WASHINGTON—After a conspicuous five-year absence, President George W. Bush last week addressed the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the first time in his presidency.
Acknowledging his administration's bumpy relations with Black voters, Bush said he wants to change the Republican Party's relationship with African Americans.
Bush, joined by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his chief political adviser Karl Rove, spoke as the Senate debated a bill to approve a 25-year extension of expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The House had already passed the bill, and the Senate did so shortly thereafter.
For five years in a row, Bush has declined invitations to address the NAACP convention. This year, he said yes. He was introduced by NAACP head Bruce Gordon.
"Bruce was a polite guy," Bush said. "I thought what he was going to say, 'It's about time you showed up.' And I'm glad I did."
The White House denied claims that Bush's appearance was a way of atoning for the government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and some Black elected officials alleged that indifference to Black suffering and racial injustice was to blame for the sluggish reaction to the disaster.
Bush, noting that he has met several times with Gordon, and that they have discussed Katrina. "We've got a plan and we've got a commitment," Bush said. "It's commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast of the United States to see to it that their lives are brighter and better than before the storm."
— The Associated Press