President Bush declined an invitation to speak at the NAACP's annual convention, the group said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search) expects more than 8,000 people to attend the convention opening Saturday.

Democratic challenger John Kerry (search) accepted an invitation to speak next Thursday on the final day of the convention, the NAACP said.

Bush spoke at the 2000 NAACP convention in Baltimore when he was a candidate. But he has declined invitations to speak in each year of his presidency, the first president since Herbert Hoover not to attend an NAACP convention, John White, a spokesman for the group, said Wednesday.

The NAACP received a letter from the White House three weeks ago declining the invitation because of scheduling conflicts and thanking the it for understanding. It was signed by presidential scheduler Melissa Bennett.

White House spokesman Jim Morrell said Wednesday that the president has spoken about "equal opportunity and equal rights for all Americans" in many public places.