Following years of financial and leadership problems, the NAACP is poised to return as a power broker in America, says Julian Bond, the new chairman of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights group.

Rank-and-file members such as Gwendolyn Jones of Madison, Wis., believe it is about time."All the discord of the past just distracts from the job we all have to do," she said. "We still have struggles before us, and we have to work together."

In his first major address as chairman, Bond told 4,000 national convention delegates Sunday that he would bring unity to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He also called for a renewed offensive against racial discrimination that "just won't go away" and pledged: "We are going to build a world where private prejudice doesn't become public policy."

NAACP members said they liked the speech because it put demands on them to become more active.

"If you listened closely, you heard several challenges issued to us. We have to move ahead technologically in the branches and we have to focus our messge," said Emmitt Carlton, Virginia state branch president.

Y. Ernestine Grayson of South Bend, Ind., said the more than hour-long address "gives us the push we need to go forward with."

Bond, a former Georgia state legislator and college professor, spiced his talk with historical references to past civil rights fights, a strong defense of affirmative action and a pledge to end the internal squabbling that has sapped focus and energy from the 450,000-member NAACP.