Obama Sends Tough Message to Black America... 'No Excuses'!

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 07/17/2009 - 4:55pm.

Barack Obama, the politician, became Barack Obama, the preacher, last night as he joined black community leaders to celebrate the centenary of America's foremost civil rights organisation.

In a speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), America's first black president paid a passionate tribute to the trailblazers of the civil rights movement whose sacrifice "began the journey that led me here".

But Mr Obama's first direct address to black America as President was aimed primarily at parents and their offspring - "the other Barack Obamas out there" - and delivered the blunt message that African-Americans must face up to their responsibilities and set their sights higher.

"No one has written your destiny for you," he said. "Your destiny is in your hands, and don't you forget that. That's what we have to teach all of our children! No excuses! No excuses!"

Predictably enough, Mr Obama received a thunderous reception from a 3,000-strong, predominantly black audience in a hotel ballroom in New York.

He reminded his audience that the NAACP was founded after the abolition of slavery under Abraham Lincoln, but at a time when segregation "was a way of life, when lynchings were all too common".

Mr Obama paid homage to civil rights heroes, such as the scholar W.E.B. Du Bois and the mudered civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr for overcoming "the stain of slavery and the sin of segregation".

"Because of what they did, we are a more perfect union," he said. "Because Jim Crow [segregation] laws were overturned, black CEOs today run Fortune 500 companies. Because civil rights laws were passed, black mayors, governors and members of Congress serve in places where they might once have been unable to vote.

"And because ordinary people made the civil rights movement their own, I made a trip to Springfield a couple years ago - where Lincoln once lived, and race riots once raged - and began the journey that has led me here tonight as the 44th president of the United States of America."

Race played a contentious role in Mr Obama's election campaign, and he faced criticism for both overstating and understating his own racial heritage as he sought to appeal to the widest possible constituency.

Last night, however, he spoke at length about the problems in black communities and the challenges they still face, decades after the end of segregation.

"I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. But make no mistake, no mistake: the pain of discrimination is still felt in America."

Mr Obama pointed to the spiralling costs of healthcare, noting that black Americans are "more likely to suffer from a host of diseases but less likely to own health insurance than just about anyone else".

Black youths, he noted, were five times more likely than their white counterparts to go to prison, and the scourge of HIV/Aids, while ravaging regions such as Africa, was "devastating the African-American community here at home with disproportionate force".

But, combining the lilting cadences of the southern preacher with his own more classical rhetoric, he warned that "government programmes alone won't get our children to the Promised Land".

He went on: "We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes - because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way that we have internalised a sense of limitation; how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves."

Mr Obama told his audience about his recent trip to Ghana, where he visited Cape Coast Castle, a historic fort that held slaves before they were transported to the Americas.

The visit, Mr Obama said, reminded him of the "all the pain and all the hardships". "But I was also reminded of something else," he said. "I was reminded that no matter how bitter the rod or how stony the road, we have persevered."

Mr Obama also drew on his biography, describing how his mother raised him as a single parent, to call for a renewed sense of personal responsibility among African-Americans, urging black families to set the bar higher for their children.

"We can't tell our kids to do well in school and fail to support them when they get home. For our kids to excel, we must accept our own responsibilities," he said.

"Our kids can't all aspire to be the next LeBron [James] or Lil Wayne," he added. "I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice. I want them aspiring to be president of the United States of America."

Philippe Naughton - July 17, 2009 - source TimesOnline

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 07/17/2009 - 4:55pm.