Gov. John Kasich told attendees at the 107th annual NAACP convention that they will be watched very carefully and they have the power to “become a force that holds people accountable, but brings us together.”
Kasich, a former presidential candidate, spoke to the convention at the Duke Energy Center in Cincinnati on Sunday after presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump declined the invitation.
The country faces challenges with economics, criminal justice, and education, Kasich said, as he told the crowd: “It’s going to matter what you say. It’s going to be written about.”
“I think we all want the same thing,” he said. “We want all of our children to do well. We all want peace and tranquility in our neighborhoods. We all want respect for one another.”
There was a collective groan minutes earlier when another speaker told the crowd a police officer had been shot in Milwaukee on Sunday. The audience knew about the multiple killings of officers in Baton Rouge, La., but hadn’t heard about the Milwaukee shooting.
“I know everyone in this arena, this auditorium, condemns these terrible murders that have occurred with our police officers across this nation,” Kasich said, to applause. “The Lord wants to heal. The Lord wants us to work together. The Lord doesn’t want the violence. He wants understanding.”
Before Kasich spoke, NAACP Vice Chairman Leon W. Russell told the crowd, “We have much to think about this week … We have to develop a strong agenda going forward that will lead the discussion during this campaign season about how we build a better America together — not about how we divide each other for the sake of power.”
Kasich said he wanted to address the NAACP because he believes his state administration has taken steps that “should be cause for great optimism.” Among them:
- “We built a team and realized that every human being is made in the image of our Lord, and deserves respect, and deserves opportunity” in this country. “It is not enough for some people to be a beneficiary of a growing economy while leaving anybody else behind,” he said to loud applause.
- He said his administration started early with criminal justice reform: “You see, we don’t think that non-violent felons ought to be put into the prisons” next to murderers and rapists. “If you are a non-violent felon, we want you to be kept in the community and not sent to the prison, and we have passed legislation to do that.” He said he understands the obstacles that non-violent felons face trying to find work after incarceration. The state has taken steps to help with that, he said.
- Kasich noted he expanded Medicaid in Ohio, “and as a result, lives have been saved, people are healthier, and it’s led to a good life.”
- It’s important for minorities to benefit from government, “and minority businesses are being included now,” he said. “And as I told my cabinet, ‘We want to encourage entrepreneurship in every community, but particularly in the minority community.” A road from Cleveland’s downtown to the Cleveland Clinic will be built 20 percent by minority firms, he pledged.
- For the first time in Ohio, there is a statewide policy on use of deadly force, being adopted by police agencies across the state. Models have been created for hiring of police officers “to reflect more diversity of the community,” he said. A collaborative soon will be announced that helps close the gaps between police and minority communities, he announced.
“I’m proud of what has been accomplished,” Kasich said. “A lot of times, politicians want to talk about what they want to do, and somehow there’s always some distance between the lip and the cup,” he said, to laughter from the crowd.
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