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(1976) Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, “Who, Then, Will Speak for the Common Good?”

In 1972 Barbara Charline Jordan became the first black member of Congress elected from Texas. Two years later this freshman Representative became a national figure because of her prominent role as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon. Two years later she became the first African American and the first woman to deliver the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City. Her speech, delivered on July 12, appears below.

It was one hundred and forty-four years ago that members of the Democratic Party first met in convention to select a Presidential candidate. Since that time, Democrats have continued to convene once every four years and draft a party platform and nominate a Presidential candidate. And our meeting this week is a continuation of that tradition. But there is something different about tonight. There is something special about tonight. What is different? What is special?

I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.

When -- A lot of years passed since 1832, and during that time it would have been most unusual for any national political party to ask a Barbara Jordan to deliver a keynote address. But tonight, here I am. And I feel -- I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.

Now -- Now that I have this grand distinction, what in the world am I supposed to say? I could easily spend this time praising the accomplishments of this party and attacking the Republicans but I don"t choose to do that. I could list the many problems which Americans have. I could list the problems which cause people to feel cynical, angry, frustrated: problems which include lack of integrity in government; the feeling that the individual no longer counts; the reality of material and spiritual poverty; the feeling that the grand American experiment is failing or has failed. I could recite these problems, and then I could sit down and offer

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