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Published: Friday, 3/12/2010

Civil rights leader urges new focus on enterprise

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Urban League President Marc Morial will speak at a dinner tonight in Maumee to mark the anniversary of the local affiliate. Urban League President Marc Morial will speak at a dinner tonight in Maumee to mark the anniversary of the local affiliate.
MARY ALTAFFER / ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Marc Morial dreams of a better America, but not one that just regains its economic footing and reverts back to how it was doing things before the recession struck.

The National Urban League's president told The Blade yesterday that people individually and the country as a whole need to reset their principles with a fundamental shift in attitudes, one which values enterprise while scorning arrogance.

He points to historic moments of the last decade, such as the 2000 election, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, the election of President Obama, and the bailout of the banking industry.

They were events that unified some groups of people, split others - but made almost everyone rethink the direction the country was headed, he said.

"You've got a decade of tremendous history and change," said Mr. Morial, who is scheduled to speak to about 400 people attending a $100-a-plate dinner at the Parkway Place in Maumee at 7 tonight. The dinner is to celebrate the Greater Toledo Urban League's 13 years as an affiliate of the National Urban League, one of the nation's largest civil rights organizations.

The National Urban League is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

It wants its centennial to be more than a time to reflect on its accomplishments, Mr. Morial said.

Its new campaign, called "I Am Empowered," establishes four goals for Americans to accomplish by 2025:

•Getting every child ready for college and life in general.

•Providing fair access to jobs and benefits for all.

•Making it possible for everyone to live in safe, decent, and affordable housing.

•Providing everyone access to affordable health care.

"We're trying to force the con-versation, quite candidly," Mr. Morial said. "We've never devoted ourselves to such a broad campaign."

Transforming the nation will require changes in personal behavior and collective policies that guide society.

Toledo is the nation's eighth most impoverished city, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting one of every four of the city's residents living below the poverty line. Detroit and Cleveland are the worst off, ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

All became overly reliant on the automotive industry. As they retool toward lighter, greener economies, people may have to accept those cities will decrease in size, Mr. Morial said.

He also said people will need to show more empathy toward each other if the National Urban League is to achieve its 2025 goals.

"We have to challenge the cynicism that somehow exists," he said.

No doubt the organization has established lofty goals.

But the accomplishment of such goals - such as removing Adolf Hitler from power, ending segregation, or putting a man on the moon - is what forced change throughout the 20th century, Mr. Morial said.

"I see this generation doing difficult things as a test of our resolve," he said.

Mr. Morial said he is generally pleased with President Obama's performance, given the mess he inherited upon taking office.

Mr. Obama's historic ascension to the White House needs to be kept in context, though.

"The election of an African-American was never the goal. The goal was parity [for all Americans]," Mr. Morial said.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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