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SPLC Board Member Urges Voter Action at NAACP Convention

Former Southern Poverty Law Center president and current board member Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, called on African Americans to "get out the vote" in November.

PHILADELPHIA | NAACP board chairman Julian Bond, speaking at the opening night during the NAACP annual meeting here, called on the African American community to launch massive voter-registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.

He addressed about 8,000 delegates gathered for the 95th annual convention, themed "The Race is On!", providing a litany of grievances against the Bush administration and Republican policies.

"We are in a fight for our lives, and we are here to commit to winning it!" he said as he began his rousing remarks. (Read a full PDF transcript.) Bond, who also serves on the Center's board of directors, noted that it was fitting for NAACP members to commit themselves to a fight for democracy in the city where democracy was born.

"The NAACP has always been non-partisan, but that doesn't mean we're non-critical," Bond said. ""For as long as we've existed, whether Democrats or Republicans have occupied the White House, we've spoken truth to power."

"When his friends asked Harry Truman, 'Mr. President, why do you give the other side so much hell?' Truman said, 'I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!' When any political party places politics over principle, we're going to give them non-partisan hell!" Bond said.

Bond also commemorated the anniversaries of the 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education court decision and the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act. He eloquently reviewed the history of school desegregation before and after Brown, describing its significance as "the movement's greatest legal victory."

Representing the Center at the convention are Teaching Tolerance grants administrator Annie Bolling, tolerance programs marketing and communications coordinator Janel Bell and Teaching Tolerance intern Cierra Johnson. Throughout the weeklong event, the trio is providing information about the Center's free resources to convention participants.

Bond, who served as the Center's president emeritus in the 1970s, has been chairman of the NAACP board of directors since February 1998. He is a professor in the school of government at American University in Washington, D.C., and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.