"We need groups like Blacks in Government to tell the truth to the nation . . . " shouted Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.). "You have become part of a dream coming true for me."
Fauntroy's spirited, sermonlike speech filled the air of the Sheraton Washington Hotel ballroom Saturday night, eliciting occasional "amens" and "thank yous" from the more than 2,000 conferees here for the three-day Blacks in Government (BIG) meeting that ended yesterday.
BIG, a nonprofit organization of black government employes, was host to guest lecturers and held 15 workshops on such topics as "Overcoming Stress from RIFs and Underemployment," "Coping With Black Crime and Violence" and "Philosophical Aspects of Cultural Differences -- How to Cope with a Multi-Ethnic Work Environment."
But while the workshops were informative, the conference itself and the fourth annual National Training Banquet provided a way for government workers from as far away as Australia to meet fellow federal employes.
"It is my hope," said BIG president Mildred W. Goodman, "that you will leave this conference rededicated and recommitted to taking care of business, to taking care of the business of blacks in government."
Bill Stewart, 38, an accountant for the Coast Guard, was attending for the first time.
"Believe it or not," Stewart said between bites of banquet chicken and carrots, "there are people who would shove a situation down your throat without telling you what your rights are." Stewart said he sees BIG as a way to exchange information. "I'm a convert," he said, telling of his plans to join the Baltimore BIG chapter.
Richard Whitmore, an attorney with the Department of Transportation, evaluated BIG in patriotic terms, describing the organization as an "opportunity to do something worthwhile for the people and for the country as well. I was interested to see what it was all about."
Fauntroy's hour-long talk told everyone what it was all about.
"In the year 1946, when I was 13 years of age, I sat down at the dinner table and, for the first time, I saw tears well in my father's eyes and trickle down his cheek . . . I'll never forget how much it bothered me to see my father weep at the kitchen table . . . So naturally my curiosity got the best of me and the next day I asked him about it. He told me something I have never forgotten. He told me about a phenomenon . . . He told me how he trained a white man to be his boss and then 25 years later he trained that man's son to be his boss . . . He worked for the U.S. Government Patent Office where he was hired as a clerk and he retired as a clerk . . . That is why we truly need to stand together."
Fauntroy's ending capped the emotional evening.
"Let us go forward . . . for "Blacks in Governnment," he said, then began softly and slowly singing. His song was "The Impossible Dream."
Just as he came to one of the final lines, he turned and looked at the Blacks in Government banner spread high above his head and pointed to it.
"To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause . . . To reach the unreachable star . . . ," he sang.