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Sunday, September 19, 2010

President Obama Gives Remarks At The Congressional Black Caucus Annual Awards Dinner

In his second address (in as many years) President Obama gave remarks at the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards dinner where he did talked about what some say he rarely speaks on, or addresses at all - race.

The president, did to some degree, attempt to speak about race, especially in these tough economic times that has seen the African American community hit hardest.
On the current economic recession, calling it (again) "the worse since the Great Depression", Obama said, "It’s hit Americans of all races and all regions and all walks of life.  But as has been true often in our history, as has been true in other recessions, this one came down with a particular vengeance on the African American community."

President Obama gives remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Inc.’s Phoenix Awards Dinner. Photos/CD Brown.
Unemployment within the African American community is double that of the national average (9.9%), and even higher in some states. 

In a White House interview with talk show host Joe Madison, Obama said "for ten years we've had policies that did not help the African American community, did not help the American economy, and led to this disaster." 

During the interview, as he did during his Caucus address, Obama cited Republicans for driving the economy into a ditch that he said his administration has spent the last two years trying to dig the American people out of.

"The Republicans want the keys back", said Obama referring to the upcoming mid-term elections where many, including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs say the Democrats may lose in the November elections.

Adding, "nobody has been more damaged by that than the African American community, and it's important that we turn out to vote."

The president warned that the Republicans want to borrow $700 billion, which he said "America does not have", to use it on tax for millionaires and billionaires. 

"We shouldn’t be passing tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires right now", said Obama.  That's not what we should be doing.  We should be helping the middle class grow.  We should be proving pathways out of poverty."

Obama likened his administration's efforts to correct the economy to that of a car being dug out of a ditch while alluding that Republicans have been on the sidelines "sipping a Slurpee" and not helping to get the car out of the ditch.

"And now we've been down in that ditch, put on our boots -- it’s hot down there -- we've been pushing the car, shoving it, sweating", explained Obama.  "They’re standing on the sidelines, sipping a Slurpee watching us, saying, “You're not pushing fast enough.  You're not pushing hard enough.”

The president has been met with resistance from Republicans (led by speaker John Boehner (R-OH)) on all fronts, including closing tax loopholes for corporations.

Obama said that now that the economy has seen some growth, admitting there's still more work that needs to be done to continue the slightly upward trend, he's not willing to hand over the keys to the GOP to return to politics as usual.

"We tell them, you can't have the keys back.  You don't know how to drive.  You can't have it back."

Borrowing the words from the late actor Ossie Davis, Obama recounted Davis' remarks at the first CBC event where he said “It’s not the man, it’s the plan.”

President Obama said his plan has helped all Americans: whether it be passing the health care reform bill (making it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions), or passing the Wall Street reform aimed at cracking down on predatory practices of banks and mortgage companies, or making what he calls "historic investments in education" (to including Historically Black Colleges and Universities), or ending the combat mission in Iraq.

"That's what we've been doing."

Also participating in this year's annual Caucus from the Obama Administration was Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement/ Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Michael Blake.  Blake helped panel a discussion with the Caucus' emerging leaders, sessions that focus on equipping students and young professionals with legislative and advocacy tools to affect change in their communities. Blake who grew up in humble means quoted his mother as saying, "We went from no house to the White House."  Blake grew up at times homeless.  His message to the young, emerging leaders: "Be invaluable.  Be necessary." 

Given the fact that there are fewer African Americans in high positions in politics (or in the corporate world), Blake added, "The second you are not valuable and necessary, there'll be a reason for you to not be in the room."

Along with the president making his remarks, the awards dinner awarded four extraordinary individuals for their lifelong work and contributions to society. 

This year's recipients included Harry Belafonte, Jr., actor and humanitarian; Simeon Booker, renowned journalist; Judith Jamison, choreographer and Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; and the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly.

Activist and actor Harry Belefonte accepts his 2010 Phoenix Award at the annual CBC Awards dinner. Actor Lahman Rucker (left) the evening's emcee, and Congressman Bobby Rush (far right) pose with Belafonte.  Photo/CD Brown.
Belafonte encouraged the assembled audience to become more active in social causes.  Jamison was also honored at the White House earlier this month during The White House Dance Series: A Tribute to Judith Jamison event.

The Phoenix Awards dinner culiminated the three-day long events that facilitated the exchange of ideas and information to address critical issues affecting our communities while developing strategic research and historical resources for the public.

The CBC Foundation also provides leadership development and scholarship opportunities and develops effective programs and research to address social, economic and health disparities.

DC Mayor-elect Vincent Gray attended the awards dinner.

Photo gallery<>Video.

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