VP Joe Biden welcomes Black elected officials

Vice President Joe Biden (center) is pictured with mayors during a Black History Month reception at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele is shown to far right. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann).

Vice President Joseph Biden and Dr. Jill Biden welcomed over 120 elected African American officials and their guests to their official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory on February 15, 2011 in honor of Black History Month.
The Vice President and his wife Dr. Jill Biden welcomed several distinguished members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Mayors, State Legislators, county officials and former elected leaders such as Wellington Webb, who served three terms as Mayor of Denver, Colorado and Raymond Steele, Mayor of Eutaw, AL.
“I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Vice President and other mayors and public officials at his Black History Program. Each mayor had the opportunity to shake hands and speak with the vice president. We also had the opportunity to meet with his staff members.
“This was a great chance for me to highlight the City of Eutaw and give more exposure to our small town. I expect that we will see some direct and indirect benefits from these contacts with important public officials in the future,” said Steele
Steele said that besides himself there were two other Black mayors from Alabama: Helene Bell, Mayor of Haynesville and Ron Davis of Pritchard.
Vice President Biden talked about the importance of Black History Month.
He reflected on everything from his recent meeting with young pre-teen African American football players at Ft. Campbell (who are the offspring of deployed Afghanistan and Iraq military warriors) and on his train ride with President-elect Barack H. Obama in January 2009.
In prepared remarks Vice President Biden alluded to the fact that if the Republican controlled House of Representatives has its way, the next 18 months will be a “rough ride” and that they seek to cut many programs that are critical to Mayors, state and county officials nationwide who represent struggling communities, which are mostly of color.
The Vice President opened his substantive remarks for the evening by talking about the importance of community colleges, particularly to the sustainability of upwardly mobile, educated blacks in America. He pointed out that his longtime friend from Wilmington, Delaware, Mayor James Baker (who was in attendance at the reception) stood side by side with him on the train platform at Wilmington station in 1968 as they watched the city of Wilmington lay in ruins from the riots in the aftermath of Dr. King’s death. He reflected movingly on how some 40 years later, he stood on that same platform in Wilmington, Delaware waiting to board a train that carried in its cars the newly elected Black President of the United States, Barack H. Obama. Biden said that he had a moment standing at that station where he remembered the riots and said to himself, “We may have a lot more to do, but damn, we’ve come a long way.”
The Vice President closed his remarks by saying that “The best way to celebrate history is to make it”. He offered pointed tribute to the strength of the Black men and women who were standing in the room, and who work tirelessly for their communities. And he also remembered those who had come before. He talked about Frederick Douglass and the freed black slaves who in 1862 became union soldiers, and how out of 35,000 who died during the Civil War, 16 of that number were honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor. He talked about how his first case as public defender was in representing two Black Panthers who were accused of causing the riots in 1968.
The Vice President talked about the sacrifices of all of those who had come before this present generation of accomplished African Americans. “Sometimes the people most burdened in life, have to add more burdens upon themselves so that others can have their burdens lifted from them.” Very fitting words on a day when Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) received from President Barack Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his dedication and sacrifice in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.


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