As members of the Mississippi delegation stepped into the limelight on Monday to cast their votes in what essentially was the coronation of Mitt Romney as the GOP standard bearer, Dr. Freda McKissic Bush was up front and she stood out.
Bush, a physician from Jackson, Miss., is a rarity at the Republican National Convention in storm-tinged Tampa, Fla. She's an African American – one of the few – and determined to set the record straight regarding what African-American Republicans are about. On Wednesday (Aug. 28), Bush and several colleagues spent the afternoon in the CNN news hub, where a throng of media personnel set up.
"Our message to the African-American community is that the Republican Party is not a party of racists. 'Conservatism' is not code for racism," said Bush. "We are working to recapture the values we all believe are important."
While African Americans are a small part of the overall convention crowd, several of them – former Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice, former Alabama Congressman and President Obama supporter Artur Davis, and Utah Congressional candidate Mia Love – have manned prominent speaking roles.
Bush is comfortable with her party of choice.
"...One of the youngest delegates is a 24-year-old African American who is attending law school. Her mother got pregnant at age 16. But that didn't stop her from doing everything she could to ensure that her daughter enjoyed every advantage. A strong work ethic and valuing a quality education are very much a part of the Republican Party platform," said Bush.
"This year's convention is generating such excitement and hope because we are bracing for a hard fight, a fight to return to the values of our parents and foreparents. A strong bond of unity and optimism has been building across the week. We are in this fight to win. We hope to celebrate a newly elected president in November – our candidate, Mitt Romney..."
In explaining her politics, Bush notes that growing up "80 percent of the families we knew had a mother, a father and children in the home. My father was a preacher, and he used to tell us that any job – legal, ethical, and moral – was a good job. People in our community are better helped with job creation, adequate education and training. More handouts to more people is not the right answer.
"We leave this convention with a new determination," said Bush. "We believe that our message and our mission will move this nation forward."
'Recall the genesis'
Thousands of African-American Republicans are members of the National Black Republican Association (NBRA) and they've mounted a campaign in African-American communities. Billboards bearing the image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have sprung up in myriad big cities and small towns. The sign reads: "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican."
African-American Republicans, Bush said, have a very unique role to play in the larger political party. "Myths which characterize the party as racist" must be dispelled, she said.
"It was actually the Republican Party that supported the freeing of the slaves," said Bush. "The Democrats fought to hold on to the institution. From the very first, Republicans stood up for blacks and advocated for their freedom. We as a party must recall the genesis."
Democrats expand entitlement programs and nothing is ever free, said Bush. "There is no such thing as a 'free' check. In the long run, handouts don't motivate people to go out and find work."
'Huge love fest'
In-climate weather that featured hard-and-heavy rain and strong winds greeted convention-goers to Tampa, but never dampened spirits," said Renee' Amoore, deputy chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
"It's just been a huge love fest. Delegates are uniting across race and gender lines in one common purpose – to see Mitt Romney take the White House at this very critical time in our nation's history."
According to Moore, Romney is the only candidate who can get the country moving in the right direction. Moore, who owns three businesses, one of which, she said, provides jobs and generates a multi-million-dollar annual income.
"As a business owner, it has been my experience that job opportunities are created by small businesses and entrepreneurs, not big corporations and big government," said Moore. "Too many regulations and interference from the federal government does not encourage growth. We don't know what Obamacare is going to actually cost us. New jobs are not created when business owners aren't sure what healthcare for employees will cost."
Both parties want to see the economy begin to grow again, Moore said. "We want the same things. We just have different processes to accomplish that end."