- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

2:36 p.m.

President Bush today told the NAACP that slavery and years of discrimination continue to “wound” and “stain” America but that he will work with black leaders on issues such as education, homeownership and AIDS that they can agree on.

“I want to change the relationship,” he said.

Mr. Bush’s 35-minute speech was interrupted once by a heckler who shouted at him about Adolf Hitler, Iraq and Vice President Dick Cheney, but the president talked over him.

For the most part the audience received him politely but coldly, although he did get a standing ovation when he urged passage, “without amendment,” of a bill renewing the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

After declining the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s invitations the last five years, Mr. Bush accepted this year, saying he sees an opportunity this time.

After being introduced by NAACP President Bruce Gordon, Mr. Bush immediately addressed his years of snubs, joking, “I thought what he was going to say, ‘It’s about time you showed up.’ And I’m glad I did.”

He also acknowledged the Republican Party’s rocky recent history with black voters, calling it “a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African-American community.”

“For too long my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African Americans wrote off the Republican Party,” he said, adding that this has prevented Republicans and blacks from working together.

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