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Saturday, July 18, 2009

TweetThis! Aim higher than rap or basketball, Obama urges young blacks

News article from TimesOnline.co.uk
To watch President Obama's speech, use this YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv6EAaoFNno
Barack Obama

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The 45-minute address was Mr Obama's first big speech on race since he was forced to tackle the issue head on during his presidential campaign last year

James Bone in New York
In his first big speech on race since winning the White House, President Obama has exhorted young blacks to aspire to be more than basketballers and rap music stars.
In a historic address, America’s first black president told the country’s oldest civil rights group, celebrating its 100th anniversary, that it was time for “a new mindset” that did not internalise a sense of limitation.

He told a rapturous audience of 5,000 members of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) that the “pain of discrimination” was still felt in America but that black parents should teach their children that there were “no excuses” for underachieving.

“I believe that overall there probably has never been less discrimination in America than there is today,” he said.
Adopting the impassioned style of a black preacher, Mr Obama urged black children to embrace role models other than the basketball star LeBron James or the rapper Lil Wayne.

“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 LeBron or Lil Wayne,” he said to applause. “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 the President of the United States of America.”

The 45-minute address was Mr Obama’s first big speech on race since he was forced to tackle the issue head on during his presidential campaign last year amid controversy over incendiary remarks by his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. White House aides said that he spent two weeks working on the speech and revised it just before he spoke.

Mr Obama, the son of a Kenyan goatherder and a white mother from Kansas, played down his racial heritage during his campaign. But he became unusually personal before the NAACP, with some in the audience shouting “Amen” as though they were in church.
“I was raised by a single mom. I didn’t come from a lot of wealth. I got into my share of trouble as a child. My life could have easily taken a turn for the worse,” he said.
“When I drive through Harlem or I drive through the South Side of Chicago and I see young men on the corners, I say, there but for the grace of God go I.” He credited his mother with saving him from that fate.

“That mother of mine, she gave me love. She pushed me. She cared about my education. She took no lip. She taught me right from wrong. Because of her I had a chance to make the most of my abilities,” he said.

Mr Obama urged other parents to raise their children just as well.
“We can’t tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home. You can’t just contract out parenting. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework.”

“And, by the way, it means we need to be there for our neighbours’ sons and daughters. We need to go back to the time, back to the day when we parents saw somebody, saw some kid fooling around and it wasn’t your child, but they’ll whup you anyway,” he said to laughter and applause. “Or at least they’ll tell your parents — the parents will.”
He said that his recent trip to a fort in Ghana from which slaves were shipped to the New World had reminded him of “all the pain and all the hardship” of America’s legacy of slavery.

“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.”
Mr Obama’s address to the NAACP came two days after Michael Steele, the first black chairman of the Republican Party, addressed the same conference. “Think about it this way,” Mr Steele told the sceptical audience, “if a black man can become chairman of the Republican National Committee, then anything is possible.”

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