The state of the union is not strong until the State of the Black Union is strong. – Hillary Clinton, New Orleans, 23 FEB 2008

hillary state of the black union 2008

Hillary Clinton once again universalized the particular during the speech she delivered at the State of the Black Union 2008 symposium at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on 23 FEB. The plight of African-Americans is the plight of all Americans, she declared, enacting a dialectical movement similar to the one she performed at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995, when she famously recast womens' rights as human rights before a global audience. This rhetorical sublation is, in my opinion, utterly apposite for Saturday's occasion. For not only did Hillary promise to help implement the policies outlined in Travis Smiley's 2006 text entitled Covenant with Black America; she likened Smiley's program to a "roadmap" that will guide the citizens of this country to a place where all of us will cast our differences aside and "start acting as if we are Americans once again."


Hillary's Democratic utopia is one wherein the various gaps separating Black America from America will finally witness their overdue obsolescence. The first gaps Hillary discussed in New Orleans are the achievement gap and the education gap, social problems she will redress with her Youth Opportunity Agenda, a program she hopes will reduce high school drop out rates by 50% during her term in office. Other solutions to the education and achievement gaps Hillary mentioned are her plan to render college more affordable and her intention to double government support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.


Another gap Hillary addressed the environmental justice gap. The first example she cited is the high concentration of formaldehyde in FEMA’s notorious toxic trailers, an egregious manifestation of Bush’s incompetence with which all of us are all too familiar. Hillary also mentioned lead poisoning, and she noted how Latino and African-American children have twice the rate of lead poisoning than their Caucasian semblables. According to Hillary, these environmental injustices cannot be viewed as so many mere coincidences, for to her they are the products of “a toxic combination of discrimination and neglect we must fix.” And fix it she will. For not only did Hillary convene a groundbreaking Senate hearing on the subject of environmental justice on 25 JULY 2007; she also promised to treat environmental violations that disproportionately impact minority populations as Civil Rights violations during her Presidency.


Hillary also outlined an economic agenda that will eliminate the income gap, one of the many unfinished projects of Martin Luther King, Jr. Although incomes of African-American households rose $7,000 during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, they have decreased $2,600 since the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001. Solutions Hillary proposes in order to close the growing income disparities between America and Black America include the creation of 5,000,000 jobs in a renewable energy sector with training facilities in economically depressed areas of our crumbling inner cities. Hillary also mentioned how her commitment to the reconstruction our country’s deteriorating infrastructure will yield job opportunities to those who are struggling under the Bush economy. But her economic agenda includes more than just the creation of jobs; it also includes the implementation of reforms within the banking industry that will both stimulate growth and assure economic stability within the African-American community. She promises to stem the tide of home foreclosures, and she will impose criminal penalties on predatory lenders who administer unaffordable subprime mortgage loans. Moreover, Hillary will provide various inducements for the funneling of capital to small business and for the establishment of financial institutions in historically underserved areas.


The first social problem broached in Tavis Smiley’s Covenant is the health care crisis presently besieging the African-American community. Hillary explained how she is the only Presidential candidate whose health care proposal fulfills the pledge of the Covenant to redress health care disparities, for she is the only candidate whose proposal contains a system of mandates that ensures universal coverage. Moreover, Hillary’s health care plan does not create an undue burden on families: the $110 billion required to fund her program will be offset by the termination of the various tax cuts Bush provided to those in the upper income brackets and to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and tax incentives and other inducements will be provided to small businesses who grant employees access to Hillary’s American Health Choices Plan. Because Hillary views universal health care as a core Democratic value, she is proud to make one the most pressing concern of the Covenant central to her campaign’s platform.


Leadership, according to Hillary Clinton, entails the establishment of a bond of trust, a covenant, and she visited New Orleans in order to inform Black America and Louisiana that her covenant with us is a covenant she has with America. Black America is America, and the “rebuilding of New Orleans is not a Louisiana obligation but an American obligation that every one of us is called to do.” Particulars, in other words, must be made universal, for only together will we finally shatter barriers and change the course of this “wounded nation” that remains woefully divided.







6 thoughts

  1. so says the payday loan guy…

    her plan to develop a variety of sectors in Green Industry (including forcing companies to report the carbon/environmental risks of new investments to the Securities and Exchange Commission) is probably the most innovative and far reaching shifts in economics since FDR’s New Deal, and certainly as necessary. I particularly like the emphasis on the link between environmentally sustainable business and the fight against poverty.

    I remember Dick Gephart gave a speech in the spring of 2002 to the Senate outlining his vision of a new Green Economy that would lead the US into a new role as global innovator and green market powerhouse. Not much has happened since then.

    Does Barack have a similar commitment?

  2. Michael, based on everything I have seen and read, I would say: Yeah, Barack does have a similar commitment.

    Yesterday, C-SPAN aired the National Governor’s Association annual meeting, where one of the main topics was the Green Economy and renewable industry. It’s encouraging to see the broad support, from both Republicans and Democrats, that these initiative are FINALLY garnering…. though it’s also ashame that America has been duped into “debating” the value of renewable energy incentives and investments for more than 15 years.

    Currently, many of the most important tax incentives for renewable energy are set to expire, so I hope the President and the Congress will intervene to continue incentivization of this critical industry and investment in our global future.

    But I don’t think it’s just about tax incentives: it’s also about directly funding research and development. Government has the capacity to take bold risks on certain issues (think: the space program in its infancy) in order to advance an entire industry, and we need to be increasing this funding in order to push through advances (like lignocellulosic biofuel, as your brother suggested).

  3. Speaking of Hillary Clinton:

    There is bad news about her husband.

    It is opined that Bill Clinton committed racist hate crimes, and I am not free to say anything further about it.

    Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Y. Wang, J.D. Candidate
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    (I can type 90 words per minute, and there are probably thousands of copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post.)
    “If only it were possible to ban invention that bottled up memories so they never got stale and faded.” Off the top of my head—it came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

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