Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the Tea Party favorite and emerging 2016 GOP presidential star, on Wednesday showed he is looking to broaden his and the Republican Party's base far beyond white males to include African-American youths.
In a speech to Howard University Wednesday morning, Paul reached out to blacks, arguing that the Democrats and President Obama has failed African Americans, but admitting that the GOP has a long way to go before blacks see Republicans as their guide to success.
"Some have said that I'm either brave or crazy to be here today. I've never been one to watch the world go by without participating. I wake up each day hoping to make a difference," said Paul. "I come to Howard today, not to preach, or prescribe some special formula for you but to say I want a government that leaves you alone, that encourages you to write the book that becomes your unique future."
With his message of liberty and independence, Paul urged the young African Americans to realize that generations of Democratic promises have left them short and to consider the GOP's economic message.
In a slap at Obama, he added, "Today, after four years of the current policies, one in six Americans live in poverty, more than at any other time in the past several decades. In fact, the poor have grown poorer in the past four years. Black unemployment is at 14%, nearly twice the national average. This is unacceptable."
Paul said he is eager to change the GOP's image among blacks by boosting education programs and changing the way courts and police handle crime in urban areas, especially drugs.
"Republicans are often miscast as uncaring or condemning of kids who make bad choices. I, for one, plan to change that. I am working with Democratic senators to make sure that kids who make bad decisions such as non-violent possession of drugs are not imprisoned for lengthy sentences," he said.
Paul said it is time to change the laws "that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence. That's why I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences. We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community."
He concluded, "I hope that some of you will be open to the Republican message that favors choice in education, a less aggressive foreign policy, more compassion regarding non-violent crime and encourages opportunity in employment. And when the time is right, I hope that African Americans will again look to the party of emancipation, civil liberty, and individual freedom."
An associate said Paul was striving to "take an honest, bold and courageous path even if it steps out of the GOP mainstream and takes some chances."
Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus also praised Paul's outreach, telling Secrets, "I am encouraged that more and more Republicans at every level are reaching out to communities that have not traditionally been our focus and I hope more do."