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NAN BRINGS OUT THE BIG GUNS

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.
NAN BRINGS OUT THE BIG GUNS

Vice President Joe Biden made a stop in New York last Friday to speak at Al Sharpton's National Action Network Convention at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. While President Barack Obama was on his European tour, Biden discussed the economy.

NAN wrapped up its four-day national convention last Saturday. The event brought members of the civil rights organization from across the country. There were several seminars and meetings dealing with issues, including education, social justice, religion and health.

Sharpton said that Biden's visit to the convention was monumental and historic to NAN's convention, which is in its 11th year.

"I think it's noteworthy that this is the first civil rights organization the administration has sent their top people to [and this is Biden's] first trip to New York as vice president," Sharpton said.

Biden's speech gave a sense of assurance to the audience, mostly made up of NAN members, as he discussed the financial state of America. His key point was the need for citizens to come together and help each other out and that America has a chance to start over. "We are in a situation where we have an opportunity," he said. "This time we have an opportunity to not just bring us out of recession, but change the game."

The vice president recognized that while employment is scarce right now, the Recovery Act recently passed would create and save nearly four million jobs. Biden recognized that joblessness is growing in the Black community. He also highlighted the work of unions.

He said, "Every American deserves a good, quality education but also a good place to work. This is not just about jobs but good jobs to ensure every American has a better life. Great jobs will be the foundation of a new century." Education was also on the agenda as Biden ensured that the government would do more to help students with education from "diapers to diplomas." With the extension of Pell Grants, Biden said that higher education would be accessible to low-income parents.

However, more teachers should tell students about the money that is available as early as the sixth grade. Biden said that the best ticket to the middle class is a good education.

"Your government will help low-income parents to be able to send their kids to college," he said. "Together, our goal is to make the American dream possible for everyone. We can change the lives of tens of millions of people."

Biden closed with a quote of reassurance, referencing Seamus Heaney's "A Cure at Troy." "History teaches us not to hope on this side of the grave," he said. "But once in a lifetime, the longed-for tide of justice can arise and hope and history rhyme. We've got a shot." Some of the most high-profile and productive minds attended the convention, from the worlds of business, civil rights, politics, labor and entertainment, including Judge Greg Mathis, author Terrie Williams, former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and mayors from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif., and Public Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.