NUL holds 2015 Conference in Fort Lauderdale
Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, addresses National Urban League (NUL) plenary session, which featured candidates from both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
By Charles Moseley
Thousands of Urban League members from across the country representing some of the best and brightest minds in America, gathered in Fort Lauderdale along with local citizenry from South Florida to participate in the Urban League’s National Conference. The conference was held July 29 -Aug. 1, at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center and hosted by the Urban League of Broward County (ULBC), the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, and TD Bank.
The Urban League of Broward County (ULBC) served as the affiliate host and was very clear about attaining positive results for its sur-rounding community, “We knew the conference would be a great success,” said Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh, president and CEO. “We also knew that our attention should be focused on what would be left behind on Aug. 2 for our City, its residents, and our affiliate.”
This year’s conference theme was titled, “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs, & Justice” and featured several presidential candidates representing both the Democratic and Republican Parties. The candidates included; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
National Urban League (NUL) CEO Marc Morial kicked off the presidential candidate forum by outlining the significance of the event, before a packed auditorium on July 31. The plenary session was also simulcast worldwide on C-Span.
“This is a very special event because it is the first time in this election cycle that candidates from both the Democratic and Republican Party have come together on one stage. The presence here today of these candidates represents an outreached hand, an important signal that they take our issues, that they take our communities and they take each and every one of you very seriously,” said Morial.
Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton wasted no time in an apparent jab at her Republican opponents, inferring that they were less than generous when it came to addressing the needs and concerns of the African American community.
“The real test of a candidate’s commitment is not whether we come to speak at your national conference, as important as that is; it’s whether we’re still around after the cameras are gone and the votes are counted. It’s whether our positions live up to our rhetoric. And too often we see a mismatch between what some candidates say in venues like this and what they actually do afterward.”
“So, yes, what people say matters but, what they do matters more,” Clinton added.
Republican Presidential hopeful, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s speech lacked the punch than that of Clinton’s before a mostly partisan crowd, which obviously favored her more liberal approach to governing.
Bush still however tried to persuade the audience by calling upon the African American community to be more socially responsible, and less reliant on the federal government.
“When all these issues I’ve discussed make it harder and harder for people to imagine their future, then it’s easy to see why there’s anger and disillusionment.”
“One of the best anti-poverty programs is a strong family, led by two committed parents. As the family breaks down, so does opportunity,” added Bush.
There were a plethora of events during the four-day NUL Conference, which focused on the entire needs of the African American and other minority communities, including college, career, and health fairs. In addition, there were seminars on Women, Wealth, & Relationships, Black Lives Matter, 123s of Entrepreneurship, Breaking Through the Tech Ceiling, and a host of entertainment offerings such as a Devine Nine mixer and other events featuring the likes of MC Lyte, Bevy Smith.
Albert Tucker, vice president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) has been instrumental in attracting major national conventions featuring African American organizations for a number of years including this year’s NUL Conference. He stressed the importance of promoting Greater Fort Lauderdale as a travel destination point and emphasized Black economic empowerment.
“For me it’s been nothing but a prideful moment to see the level of what’s happening here in our city; to see the agenda from the National Urban League we’re dealing with. These are all important elements we are struggling with now right here in Broward County. So, the world right now is our stage here in South Florida and Fort Lauderdale and about everything that’s happening in and around our country-specifically what is called “The Black Agenda.”
“I’m praying that our leadership comes out to see these important issues like Voting Rights Issues. Our local leaders need to understand the ills that are happening on a national scale, so that they can take a-way some new ideas so our community can continue to flourish, and deal with some of the issues we’re struggling with right now,” added Tucker.
Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness (District 9) was one of the leaders who at-tended the NUL Conference and praised the organizers for their efforts and spoke about the significance of hosting such a national event here in Broward County.
“It’s extremely significant that the Urban League is here in Broward County from many angles. One is that their bringing information that will be helpful to communities to help save our cities. The theme, ‘Education, Justice, & Jobs’, those are critical for the Black com-munity.
“I’m hopeful that some of our local folks adapt some of the strategies that their employing to save our cities. Especially those parts of our cities that are left behind. There are many areas that we need to look at to insure that they are not left be-hind any longer,” added Commissioner Holness.
Local Broward County resident Ernestine Thomas is an independent agent for the debt consolidation company called Work Unlimited. She attended many of the business-related sessions and came away impressed by what she witnessed.
“I am enjoying this conference. There have been a lot of people here conducting business. And I have made some tremendous contacts.”