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Obama addresses National Urban League

From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Obama used his address to the National Urban League to defend his record on education, saying he would put his ideas up against McCain's "any day."

"Now, I recognize my opponent came before you yesterday, he attacked my record on education reform," he said. "This is someone who's been in Washington nearly 30 years, he's got a pretty slim record on education, and when he has taken a stand, he's been on the wrong side of the line."

He said McCain voted against increased funding for No Child Left Behind, Head Start and Pell Grants, and supported the abolishment of the Education Department.

"His only proposal seems to be recycling tired rhetoric about vouchers," he said. "Now, I've been a proponent of public school choice throughout my career. … What I won't do, what I do oppose is using public money for private school vouchers. We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools; not throwing our hands up and walking away from them. We need to stop the partisan attacks, and start getting results for our children."

Obama received an enthusiastic greeting from members of the organization, and pledged to revive urban areas, saying that the problem of cities aren't "just 'urban' problems anymore."

"They are America's problems, and have to be solved with effort and resolve by all Americans," he said.

Alluding to his historic candidacy, Obama said his "story, and so many other improbable stories, would not be possible without all that the Urban League has done to put opportunity within the reach of every American."

"I will never forget how my journey began," he said. "I'll never forget that I got my start as a foot soldier in the movement that the Urban League helped build -- the movement to bring opportunity to every corner of our cities."

He also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said that the "inseparable twin of racial justice is economic justice."

"You know that you can't take that seat at the front of the bus if you can't afford the bus fare," he said. "You can't live in an integrated neighborhood if you can't afford the house. And it doesn't mean a whole lot to sit down at that lunch counter if you can't afford the lunch."

Obama promised to attend the organization's next meeting, in his hometown of Chicago, next year if elected. And he said he'd welcome them to the White House in two years when the organization celebrates its centennial.

"In my administration I expect that the White House will be the people's house," he said.