- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The chairman of Maryland’s Republican Party said yesterday that Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele will talk about his upbringing and achieving the American dream during a prime-time speech at the party’s national convention this month.

“He’s the ultimate American success story,” Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane told The Washington Times.

Mr. Steele, Maryland’s first black statewide elected official, will talk about his stepfather, who was a limousine driver, and his mother, who was a waitress and a maid. He also will talk about how scholarships helped in his education, Mr. Kane said.

“He will talk about how everybody has the same chance,” Mr. Kane said.

Mr. Steele, elected in 2002, will speak at the convention on the evening of Aug. 31. The convention will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.

Steele spokeswoman Regan Hopper would not comment on the topic of Mr. Steele’s speech or on how much time he has been allotted to deliver it.

“He’s still working on his speech,” Miss Hopper said.

Mr. Steele is the former chairman of the state Republican Party. He has served on the executive panel of the Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Commission on Federal Election Reform and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Election Reform.

Mr. Steele also is vice chairman of the Maryland Bush-Cheney ‘04 Leadership Team and a member of the African Americans for Bush National Steering Committee. He also is a deputy chairman of the convention, which means that he will introduce several speakers and events.

“I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to represent both my party and my community at the national convention,” Mr. Steele said last month. “It represents a unique opportunity to begin a very important dialogue between the Republican Party and the African-American community.”

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. helped propel Mr. Steele to the prominent slot and will not speak at the convention. Mr. Ehrlich, the state’s first Republican governor in more than three decades, spoke at the party’s 2000 convention.

Mr. Ehrlich, a close friend to President Bush, said he did not lobby for a speaking spot. “He is a nice guy and I think people need a chance to get to know him,” the governor said of Mr. Steele.

Mr. Ehrlich said Mr. Steele has fought to empower minority-owned businesses. The governor also told the Associated Press this month that Mr. Steele can prove that the Republican Party has a place for upwardly mobile black business executives.

Mr. Kane praised Mr. Ehrlich for helping his lieutenant governor. “Ehrlich is proud of what Steele has accomplished and [can] show how Maryland has evolved into a legitimate two-party state,” he said.

Some said Mr. Steele’s speech will be the Republican answer to Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate who delivered a speech during the Democratic National Convention last month.

In his prime-time speech, Mr. Obama touched on his upbringing and said the party must be unified.

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America,” said Mr. Obama, who represents Chicago’s South Side.

He noted that anyone should have the opportunity to be senator: “We can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.”

Pundits speculate that Mr. Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, may share a presidential ticket in 2008.

Republican officials say Mr. Steele has national chances as well.

Mr. Steele and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said earlier this month that black representation is up 65 percent from the 2000 convention. They said overall representation of minorities has increased as well.

Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this report.

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