Julian Bond: Civil Rights Leaders Will Not Give President-Elect Obama a Free Ride

The leader of the NAACP is optimistic about Obama's presidency and his work on civil rights.

Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, responds to recent criticisms against the voter registration efforts conducted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP.

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One issue many civil rights groups have been talking about is congressional representation for Washington , D.C. With Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, is that something you plan to pursue?

It is the time, and it ought to happen right now, and I know [Obama] is in favor of it. There's a slight bit of disagreement among the advocates about how to pursue this, whether to go for a single representative in the House or to try for two senators. I don't think [senators] are likely. The Democrats had a chance to do it in the past, and they didn't. Voting rights in the House, we deserve. I think that's going to happen. What else do you think Obama can actually change? Four or eight years from now, what do you hope will be different?

If the Democrats can hold these majorities they have [and once the economy begins to improve], I'd predict that in eight years, we'll be living in a radically different and better country than we're living in today. We'll have voting rights in D.C.; we'll have a Department of Justice populated by people who are committed to civil rights enforcement. We'll have a Supreme Court that obeys and enforces the Constitution and doesn't try to apply the doctrines of "original intent." Cabinet officers will put people [and not corporate interests] first. In foreign affairs, the respect in which we are held worldwide will have risen enormously. We'll just be so much better off. Do you think Obama will pursue policies akin to FDR ' s New Deal or LBJ ' s Great Society?

I do think something like that will happen. A New Deal-like program, a jobs program, a public works program, a kind of Civilian Conservation Corps—some models taken from Roosevelt that transform the relationship between the government and the people. Rather than have the government stand aside and having us struggle for ourselves, the government will play a helping hand. I think that will happen. If Obama asks you to serve in his administration, will you?

I keep hearing people say, "If the president asked you, you'd have to say yes." But I do not anticipate him asking me.