WASHINGTON — John McCain told the NAACP on Wednesday that while he hopes to be the next president, he recognizes that his Democratic rival Barack Obama "has achieved a great thing" in his rise as a black man and that Obama's success has made McCain proud of the country.
In a humble address to the civil rights organization's 99th annual convention in Cincinnati, McCain defended his proposals for tax cuts and expanding funds for poor kids in bad public schools to attend private or charter schools. He also promoted the concept of portable health insurance for which individuals rather than employers are responsible.
But throughout his remarks, he seemed to acknowledge his standing as underdog in this audience and the fact that the November election will mark a historic opportunity for blacks in a way that previous elections have not.
He recalled how it was an "outrage" to many Americans when President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, invited black educator Booker T. Washington to dine with him at the White House in 1901, and said America is "a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time." He spoke of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 40 years ago, saying that "struggle is rewarded in God's own time."
"I am a candidate for president who seeks your vote and hopes to earn it," McCain said. "But whether or not I win your support, I need your goodwill and counsel. And should I succeed, I'll need it all the more."
Obama spoke before the group on Monday night.