Republicans must don the mantle of Lincoln

From a speech by Colin Powell the former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Republican Convention in Philadelphia
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The Independent Online

I have been given no greater honour than to have had four public schools named after me, an honour that is greater than any medals I have received. In those four schools and so many others that I visited, you've never seen better facilities, you've never seen more dedicated teachers, you've never seen more involved parents. It makes your heart pound with pride to see those great schools that we have in America.

I have been given no greater honour than to have had four public schools named after me, an honour that is greater than any medals I have received. In those four schools and so many others that I visited, you've never seen better facilities, you've never seen more dedicated teachers, you've never seen more involved parents. It makes your heart pound with pride to see those great schools that we have in America.

But I've also seen too many schools that are failing. They are trapped in fossilised bureaucracies that have low expectations for children and consequently set low standards for them. These schools are failing our children, and they must be fixed, and they must be fixed now.

You know, if we truly believe they are all our children, then all of us must be willing to spend more to repair our schools and spend more to pay our teachers better. But we must also be open to new ideas. Let's not be afraid of standardised testing for students. Let's not be afraid of testing teachers' qualifications. Let's not be afraid of charter schools.

Let's not be afraid of using private scholarship money to give poor parents a choice that wealthy parents have. Let's not be afraid of home schooling. Let's experiment prudently with school voucher programs to see if they help. What are we afraid of? Let's use innovation and competition, good old American innovation, good old American competition, to help give our children the best education possible.

You know, we invite skilled workers to come to America from all over the world to fill the good jobs that are waiting here. I think that's great. Immigration is part of our life's blood. It's part of the essence of who we are as Americans. I am the son of immigrants. But I also want our kids here educated and trained for those jobs.

Recently, Governor Bush addressed the annual meeting of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]. He spoke to the delegates about his plans for housing and health and educational programs to help all Americans. He also spoke the truth to the delegates when he said that the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln. I talked with him again today and I know that with all his heart, Governor Bush welcomes the challenge. He wants the Republican Party to wear that mantle again.

But he knows, and I know, and all of you must know, that it's going to take hard work. He knows that that mantle will not simply be handed over, that it will have to be earned. The party must follow the governor's lead in reaching out to minority communities, and particularly the African-American community. And not just during an election year campaign. My friends, if we're serious about this it has to be a sustained effort, it must be every day, and it must be for real. The party must listen to and speak with all leaders of the black community, regardless of political affiliation or philosophy.

We must understand, my friends, we must understand that there is a problem for us out there. We must understand the cynicism that exists in the black community, the kind of cynicism that is created when, for example, some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but you hardly hear a whimper when it's affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax code with preferences for special interests. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. You can't make that case.

Overcoming the cynicism and mistrust that exists, and raising up that mantle of Lincoln, is about more, it's about much more than just winning votes; it is about giving all minorities a competitive choice.

They deserve that choice. And if we give them that choice, it will be good for our party. But above all, it will be good for America, and we need to work to give them that choice.

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