Barbara Jordan's 1976 Democratic Convention Keynote Address

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Barbara Jordan was born in February 1936 and died in January 1996.

She was a National Championship Debater during college.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in Political Science and History.

Barbara Jordan was the 1st African American senator since 1883.

In 1972, she was then elected to the United States House of Representatives, becoming the first black woman from a Southern state to serve in the House.

Tonight you will hear an excerpt of Barbara Jordan’s 1976 Democratic Convention Keynote Address.

This speech was ranked 5th in the Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century.

And was considered by many historians to have been the best convention keynote speech in modern history until the 2004 keynote by Barack Obama.

It was 144 year ago that members of the Democratic

Party first met in convention to select a Presidential

candidate. Since that time, Democrats have continued

to convene once every four years and draft a party

platform and nominate a Presidential candidate. And

our meeting this week is a continuation of that

tradition. But there is something different about

tonight. There is something special about tonight.

What is different? What is special?

I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.
A lot of years passed since 1832, and during that time

it would have been most unusual for any national

political party to ask a Barbara Jordan to deliver a

keynote address. But tonight here I am.


And I feel that notwithstanding the past that my

presence here is one additional bit of evidence that

the American Dream need not forever be deferred.


Well………Now that I have this grand distinction, what

in the world am I supposed to say?
I could easily spend this time praising the

accomplishments of this party and attacking the

Republicans. But I don’t choose to do that.


I could list the many problems which Americans have.

I could list the problems which cause people to feel

cynical, angry, frustrated: problems which include lack

of integrity in government; the feeling that the

individual no longer counts; the reality of material and

spiritual poverty; the feeling---

that the grand American experiment is failing or has

failed. I could recite these problems, and then I could

sit down and offer no solutions. But I don’t choose to

do that either. The citizens of America expect more.

They deserve and they want more---than a recital of



We are a people in a quandary about the present.

We are a people in search of our future.

And now we must look to the future.

Let us heed the voice of the people and recognize

their common sense. If we do not, we not only

blaspheme our political heritage, we ignore the

common ties that bind all Americans.

Many fear the future. Many are distrustful of their

leaders, and believe that their voices are never heard.

Many seek only to satisfy their private wants; to

satisfy their private interests. But this is the great

danger America faces—that we will cease to be one

nation and become instead a collection of interest

groups: city against suburb, region against region,

individual against individual; each seeking to satisfy

private wants. If that happens, who then will speak for




This is the question which must be answered in 1976:

Are we to be one people bound together by common

spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we

become a divided nation? For...
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