RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Addresses National Urban League Conference
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
National Urban League Conference
July 24, 2014
Remark Excerpts As Prepared For Delivery
Thank you, Marc, for the invite and that introduction. I’m glad we have an open line of communication with you and the National Urban League.
One of the last times that I was in Ohio, though, I was at Central State University in Wilberforce—for the chartering of their College Republicans chapter. Less than a year after we congratulated Morehouse College on chartering their College Republicans. It’s good to see bipartisanship on the campuses of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Anyway, it’s a real privilege to be here today with a group of people working so hard to improve the lives of Americans. I applaud your work, especially your efforts on the ground to provide job training and resources and support.
You’re changing lives and saving lives. One of America’s great strengths is civic organizations like yours that accomplish incredible things.
As many of you know, not too far from where we are, in Shelby County, Kentucky, Whitney Young, the civil rights leader was born.
He was a transformational figure and so influential in this organization. At his funeral, President Nixon said, “He knew how to accomplish what other people were merely for.”
We need leaders like Whitney Young today who can accomplish what we’re for—especially when we confront the crisis of “One Nation Underemployed.”
America’s underemployment, especially Black America’s underemployment, is a crisis. But the commentators on TV tell us that the economy’s getting better. That’s because they don’t see the whole picture. They don’t see the people who are exhausted from looking for jobs that don’t exist.
They forget that the black unemployment rate isn’t that national rate of 6.1 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s 10.7 percent. And that’s a problem we must address.
Republicans have offered solutions. We want to get things accomplished, and I want to spotlight just a few things our leaders are doing.
There’s one very important bill that passed the House and Senate and was just signed by the president. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
As Marc Morial put it, it will mean “millions of unemployed and under-employed workers and urban youth and youth of color can receive the skills, training, and support services they need to chart a path to a better future.”
That is good news for all of us.
It was a bipartisan effort and included many provisions from Republican Senator Tim Scott’s SKILLS Act.
Senator Scott also worked to introduce the LEAP Act. That bill would expand apprenticeship programs, to help workers secure good paying jobs.
We need even more solutions like that to get people back to work.
That’s the goal of Speaker Boehner, who’s from here in the Buckeye State. The House of Representatives, including Congressman Steve Chabot from here in Cincinnati, have passed over 40 bills that would create jobs. We hope those bills also get a vote in the Senate.
Another Ohio Republican, Senator Rob Portman, has been another great advocate for expanding opportunity. He’s a champion of the Second Chance Act—and a sponsor of the CAREER Act to improve job training programs to get workers the skills they need.
We need training and education reform more than ever. Educational access is the civil rights issue of our day.
And school choice has to be part of the solution. That’s why Governor Kasich of this state quadrupled the number of EdChoice scholarships…scholarships to get Ohio students who are in struggling schools into good schools.
So in Washington and in state capitals, we’re working to get things accomplished. We want to get unemployed moms and dads back to work. We want to lift children from poverty.
The Republican Party believes that every parent in America should have the power to send their kids to the school of their choice. The other party thinks a ZIP code should make that choice.
We’re the party that wants to celebrate our small business leaders and remove the barriers that keep them from growing and thriving. It’s this administration that reduced the number of Small Business Loans to minority businesses—so that just 2.8% of SBA loans go to black business owners, according to the SBA’s own numbers. That’s unacceptable.
We want you to know that the Republican Party is listening and fighting for you.
That’s why the RNC is in communities across this country, engaging with, listening to, and working to earn the trust of black voters. Since the release of last year’s Growth and Opportunity Project, we have completely reshaped our engagement efforts to be more community based.
If there’s one thing I’m trying to change—it’s to make us a national party, in every community, with full-time, paid, on-the-ground staff making our case.
We have to be present year-round. We can’t just show up a few months before an election. And we can’t just be a U-haul trailer of cash for our nominee.
So we’ve hired black engagement staffers across the country, from Ohio to Michigan to Louisiana, Virginia to Colorado and in between. The RNC had never before made this kind of commitment to be present in “off-years.” But we’re serious about doing things differently.
I want to close this morning with a story from the RNC’s March on Washington anniversary luncheon last year. Marc Morial was there, along with several other leaders.
Two people came up to me during the event and said, “We’re Democrats… But we’re here because we know that if both parties don’t fight like crazy for black voters, the other side takes our votes for granted.”
As a party, we believe it’s wrong for anyone to be overlooked or taken for granted in our political process. And that’s what motivates me every day.
So my hope is that Republicans can partner with groups like the National Urban League whenever and wherever possible.
My request is that you and your state and local affiliates find ways to connect with our teams on the ground. I have staff members here that can help, and you can also visit our website, gop.com.
And, finally, my prayer is that we can put the American Dream in reach for all people…and that this one nation under God is never again one nation underemployed.
Thank you. God bless you and God Bless America.