The 69th annual conference of the National Urban League ended here today in ambivalent ceremony.
League President Vernon E. Jordan and other conference participants said they were happy that so many Carter administration officials had stopped by to speak at their four-day meeting.
But they said they didn't particularly care for the message the Carter people brought.
"I don't think we got any good news insofar as the black agenda is concerned," Jordan said today at a closing news conference. "I think we got some sympathy and understanding. But what we also got was an assurance of a recession . . . some somber sounds . . . and some negative predictions about the future."
The convention also gor some long lists of the blacks Carter has appointed and of many of the things the administration said it has one to help blacks' economic and social progress. But the lists, especially the personnel rosters, drew few positive responses from the estimated 12,000 persons who attended the convention.
Rosalynn Carter spoke Sunday and repeatedly mentioned many of the persons in her husband's administration who "happen to be black." The speech was roundly criticized by conference participants and became the butt of many jokes -- including one by Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-iii.), who drew a laugh from the delegates Monday by announcing that he "happens to be white."
Health, Education and Welfare Secretary-designate Patricia Roberts Harris and Labor Secretary Ray Marshall followed with speeches substantially similiar to the First Lady's. Their speeches were also criticized, but not as vigorously.
Harris, who is black and a longstanding member of the Urban League, was better received "because she's paid a certain amount of dues to get to the rostrum to say those kinds of thingd to us," said Sonia Walker a conference participant from Memphis.
Little attention was paid to Marshall's speech because, according to many participants, it was boring.
One of the few speakers to draw a positive response from the convention was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who made no mention of his civil rights accomplishments but focused on issues concerning energy production and conservation.Many said that although Kennedy did not come up with the fire and brimstone speech that they had expected from him, they appreciated his talking to them about what they called substantial issues.
The Urban League, with its $25.1 million annual budget, much of it in federal money, is the nation's wealthiest, predominently black civil rights group. Its supporters are largely black professionals. And that, according to people like Waldo Jeff, a black corporate executive from Cincinnati, is partly why the administration had difficulty here this week selling its record.
"The administration didn't have to come here to tell us how good these black people are because we already knew that. . . The administration should have been telling the nation all along that the black people are representing the country, instead of just coming here now to tell us how good they are at representing other blacks," Jeff said
However, Jeff and other conference participants said that although they disagree with the administration's sales pitch and they were generally dissatisfied with Carter's performance to date, they feared they may be forced to stick with Carter in 1980.
"I don't at all think that he's the best. But whether you like it or not, he is the best we have at the moment."