Why I Spoke to This Year’s Urban League Convention

Your Take: Republicans are working to earn the trust of black voters.

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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaking at the National Press Club March 18, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

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Today, America is facing a crisis of joblessness and lack of access to quality education, especially in minority communities. The National Urban League has rightly called it the crisis of “one nation underemployed.”

When I addressed the Urban League’s conference in Cincinnati this week, I spoke of Whitney Young, the civil rights leader and head of the National Urban League. He was a transformational figure. When President Richard Nixon delivered the eulogy at his funeral, he said Young “knew how to accomplish what other people were merely for.”

And to solve the crisis of “one nation underemployed,” we need leaders like Whitney Young who can accomplish what we’re for: job creation and improved educational opportunities.

Today, there are too few avenues of upward mobility. Millions are exhausted from looking for jobs that don’t exist. Families feel like they can’t get ahead; they’re living in an economy that’s leaving them behind. Opportunities for disadvantaged youth to get a quality education and escape poverty continue to shrink.

That’s why in Washington and in state capitals around the country, Republicans are working to remove the barriers to success. Part of that is getting rid of outdated regulations and rules that just make life harder for people. Republicans talk about regulations a lot, and there’s a reason. It’s because “regulation” is another word for something that comes between people and jobs.

But there’s so much more that we want to do. The Republican-led House of Representatives has passed more than 40 bills that would create jobs. Those bills deserve to get a vote in the Senate.

Our party also wants to support our small-business leaders and remove the barriers that keep them from growing and thriving. Unfortunately, just 2.8 percent of Small Business Administration loans go to black business owners.

To help people secure good jobs, we also need job training and education reform. That’s why Sen. Tim Scott co-sponsored the SKILLS Act to transform our nation’s broken workforce-development-and-training system. Many of the provisions of this bill were included in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which was just signed by President Barack Obama. As Urban League President Marc Morial put it, that bill will mean “millions of unemployed and underemployed 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.”

In addressing K-12 education, school choice has to be part of the solution. That’s why Republicans fight every day to expand scholarship programs. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, where the Urban League’s conference was held, quadrupled the number of EdChoice scholarships to get Ohio students who are in struggling schools into good schools. Similar programs also have records of success in states like Louisiana and my home state of Wisconsin.

As Republicans, we believe that all parents 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 for parents and students. That isn’t fair. Every child in every neighborhood, of every color and background, deserves to attend a school that will help prepare him or her to succeed.

In order to make that vision a reality, voters need to know that the Republican Party is listening and fighting for them, no matter their background. That’s why the Republican National Committee is in communities across this country, engaging with, listening to and working to earn the trust of black American voters.

As a party, we believe it’s wrong for anyone to be overlooked or taken for granted in our political process, and since the release of last year’s Growth and Opportunity Project, we have reshaped our engagement efforts to be more community-based.

Putting the American dream in reach for everyone is our goal. Expanding opportunity is our mission; and that’s why I’m confident Americans can come together, from leaders in Washington to civic organizations like the Urban League, to address the crisis of “one nation underemployed.”

Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee. Follow him on Twitter.

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