Acknowledging that “tough times for America often mean tougher times for African-Americans,” US President Barack Obama called for more local and national engagement by fellow blacks.
“You know that tough times for America often mean tougher times for African Americans. This recession has been no exception,” Obama told the 10th annual “State of the Black Union” gathering, noting that the unemployment rate among African-Americans is five points higher than the national average.
“At the same time, we know that government cannot and will not succeed alone. It will take all of us stepping up and doing our part. It will take the commitment of parents and teachers and community leaders. It will take a renewed faith in our common purpose and common values.”
In a video message, the first black US president told African-American politicians, thinkers and entertainers gathered in Los Angeles that his policies were “closing the gap between the nation we are and the nation we can be.”
The new administration had done “more in these past 30 days to bring about progressive change than we have in the past many years,” the president said in prepared remarks, pointing to his 787-billion-dollar economic stimulus plan to revive the battered US economy.
Obama also highlighted his audacious 3.55-trillion-dollar budget plan for 2010, which bristles with economic reforms and spending on healthcare, climate change and education in a bid to end America’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s.
“You have tapped into a yearning in the community to address our toughest problems instead of leaving them for another day, or year, or generation,” Obama told the gathering.
“I have seen that same hunger as I’ve traveled across our country among Americans united not by the color of their skin but by a shared determination to build a more perfect union; to not only revive this economy but to transform our country…. And that is the work my administration has already begun.”
Obama took heat for not attending the gathering last year. His former Democratic rival and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the only presidential candidate to accept an invitation.
Michael Steele, the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee RNC, was also the first RNC leader to attend the forum.