FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
From NPR News, this is News & Notes, I'm Farai Chideya. Next year, the NAACP or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People turns 100 years old. But this year is full of excitement too. The group just elected a new president, the youngest in the organization's history. And their convention continues this week in Cincinnati, during a presidential election year. Both major parties have sent their candidates to the convention. Senator Barack Obama addressed the crowd last night, calling again for personal responsibility. Senator John McCain will address the group tomorrow. Later we'll get an update from NPR's Audie Cornish, who's at the convention. But now we are joined by Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP. Chairman Bond, it is great to talk to you again. How are you?
Mr. JULIAN BOND (Chairman, NAACP): I'm fine. How are you?
CHIDEYA: I'm great! So by all accounts you are in the middle of a spectacular convention, the no...
Mr. BOND: Yes we are.
CHIDEYA: The nominees for both parties are attending, Senator Obama has already spoken, and he hit the themes of personal responsibility that got, among others, Reverend Jesse Jackson hot. So what did you think of his speech?
Mr BOND: I thought it was a wonderful speech, and I thought he touched on more than personal responsibility, also talked about societal responsibility. By that I mean what government's responsibility is. He talked about things that government needed to do, and I think that was part of the meat of Jackson's complaint. That he hadn't heard enough of that, but I think we heard a great deal of it last night.
CHIDEYA: Do you think that black men are getting the short end of the stick in this whole discussion of presidential politics? Perhaps because it's a popular theme that reassures white voters?
Mr. BOND: Well, I'm sure it does part of the calculation. But at the same time, this is something, if you probably are not old enough to remember, that Reverend Jackson himself used to talk about it, and it's a recurring theme in the black-American dialogue. We've have always had this dual conversation, what ought we do, what ought we expect from the government that is supposed to also represent us. And as far as I can recall, this has been going on for many, many years.
CHIDEYA: I'm going to move on to a little bit of housekeeping. We spoke with your spokesperson this weekend, as the convention launched. We asked, you know, why isn't your president-in-waiting doing more press? And he said, oh well, Ben Jealous has things to complete. And also, that the contract securing your relationship was not signed yet. Does that bode badly? Does that leave in...
Mr. BOND: Not at all. And it is really an internal matter that I'm not free to talk about. The assertion on Mr. Jealous and his giving interviews, is that he's not in the job. He has a job that he is very good at, and that he had recently taken. He has got to separate himself from that job, before he can take our job. But we are confident that by September 19th, which will be the date he is free, that he will be working for us.
CHIDEYA: Nonetheless, it seems like at the very least of an odd chronology, where you pick someone, announce his name, have not finished the contract negotiations, from what I understand but cannot confirm, he might still need to be voted on by the entire board.
Mr. BOND: No, he won't be voted on by the entire board, under our system, and I'd be telling you more internal NAACP organizational matters than anyone needs to know. The CEO works for the executive committee, and the executive committee needs to approve his contract, which I'm confident will happen. And when that's done, it's done.
CHIDEYA: You have been a very strong leader of the NAACP, from the position of chairman of the board. There have been some incredible chairmen - and women, including Myrlie Evers-Williams. But is this organization prepared to have a strong president? You are arguably still, at this point, you know, beyond arguably, the most powerful person at the NAACP, are you ready to split the seat?
Mr. BOND: I'm ready for Ben Jealous to come on board, and, you know, we have had only, I think, 17 people in this job, over the 99 years we've been in existence - four have been white, several have been women, they come from a variety of backgrounds and professions, but I'm looking forward to Ben Jealous. I think he is going to be among the strongest we've ever had, and may turn out to be the strongest we have ever had.
CHIDEYA: Give me a moment that you think typifies the direction that the NAACP is going. And what I mean is a personal moment, where you really felt, I'm doing the right thing, for the right reasons.
Mr. BOND: Well, I thought in a way, and I don't want to take too much credit for this, that Obama's appearance before us, was a peak moment for us. Because I think it is imminently arguable to say that had it not been for the work the NAACP and other organizations have done over the past century, he wouldn't have been the Democratic nominee. He wouldn't have had a fair chance to compete for this office. And the work we did - while not supporting him, because we are nonpartisan, we don't do that - made it possible for him to have this aspiration, and to see it play out.
CHIDEYA: Why is it important, then, to have both parties represented - which you made a point of saying is important?
Mr. BOND: Because we are nonpartisan, and it would be a tragic mistake if we had one of these two candidates, and didn't have the other. We invited all of the Democrats, all of the Republicans to come before us last year, when they were contending for this office, because we are nonpartisan. And to have had only people from one party, or only the nominee from one party, would not only violate our own rules, but would violate the internal revenues regulations that we have to obey. We are rigidly nonpartisan, we have never endorsed a candidate for public office, or political party, and we don't intend to do so now.
CHIDEYA: If you could summarize your thoughts about hip-hop generation politics, which are very controversial. Some people think they don't even exist. I mean, are you willing to engage with people like rappers, and kind of pop-political activists in order to broaden your audience?
Mr. BOND: You know, it is interesting you should ask that, because someone just wrote that we weren't involved at the hip-hop generation. I did an internet search, and I found over 100 instances where our local units, and our national organization, which I'm chairman of, have hosted rappers, a wide variety of people, most of whose names I've never heard of before. So we have had long engagement with this community, we've cooperated with them, we have gone to their meetings, had us come to their meetings. It's a fiction that there is no relationship between us and them, it is an ongoing strong relationship. And I can only expect it to get stronger.
CHIDEYA: Well, chairman Bond, I'm delighted you could come on again. And just to let you know, we will be covering the convention again when you have Senator McCain come. And I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
Mr. BOND: Thank you so much.
CHIDEYA: Julian Bond is the chairman of the NAACP.
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