Ford appeals to younger voters in keynote address
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- In perhaps the most important address of his short political career, Democratic National Convention keynote speaker Harold Ford Jr. avoided direct attacks on rival Republicans on Tuesday and pitched the Gore-Lieberman ticket to younger voters.
Harold Ford Jr.
Ford, who at 30 is the youngest member of Congress, began his keynote speech by paying tribute to the civil rights leaders of his father's generation. He is the eldest son of Harold Ford, who served as more than 20 years as Tennesee's first black congressman.
"I recognize that I stand here tonight because of the brave men and women -- many no older than I am today -- who were willing to stand up, and in many cases sit down, to create a more perfect union," the Tennessee congressman told the convention.
"But I also stand here representing a new generation, a generation committed to those ideals and inspired by an unshakable confidence in our future."
Elected to Congress in 1996 at the age of 26, Ford is the first African-American to address the convention as keynote speaker since former Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas did so in 1976, and again in 1992. The Gore campaign selected him for the prime time speaking role with hopes he will inspire support among the under-30 crowd.
"I say to all those of this new generation ... if you want a future that is for everyone, then join with us to make Al Gore and Joe Lieberman the next president and vice president of the United States," Ford said.
Although Gore is just two years younger than his GOP rival George W. Bush, Ford also characterized the choice between Democrats and the Republicans this election year as the old guard versus the new. While clearly avoiding mentioning the Republican presidential nominee by name during his brief speech, Ford clearly had Bush in mind when he took aim at opponents of Gore "who don't see beyond the horizon."
But both Ford and Gore have much in common with Bush -- all three have benefitted from the successful political fortunes of their fathers. Both Ford and Gore grew up in Tennessee, attended the same private school in Washington and followed in their father's footsteps by entering Congress in their 20s.
"He jumped feet first into public life and was elected one of Tennessee's youngest congressmen ever," Ford said of the vice president. "That's when he became my role model. As a young congressman, Al Gore didn't waste any time."
He heralded Gore as a tireless young congressman committed to host of issues that included the environment, health care and national security. "Al Gore, at the age of 34, offered a comprehensive strategy to reduce the threat of nuclear war while keeping America safe and strong," Ford said.
"In my first campaign, I wanted to meet with every important group in my district, but as a newcomer I didn't get as many invitations as I'd hoped for," Ford said.
However, Ford said that he quickly emerged as a confident candidate, taking speaking roles wherever and whenever he could find them. He spoke at 30 kindergarten graduations that election year, becoming a household name to hundreds of Memphis, Tennesse, 5-year-olds and their voting parents.
Wednesday, August 16, 2000
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