Both presidential candidates, however, were sharply criticized by convention leaders for failing to show up in person at the meeting of the nation's largest black religious organization.
While Democrats traditionally draw black votes, Gore needs to know that ``he does not automatically have us,'' said the Rev. William J. Shaw, president of the organization. ``And we want Mr. Bush to know that there are consequences to just automatically writing us off.''
Gore, who sent his daughter Kristin to introduce him, received frequent applause during a 15-minute speech that stressed black issues and family values. He promised to attend next year's convention if elected.
``You and I have worked together, marched together, and led together for a long time now,'' the Democratic presidential candidate told the audience at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
There was mostly silence until polite applause at the end of Bush's five-minute speech.
``He didn't say anything. He did not explain anything .... It was a little five-minute, 'Glad you invited me. Sorry I can't be there. God bless you. That's it,''' said Geraldine Martin, a convention-goer from Wilkes County, N.C. ``If he wants my vote he's gonna have to do better than that.''
In addresses earlier in the day, convention leaders demanded that Gore and the Republican Bush take seriously their stands on racial profiling, education and health care for the poor.
``Have we been written off? Have we been taken for granted?'' Shaw said. ``Observe where these candidates did go and then remember where they did not come.''
Gore called for raising the minimum wage, protecting Social Security and Medicare, passing a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens and a patients' bill of rights. He urged universal health coverage, beginning with children, as he pressed a family values theme.
Bush said his goal was to ``expand opportunity.'' If elected, he said he would press for setting aside more than $100 billion in federal surplus funds over a decade to promote charitable causes, including faith-based programs.