July 13, 2004
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am deeply disappointed to hear that you won't be speaking to the NAACP convention now underway in Philadelphia.
It was especially disappointing to read that your spokesman changed the stated reason for you not attending the event from "scheduling conflicts" to White House concern about "hostile political rhetoric" by leaders of this admired and important organization.
We are elected to serve ALL our constituents, not only those who agree with our policies or who voted for us in the last election. I believe that public leadership calls for reaching out and communicating with those who may oppose you. I speak all the time with very conservative interviewers and audiences of talk radio, even though I know their views on issues may be very different from my own.
As a matter of policy and priorities, I share the concerns of many in the NAACP that your administration has not fulfilled your "compassionate conservative" principles and has failed to address the concerns of families and communities in need of better-funded schools, more affordable health care, more job opportunities and equal justice under the law. I believe that we should focus a far greater share of our national resources on addressing social and economic divisions that remain in the homeland we are determined to protect.
I also know you believe passionately in your own political priorities, but as a candidate you pledged to be a "uniter not a divider." We all share the belief that the great power and resilience of our democratic system lies in elected leaders' ability to make their case and unite citizens to support their ideas for governing. I don't believe any of us gains when public officials at any level avoid that kind of vigorous debate. Indeed, it is the very essence of American freedom.
Unlike Senator Specter, who spoke at the convention earlier this week but has remained silent about your absence, I believe that your presence is very much missed at this important gathering here in Philadelphia.
Joseph M. Hoeffel
Member of Congress