NUL Conference, a return home

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(NNPA)—“Support the strong, give courage to the timid, remind the indifferent, and warn the opposed.” National Urban League legend, Whitney M. Young, Jr.

Last week, New Orleans was in the public policy and intellectual capital of America as host city for the National Urban League’s 2012 Annual Conference. I was personally thrilled to return to my hometown and the city I once served as mayor for this year’s conference.

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And I am honored and proud that President Barack Obama delivered the opening address at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. As a non-partisan organization, the National Urban League has traditionally invited presidents and major party candidates to address the convention, not only to share their agenda for the nation, but also to hear ours. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was also invited, but did not attend.

Taking place in an important election year, the theme of this year’s conference was “Occupy the Vote: Employment and Education Empower the Nation.” By bringing together thousands of the nation’s most influential community leaders, policy makers, academicians, business executives and artists, the conference addressed the issues of voting rights, double-digit unemployment in urban communities and the essential role of education as a force for change. Workshops on education, housing, job creation, small business development and the empowerment of young African-American males and females provided an unprecedented opportunity to influence public policy through grassroots political action. We had New Orleans’ traditional “White Linen Night” concert on Thursday evening featuring Chaka Kahn and Doug E. Fresh at the New Orleans Arena.

I want to especially thank Urban League of Greater New Orleans CEO, Nolan Rollins; New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; representatives from our affiliates across the country; our speakers; and our major corporate sponsors for their support of the 2012 annual conference.

The National Urban League Annual Conference occupies a singular place in America’s political and cultural discourse. When no one else would, our conference has been a forum to “support the strong, give courage to the timid, remind the indifferent and warn the opposed.” Last week in New Orleans we focused on the need to “Occupy the Vote,” create jobs and demand educational equity in urban America.

(Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.)

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