Friday, July 17, 2009

Obama is a Giant before the NAACP

The President returns to his roots -- a giant standing on the shoulders of giants!
by Charlie Leck

I had planned a far different blog for this morning, but sometimes even good plans must be set aside.

Something extremely important happened yesterday. Barack Obama returned as 44th President of the United States to an NAACP convention. I urge you with all my might to go and watch and hear.

“I stand here tonight on the shoulders of Giants and I’m here to say thank you to those pioneers and thank you to the NAACP.”
The President’s cadences and inflections changed as the speech went on; and by the end of his speech he was on a roll that was very reminiscent of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. It was quite remarkable and everyone should watch and listen to this extraordinary speech that I think will go down in history as one of the great Presidential orations.

“Changes have to come from the people!”

“There has never been less discrimination in American than there is today; but, make no mistake, the pain of discrimination is still felt in America…. On the 44th anniversary of the Civil Right Act, discrimination can no longer be allowed to stand.”

“There’s a reason the civil rights movement was written in our schools… there is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential.”

“If black and brown students cannot compete, then America cannot compete.”

“I got an Amen Corner back there… "

“Folks in Congress are getting a little tuckered out, but I’m tellin’ em we can’t rest. We’ve got a lot to do.”

“Government programs alone won’t get our children to the Promised Land. We need a new mind set, a new set of attitudes, because one of the most destructive legacies of discrimination is the way we’ve internalized a sense of limitation – how so many of those in our community have come to expect so little from the world and from themselves.”
At about the 24 minutes mark of the speech, Obama swings into this new voice pattern and completely different attitude in his delivery. He is clearly speaking to the black community at this point. He isolates them and begins to pound out what it means to be responsible and “get it done.”

If nothing else, go to the link for the video of this speech and move the slider forward to the 30 minute mark and listen to the extraordinary 5 minute conclusion of this speech.

“We have to say to our children, Yes, if you’re African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not. But that’s not a reason to get bad grades, that’s not a reason to cut class, that’s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school.

"No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands – and don’t you forget that.

“To parents, 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. That means putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences, reading to our kids, and helping them with their homework.

“And it means we need to be there for our neighbor’s son or daughter, and return to the day when we parents let each other know if we saw a child acting up. That’s the meaning of community. That’s how we can reclaim the strength, the determination, the hopefulness that helped us come as far as we already have.

“It also means pushing our kids to set their sights higher. They might think they’ve got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can’t all aspire to be the next LeBron or Lil Wayne. 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.

“So, yes, government must be a force for opportunity. Yes, government must be a force for equality. But ultimately, if we are to be true to our past, then we also have to seize our own destiny, each and every day.”
I can’t say enough about this speech. It wasn’t a speech pleading for money for the cause. It wasn’t a speech begging the white community to be fairer. It was a speech to those who have been underrepresented and unfairly treated, imploring them to rise above mistreatment and discrimination to become what is always possible in America for those who work hard and fairly.

Then, in a towering, powerful way, like the surf rolling inevitably toward the shore, Obama rose up in conclusion:

“So, I know what can happen to a child who doesn’t have that chance. But I also know what can happen to a child who does. I was raised by a single mother. I don’t come from a lot of wealth. I got into my share of trouble as a kid. My life could easily have taken a turn for the worse. But that mother of mine gave me love; she pushed me, and cared about my education; she took no lip and taught me right from wrong. Because of her, I had a chance to make the most of my abilities. I had the chance to make the most of my opportunities. I had the chance to make the most of life.

“The same story holds for Michelle. The same story holds for so many of you. And I want all the other Barack Obamas out there, and all the other Michelle Obamas out there, to have that same chance – the chance that my mother gave me; that my education gave me; that the United States of America gave me. That is how our union will be perfected and our economy rebuilt. That is how America will move forward in the next one hundred years.

“And we will move forward. This I know – for I know how far we have come. Last week, in Ghana, Michelle and I took Malia and Sasha to Cape Coast Castle, where captives were once imprisoned before being auctioned; where, across an ocean, so much of the African-American experience began. There, reflecting on the dungeon beneath the castle church, I was reminded of all the pain and all the hardships, all the injustices and all the indignities on the voyage from slavery to freedom.

“But I was also reminded of something else. I was reminded that no matter how bitter the rod or how stony the road, we have persevered. We have not faltered, nor have we grown weary. As Americans, we have demanded, strived for, and shaped a better destiny.

“That is what we are called to do once more. It will not be easy. It will take time. Doubts may rise and hopes recede.

“But if John Lewis could brave Billy clubs to cross a bridge, then I know young people today can do their part to lift up our communities.

If Emmet Till’s uncle Mose Wright could summon the courage to testify against the men who killed his nephew, I know we can be better fathers and brothers, mothers and sisters in our own families.

“If three civil rights workers in Mississippi – black and white, Christian and Jew, city-born and country-bred – could lay down their lives in freedom’s cause, I know we can come together to face down the challenges of our own time. We can fix our schools, heal our sick, and rescue our youth from violence and despair.

“One hundred years from now, on the 200th anniversary of the NAACP, let it be said that this generation did its part; that we too ran the race; that full of the faith that our dark past has taught us, full of the hope that the present has brought us, we faced, in our own lives and all across this nation, the rising sun of a new day begun.”
Go to MSNBC-TV video site to watch the President address the NAACP

If you prefer to read a full text of the speech (click here), but, remember, you will miss the extraordinary cadences and accents of the Obama voice in his remarkable delivery.

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