. "But for the majority of blacks, not only haven't they progressed, but they've retrogressed."
Minuties later Vice President Walter Mondale, the main speaker at Thursday evening's fund-raiser for the Joint Center for Political Studies, cited many of the political achievements of blavks since the early '60s, but he, too, added, "We cannot escape the truth, that the ghetto looks no different from the front of the bus."
In his remards, Brooks said that the job ahead was "Immense" for the thousands of blacks who have become elected officials in the last decade, and for the institutions such as the center that offer assistance.
But last night's mood was one of celebration for the sizable evidence of new black political power. In the last decade, the number of black elected officials has grown from 500 to more than 4,000. And many of the stars of that movement attended Thursday's dinner at the Shoreham Americana.
Like many other political gatherings the dinner, which drew 1,200, was a place to do a lot of back-slapping, authograph-seeking and picture taking.
Circulating among the tables at one point were Carl Stokes, the former mayor of Cleveland and now a television commentator; Robert Washington, an attorney and chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Party; Stanley Scott, a former White House aide and now an executive with Philip Morris; William Fitzgerald, the president of Independence Federal Savings and Loan, and Bunny Mitchell, a White House special assistant. They have different political views, but they can all get mileage out of this type of gathering.
"The response to this dinner is a further reflection that the civil-rights movement is not dead. Politics is now the cutting edge," observed Eddie Williams, the president of the center, which was founded in 1970 with a grant from the Ford Foundation.
The center conducts training seminars for black politicians and researches the effects of the black vote and the effects of legislation on black communities. It was the center that analyzed the black vote in the 1976 presidential election and projected that Jimmy Carter owed his victory in several areas to blacks.
When Mondale stepped onto the dais, he knelt to the floor in front of Brooke, generally interpreted as a lobbying gesture to convert the senator into supporting the Panama Canal treaties. Brooke has spoken out against the treaties.
Mondale started his speech with an anecdote ach about almost all of the 36 people sharing the dais. "I'm sorry the president could not be here," he told the crowd. "He's home taking a course in coal mining."
A few seats away, Dr. Kenneth B. Clarke, the eminent psychologist, covered his face, laughing.
Among the guests were many who had a role 10 years ago in the formation of the Kerner Commission report on race relations. What progress has been made sice the commission said the country was heading toward "two separate but unequal societies was assessed during a before-dinner cocktail party.
"Progress? It's difficult to say," said Andrew Hatcher, who was the associate White House press secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
"There has been individual progress, but it's still a fact that some of the people I work with can buy their house at two and three-quarters percent mortgage rates, and I pay nine and three-quarters."
Don King, the boxing promoter, said, "We have moved forward visually . . . but we have to get away from thinking that window dressing has ameliorated the wrongs. We have to begin the activist struggle again."
Even as black political strength has grown numerically, there have been some casualties.
"Say, I see you've decide to make some money for a change," said former transportation secretary William Coleman, a prosperous attorney, to Percy Sutton, the New York City politician who lost his bid for mayor last fall.
"Yes, after 12 years as borough president, I thought I should change," said Sutton, who is now with the prestigious New York law firm of Louis Nixer.
Sutton was one of the four honorees at Thursday's dinner. The others were Stokes, California Lt. Gov. Mervyn M. Dymally, and Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, Ind.
Among the dinner's sponsors were labor unions and corporations. AFLCIO President George Meany served as a dinner chairman, along with Reginald H. Jones, board chairman of General Electric. "The business community is learning to be more responsible in the political community," said Jones.
It's ironic that these large gatherings take place in the city that's the seat of federal government, but whose own local politics is still in its infancy. This was noted by both Mondale and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
"I'm working very hard to assure that the bill for full representation of the District gets passed. I didn't minimize the complexity, but we are going to give it everything we can," said Kennedy.