Former President Ronald Reagan famously created his 11th Commandment dictating that one should not speak ill of fellow Republicans. It is within that spirit that I offer the following, although I confess this has not been easy for me to do.

As has been well-reported to date, the four leading candidates for president in the Republican Party were all “too busy” or had “scheduling conflicts” that prohibited them from participating in the debate at Morgan State University (a Historically Black College/University) in Baltimore. The candidates have long been criticized for not attending a debate focused on issues that matter to African-Americans and people of color.

Rather than seizing upon this opportunity to unveil an agenda and/or vision to unite all Americans in general while reaching out to people of color in particular, the leading candidates — former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and current Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain asks Trump's CIA pick to explain ties to torture Petraeus: Haspel will explain actions in nomination hearing Afghanistan is our longest war ever and Congress has abandoned all responsibility MORE — blew a significant opportunity to show that Republicans at the highest levels of the party are sensitive to and care about issues of concern in the black community. By not going, they blew it. Period.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I read this morning that the aforementioned front-runners will all miraculously be free and otherwise available to attend a “Defending the American Dream” summit sponsored by the grassroots group Americans for Prosperity in Washington, D.C., next week. Oh, did I mention that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) will make it as well?

While I am fond of the Republican front-runners and will vigorously support my party’s nominee for president, I am disappointed that the candidates or their senior staffs didn’t realize they blew an opportunity to demonstrate that they care about issues of concern to people of color. Instead of stepping up to the plate when they had an opportunity to hit one out of the park, they whiffed.

Next time the Republican front-runners have an opportunity to make inroads with communities of color, let’s hope they opt to do so rather than attend fundraising events that cause folks to question their interest and commitment to communities of color.