State of the Union

No Big Surprises Tonight -- Feb. 4, 1997

Clinton Was More Ambitious In 1993 -- Feb. 4, 1997

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Text of J.C. Watts' Speech -- San Diego GOP Convention, Aug. 13, 1996

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Watts: The GOP's American Dream Come True

By Jeanne Meserve/CNN

watts

WASHINGTON (Feb. 4) -- Julius Caesar Watts is truly one of a kind, the only African-American Republican in Congress. Despite his rare status, or because of it, Watts has been tapped to deliver his party's response to the president's State of the Union address.

"J.C. Watts was an inspired pick," says Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. "The Republican Party desperately needs to project an image of inclusiveness and that is precisely what Watts does."

Notes Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), "We hope to send a message that we have a very articulate spokesman that represents the American dream."

No doubt about it, J.C. Watts has lived the American dream.

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"If you can dream it, you can do it," Watts has told audiences.

A star quarterback for the University of Oklahoma and the Canadian Football League before entering politics, Watts grew up poor in rural Oklahoma.

Watts is a minister as well as a congressman, and his oratory has won raves for its energy and humor. "I will say to you what Elizabeth Taylor says to her husbands; I won't keep you long," he quipped at a recent Christian Coalition gathering.

Though he was once a Democrat, Watts has aligned himself with some of the most conservative forces within the Republican Party.

"You want a solid social policy, turn to scripture," he says. "You want solid economic policy, turn to scripture. You want moral policy, turn to scripture."

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His issues are a balanced budget and tax relief. And expect to hear a lot about personal responsibility in his remarks tonight.

"Responsibility, accountability, hard work, paying the price, understanding sacrifice and commitment," he says. "I think America has to know where we are going. If we don't know where we are going, we are never going to get there." (160K AIFF or WAV sound)

Watts can electrify an audience, and Republican leaders clearly hope he will. If his race helps give the party an image of diversity, so much the better, in their view.

In the words of one analyst, if the Republicans didn't have J.C. Watts, they would have to invent him.


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