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Rush Address at Minority Telecom Council's 2011 Broadband and Social Justice Summit

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On Thursday, January 20, 2011, U. S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush was a featured speaker at the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council's 2011 Broadband and Social Justice Summit at the Westin Grand Hotel in Washington, D.C. This was Rush's first public statement after losing his quest to serve as the Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology subcommittee. On January 19, Rush was approved by voice vote by his House Democratic colleagues to serve as the Ranking Member of the Energy and Power subcommittee in the 112th Congress. The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council (MMTC) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications and broadband industries, and closing the digital divide. In his remarks, Rush referred to three of MMTC's top leadership -- Henry M. Rivera, Chair; Julia Johnson, Treasurer; and David Honig, President and Executive Director. A complete transcript of his remarks is published here...

I tell you, Julia, as you were introducing me, the preacher in me, I had to hold it down because my first instinct was to pass the offering plate. [audience laughter]

But, again, I want to thank each and every one of you. This has been such a marvelous opportunity to be with friends and people who I consider to be family. And after what I consider to be a brutal climate, yesterday, I needed to be around some friendly faces again. I want to thank Henry Rivera and I certainly want to thank my friend, David Honig, for being a real friend. I'm sure you've heard the expression 'a friend in need is a friend indeed.' And when I was in need they certainly came forward. Julia and David, you all have done such a marvelous job on my behalf.

I remember as a youngster there was a sign in the dry cleaners that my family frequented and it said something to the effect of "there's no other place like this place so this must be the place!" And as I view this gathering there's no other gathering in America that I wanted to be at other than this gathering here. And I'm supposed to be on a plane but I postponed that so that I could be here to tell you how much I love you and how much I respect you and how much I wanted to be here with you.

Throughout my days as an activist for civil rights and social justice on Chicago's city streets and in inner city communities around the country--as a former member of the Black Panthers, as a Chicago City Councilman, and now as a U. S. Representative of the 1st district of Illinois--I have worked tirelessly to give minority business owners a seat at America's table where abundance and prosperity is high on the menu.

And it is groups like this one that sustain me, defend me, and give me the encouragement and the ammunition to fight on and to fight harder. And even when there is strong resistance to our goals and to what we are trying to achieve collectively your spirit, your fighting spirit, your focus on the goals and desires of the American people really support me and keep me moving forward.

You are special to me, MMTC, especially you, David, Julia and others here are so special to me. But you're special to me also because you stepped up when I was being attacked, unfairly, by a group that says it's about change but that doesn't know how to make real change. That group is not a change agent. As a matter of fact they represent the status quo. They don't know how to bring about the real change that's necessary for our constituencies, yours and mine.

Not only did David and Julia stand up for me but a broad coalition of leading civil rights and minority and women business leaders, trade associations and religious organizations also stood up for me including the NAACP, the National Urban League, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Congressional Black Caucus, 100 Black Men of America, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the National Association of Neighborhoods and so many others. And without moving any farther, would you please join me in giving those men and women that I've mentioned a big round of applause. They didn't have to do it, Julia and David, but they did it anyhow and I thank them so very much for it. [audience applause]

In terms of the media, communications and technology industries, minority businesses and entrepreneurs risk falling even farther behind their white counterparts. If we don't take aggressive measures we'll continue to fall behind. The campaign for minority media ownership, I think, was a forethought in the seventies and became an afterthought in the eighties and the nineties. And now, in the new millennium, minority businesses and entrepreneurs are not even thought of at all!

Promoting minority ownership in the telecommunications industries engages youth, it encourages student excellence in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math. It's good for the students, it's good for the businesses and it's good for our nation. It's good for the self-esteem of young people who aspire to create wealth and who aspire to make lasting and important contributions to this nation and to the world.

Our youth need to know that there are superstars in science and math and in technology. Superstars like Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, who was a Senegalese physicist who not only was one of the few people on Earth to understand the significance of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity shortly after its release, but who also translated it into Wolof, the language of his people. In addition to wanting to be like the sports heroes LeBron and Kobe and Michael and others, more of our young people need to want to be like Dr. Lloyd Quarterman, one of the leading nuclear scientists who, along with more than six other black scientists, worked with the Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, on the Manhattan Project. And, there are others. What about Drs. Henry T. Sampson and Shirley A. Jackson, two other black physics scientists who, respectively, pioneered nuclear fission processes to split atoms safely. And Sampson went on to become the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Promoting minority ownership in the telecommunications industries is good for our students, it's good for you and your businesses. But it's also good for our economy and the creation of African-American and Hispanic-American workers--a severely underemployed segment of our society. We have very courageous and audacious approaches to creating jobs in our society.

You know the statistics, you know the terms, you know the times that we live in. Let me just share with you the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data as adjusted for seasonality.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed to us that 15 out of 100 Americans, 25 years and over, and without a high school diploma are among the unemployed. That's 15 out of every 100. And you can make that almost 10 out of every 100 Americans, for those with a diploma but no college degree. Eight out of every 100 Americans with some college or associates degrees are out of work today. And, almost five out of 100 Americans with a bachelor's degree and more education don't have a job. Those numbers are exponentially higher for Blacks and Hispanics.

Minority-owned businesses are far more inclined than non-minority firms to train future minority entrepreneurs, recruit and hire minority workers, and to locate their operations in minority communities. This is how the real world operates and how real change comes about. I share this information with you this afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, just to give you a general overview of the depth of the concerns that I and many of us have as we think about the future of men and women of color in this industry.

As I begin to conclude my remarks let me just say to each and every one of you that while I've been denied an opportunity to be the Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology subcommittee, I have not been feeling, in any way, a sense of rejection. I am a man of purpose and I know that I do have a purpose and I know that I live according to God's plan. And God did not mean for me to be there and He opened up another venue for me.

My prayer, on a constant basis, is that God expands not only my ministry but that He expands my territory. And so, as the Ranking Member on the Energy and Power subcommittee I've already got plans on how I will work on that subcommittee in order to expand, to diligently foster, to minister and to develop an approach to energy and power that will be meaningful not only to those who are in our nation but also to those around the world.

I think there's a great opportunity in the energy and power area for us to think outside of the box and for us to make a real difference in terms of creating not only more affordable energy and renewable energy for the American people but, also, to create additional businesses all around the world. And while, as the Ranking Member, I'll be working on those additional projects you can bet your bottom dollar that as a member of the Communications and Technology subcommittee I will continue to be as vigorous and as vigilant as I've always been in terms of working to make sure that your interests are promoted and that your interests are protected and that your interests are preserved.

I tell everyone, and I told this to Ranking Member Waxman in my conversations with him, and I tell this to everyone. I am on the Energy and Commerce Committee primarily for one reason and everything else flows from that. I will consider my body of work to be an excellent body of work when I see the day when there is more minority ownership of broadcasting businesses. When there's more media ownership among minorities then I can say to myself, even if others don't say it, that this was a job well done. But I need your help, I need your counsel and I need your encouragement.

I'm going to end this with a story I often tell my church family. It's a story of this young man who was out playing basketball in the front yard and the ball, somehow, fell and landed and it was behind this big piece of lumber. And the young man, only 7 or 8 years old, was trying to get to the ball and he couldn't get to that ball and he finally decided to pick up this big slab of lumber but it was much too heavy for him. But he did everything he could as he was just straining and straining trying to pick it up. But it wouldn't budge. It wouldn't move.

His father was watching all of this. And, so, finally after numerous tries his father said, "What are you doing?" And his son said, "Father, I'm trying to use all my strength to pick up this lumber." His father said, "Son, you're trying to use all your strength?" He said, "Yeah, dad, I'm using every ounce of strength that I have to try to pick it up!" And his father said, "Well, no, you're not."

And the boy looked bewildered at him and he stood and faced him and he said, "Well, what do you mean?"

And his father said, "Well, you haven't asked me." [audience applause]

I'm asking you, as I try to pick up this lumber, as I try to lift your lives and the lives of so many people who are counting on you to be successful so that they can have meaning in their lives. So that they can have nourishment on their table. So they can have a decent lifestyle.

I ask you to help me as we lift together. Thank you so very much.

U. S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) is the Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Power