Republican convention opens
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AUGUST 1, 2000

The Republican National Convention opened yesterday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with retired General Colin Powell challenging his party on their standing with the country's ethnic population.

"The issue of race still casts a shadow over our society, despite the impressive progress we have made over the last 40 years to overcome the legacy of our troubled past," said Powell. "So, with all the success we have enjoyed and with all the wealth we have created, we have much more work to do and a long way to go to bring the promise of America to every American."

Powell called on the party to reach out to minority communities every day, not just during an election year. But perhaps the most challenging aspects of Powell's speech were his comments on two key party issues: crime and affirmative action.

Building more jails is one component of the Republican get tough on crime campaign. But last night, Powell was cheered for his comments on the subject.

"So many of the problems we worry about go back to how we raise our children. We either build our children or we build more jails," said Powell. "Time to stop building jails."

Although Indian Country most definitely would appreciate Powell's views on the family, some may not agree with his jail comments. A recent Department of Justice study noted that jails in Indian Country are overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed, indicating the need for increased and continued support.

But Native Americans might support Powell's comments on affirmative action. The crowd applauded Powell when he criticized members of the party for their anti-affirmative action views.

"[S]ome in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand Black kids get an education, but hardly a whimper is heard from them over affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax codes with preferences for special interests," said Powell.

The enthusiasm which greeted Powell last night was in stark contrast to his appearance before the convention four years ago. Then, boos accompanied his support for affirmative action.

Many consider Powell's opening night speech to be an indicator of the changing face of the Republican party. But the makeup of delegates to the party convention is still dominated by males and white Americans, according to recent demographic polls.

Less then 1 percent of delegates self-identified themselves as Native American. Congress' only Native American, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, is a Republican, but is not scheduled to speak this week at the convention; nor are any other Native Americans.

However, the party may have already implemented at least part of Powell's suggestions already. Several Hispanic-Americans will take to the stage to discuss, entertain, and promote Bush, both in English and in Spanish.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, considered by many to be a friend to tribes will speak tonight. A Vietnam veteran, he will focus on the importance of the military.

Relevant Links:
The Republican National Convention -

Related Stories:
New study focuses on jails (Tribal Law 07/10)