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A Message From the President National Urban League Conference 1986-July 20th-23rd Moscone Convention Center San Francisco, CA. If members of the betting fraternity had been asked back in 1910 to quote the odds on the survival of a new upstart agency-the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes that had the audacity to even talk about interracial cooperation at a time when racism was rampant in this country-they probably would have concluded that the chances were not very good. Here was an agency that was not only committed to a cause that attracted few adherents, but one which had begun life with high hopes but very few dollars. From the vantage point of 75 years later, it is abundantly clear that our founders were much more prescient than many of their peers for they possessed the courage to launch their frail craft onto unfriendly seas with the supreme confidence that time would prove them right. And time indeed has proven them right. The organization they created has not simply survived over these 75 years. It has grown into a national movement, and even more importantly, it has been a powerful and positive force in improving and enhancing the social and economic well-being of millions of Americans. This is the part of our history that we are most proud of. The services we have brought to people. The advocacy we have exerted on their behalf. The bonds of interracial cooperation we have forged and nurtured. The leadership we have provided in the struggle of a people to move out of the shadows into the full light of day. It has often been said of the League that if it were not in existence, if would have to be created. We could ask for no finer tribute than this. However, none of what has been accomplished would have been possible had not the National Urban League and its affiliates been able to attract highly motivated and committed staff and volunteers, and financial supporters over all these years. They are the real authors of our story. They worked in the vineyards of the League because they believed in its mission and in its goals. It is this type of dedication that has played such an important role in making the League what it is today. In paying homage to our past, we are reminded of the philosophy of a legendary black baseball player, Satchel Paige. He was often asked how he managed to continue to pitch in the major leagues well past the age at which everyone else had hung up their gloves. His answer was always: "I never look over my shoulder because somebody might be gaining on me." And so while remembering our yesterdays, we too look ahead to the future and the enormous challenges we will be facing as we move toward our 100th Anniversary. The Urban League continues to exist because there are still millions of poor people in this land; people who have suffered because to be black in America is still a badge of disadvantage; people who have tasted the bitter herbs of poverty, want, and hunger. They were our constituents when the Urban League was founded and they remain our constituent today. We have a sacred trust to keep with them and we pledge anew that we will not fail them. While we will continue to serve them with a variety of program that address traditional needs we also recognize that new challenges demand new approaches. To that end, we will be paying increased attention to basic every-day issues that go to the heart of the viability of black facilities. Issues such as: •Survival in poor, single female-headed households. •Teenage pregnancy where children give birth to children. •Education in a world where schools fail to equip our youngsters for a changing economy. •Crime which turns our neighborhoods into pockets of fear. •Citizenship responsibility that goes from political empowerment to community spirit and individual accountability. Our past record tells us that we have not taken on more than we can handle. Our faith in our staffs, boards, volunteers and supporters throughout the width and breadth of the Urban League Movement gives us the confidence to move boldly ahead in the days and years to come. This is the way it has always been with the National Urban League. This is the way it will continue to be. Continued on page 116 11
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