Obama rocks delegates to NAACP convention

Posted July 17, 2009 5:23 p.m. EDT


Dr. Allen Mask is attending the 100th annual convention of the NAACP in New York. He is filing reports on his experiences.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

President Barack Obama blew the roof off the New York Hilton tonight. Surrounded by many of the nation's foremost orators who have honed their skills in the civil rights movement, Obama delivered an extraordinary lecture addressing the "journey we as Americans have traveled over 100 years." Addressing what seemed to be a family gathering, he said it is "good to be among friends."

This was a carefully crafted speech, written over the last two weeks and polished hours prior to its delivery, according to his White House aides.The expectations were high from an audience that is accustomed to both eloquence and substance.

The audience cheered on their feet for much of the speech. The 5,000+ people who attended this centennial celebration are not a fraternity or sorority crowd. The NAACP is an organization focused on social justice and equality. Most of the participants paid their own way to this New York conference and there was a seriousness of purpose that was palpable.

Obama stepped on stage and literally saluted the veterans and novices of the civil rights movement. He referenced Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, John Lewis and members of the Greensboro sit-ins and noted "We are a more perfect union because of what they did." He credited "ordinary people doing extraordinary things." He acknowledged how we have all stood on the "shoulders of giants" and offered "thanks to those pioneers."

However, he admitted "too many barriers still remain." He noted that African-Americans are more likely to be out of work than other groups. African-Americans are more likely to suffer from a host of medical problems and less likely to have medical insurance. They are also "five times more likely to see the inside of a prison." The "barriers of our time" will be different from the barriers of the past.

So, he posed the question: What steps do we take to move forward in the next 100 years? His solution includes 1) more affordable housing; 2) health insurance for all Americans; 3) closure of health care disparities; 4) make clean energy more affordable; 5) creating jobs that cannot be outsourced; 6) stop predatory lending; 7) eradicate prejudice and bigotry against any citizen of the United States.

Obama says he wants "everyone to participate in the American dream." ...  "21st-century, world-class education is a prerequisite for success," he said. He said we should encourage excellence in our children. "No excuses."

He spoke of tough love towards our children and emphasized while parents and civil right leaders are fighting for better education, we must expect our kids to read and perform. He said the pathway to college has to include not only strong schools but also significant after school support for our children.

He concluded by saying, "We can't rest . We've got a lot of work to do. The American people are counting on us."

The audience thanked Obama with a rousing standing ovation. It was the culmination of a week of outstanding presentations focusing on the past 100 years of the NAACP with an eye towards the next 100 years. Julian Bond, retiring chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, then received the organization's highest award, The 94th Spingarn Medal, for his unselfish contributions to the organization. Recording audience Chaka Khan provided a vibrant, soulful close to a spectacular week.