Michael Dukakis began repairing relations with black voters Monday evening at the National Urban League's national conference. The Massachusetts governor's address to the Urban League was more warmly received than was his speech three weeks ago to the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington.
``I would like to work with you in our common interest on issues,'' he told a group of delegates at a reception later in the evening. ``We can talk about families again.''
Mr. Dukakis's address apparently succeeded in salving the bruised feelings of many blacks who were disappointed because he did not select Jesse Jackson to be his running mate. The governor mentioned his vice-presidential choice, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, only once in his text. He opened his Monday night address with these words:
``Twe weeks ago, in Atlanta, we heard Lloyd Bentsen talk about his immigrant grandparents and his 94-year-old father, and about why he believes that equality of opportunity is the ultimate civil right. I agree with him, and so do you!''
He was greeted by applause when he mentioned Rosa Parks, who so many years ago refused to move to the back of the bus. There was more applause when he praised former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. He then talked about what could well be his campaign theme among blacks, common ground, as he said:
``And we heard Jesse Jackson!'' Delegates interrupted Dukakis with a standing ovation for the man he defeated in the Democratic party primaries for the presidential nomination.
``We heard him speak with eloquence and passion and pride about his family, his country, and our future,'' Dukakis said. ``And we heard him ask, not just Democrats, but all Americans, to seek what he called `common ground.'
``Common ground! I like that phrase. It's what America is all about.''
He told the nonpartisan Urban Leaguers:
``I know that you don't take sides in political elections, but I would like to meet with you and talk about our common interests. As I told the convention, when I get to the White House, the doors will be open to you more than they have been during the past seven years.''
At the reception the governor related his presidential campaign to black names, some familiar such as the Rev. Mr. Jackson; John Jacob, president of the Urban League; and Mayor Coleman Young of Detroit, the host city.
He then introduced key members of the Warren Commission, a group of black supporters from Massachusetts.
The governor also initiated a familiar reponse, ``Where's George?'' from the audience when he mentioned that Vice-President George Bush did not accept an invitation to speak to the convention.
In his speech Dukakis listed a number of priorities: Invest in early childhood education and in better teachers to make ``our students the best skilled, best prepared, and best educated in the world''; train welfare mothers to qualify for jobs that will take them off welfare; evolve a program to get ``absent'' fathers to support their children; support minority businesses to bring jobs to the neighborhoods; create a national partnership for affordable housing to end homelessness in America; and provide universal health insurance.
The governor added another issue later at the reception. He promised to take a careful look at American foreign policy in relation to South Africa and to nations in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
The Urban League was to wrap up its political discussions with an address by the Rev. Mr. Jackson this morning. Last night the conference held a public forum, ``Election '88: Prospects for Change.'' Among the speakers was US Rep. Jack Kemp (R) of New York, favored by some to become Mr. Bush's running mate.