Full Text Obama Presidency September 20, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner

Source: WH, 9-20-15

Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

9:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, CBC!  (Applause.)  I guess I get the fancier lectern here.  Everybody please have a seat.  Have a seat.  I know it’s late.  You’re ready for the after parties.  I should have ditched the speech and brought my playlist.  (Laughter.)  Everybody looks beautiful, handsome, wonderful.  Thank you, Don, for that introduction.  Thank you to the CBC Foundation.  And thank you to the members of the CBC.  (Applause.)

On the challenges of our times, from giving workers a raise to getting families health coverage; on the threats of our time, from climate change to nuclear proliferation — members of the CBC have been leaders moving America forward.  With your help, our businesses have created over 13 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  With your help, we’ve covered more than 16 million Americans with health insurance — many for the first time.  (Applause.)  Three years ago, Republicans said they’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent by 2017.  It’s down to 5.1 right now.  (Applause.)  You didn’t hear much about that at the debate on Monday — on Wednesday night.

The point is, though, none of this progress would have been possible without the CBC taking tough votes when it mattered most.  Whatever I’ve accomplished, the CBC has been there.  (Applause.)  I was proud to be a CBC member when I was in the Senate, and I’m proud to be your partner today.  But we’re not here just to celebrate — we’re here to keep going.  Because with the unemployment rate for African Americans still more than double than whites, with millions of families still working hard and still waiting to feel the recovery in their own lives, we know that the promise of this nation — where every single American, regardless of the circumstances in which they were born, regardless of what they look like, where they come from, has the chance to succeed — that promise is not yet fulfilled.

The good thing about America — the great project of America is that perfecting our union is never finished.  We’ve always got more work to do.  And tonight’s honorees remind us of that.  They remind us of the courage and sacrifices, the work that they’ve done — and not just at the national level, but in local communities all across the country.  We couldn’t be prouder of them.  The heroes of the Civil Rights Movement whom we lost last month remind us of the work that remains to be done.  American heroes like Louis Stokes, and Julian Bond, and Amelia Boynton Robinson.  (Applause.)

Ms. Robinson — as some of you know, earlier this year, my family and I joined many in Selma for the 50th anniversary of that march.  And as we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I held Ms. Amelia’s hand.  And I thought about her and all the extraordinary women like her who were really the life force of the movement.  (Applause.)  Women were the foot soldiers.  Women strategized boycotts.  Women organized marches.  Even if they weren’t allowed to run the civil rights organizations on paper, behind the scenes they were the thinkers and the doers making things happen each and every day — (applause) — doing the work that nobody else wanted to do.  They couldn’t prophesize from the pulpits, but they led the charge from the pews.  They were no strangers to violence.  They were on the front lines.  So often they were subject to abuse, dehumanized, but kept on going, holding families together.  Mothers were beaten and gassed on Bloody Sunday.  Four little girls were murdered in a Birmingham church.  Women made the movement happen.

Of course, black women have been a part of every great movement in American history — (applause) — even if they weren’t always given a voice.  They helped plan the March on Washington, but were almost entirely absent from the program.  And when pressed, male organizers added a tribute highlighting six women — none of them who were asked to make a speech.  Daisy Bates introduced her fellow honorees in just 142 words, written by a man.  Of course, Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson sang.  But in a three-hour program, the men gave women just 142 words.  That may sound familiar to some of the women in the room here tonight.  The organizers even insisted on two separate parades — male leaders marching along the main route on Pennsylvania Avenue, and leaders like Dorothy Height and Rosa Parks relegated to Independence Avenue.  America’s most important march against segregation had its own version of separation.

Black women were central in the fight for women’s rights, from suffrage to the feminist movement — (applause) — and yet despite their leadership, too often they were also marginalized.  But they didn’t give up, they didn’t let up.  They were too fierce for that.  Black women have always understood the words of Pauli Murray — that “Hope is a song in a weary throat.”

It’s thanks to black women that we’ve come a long way since the days when a girl like Ruby Bridges couldn’t go to school.  When a woman like Amelia couldn’t cast her vote.  When we didn’t have a Congressional Black Caucus — and its 20 women members.  (Applause.)

So I’m focusing on women tonight because I want them to know how much we appreciate them, how much we admire them, how much we love them.  (Applause.)  And I want to talk about what more we have to do to provide full opportunity and equality for our black women and girls in America today.  (Applause.)

Because all of us are beneficiaries of a long line of strong black women who helped carry this country forward.  Their work to expand civil rights opened the doors of opportunity, not just for African Americans but for all women, for all of us — black and white, Latino and Asian, LGBT and straight, for our First Americans and our newest Americans.  And their contributions in every field — as scientists and entrepreneurs, educators, explorers — all made us stronger.  Of course, they’re also a majority of my household.  (Laughter and applause.)  So I care deeply about how they’re doing.

The good news is, despite structural barriers of race and gender, women and girls of color have made real progress in recent years.  The number of black women-owned businesses has skyrocketed.  (Applause.)  Black women have ascended the ranks of every industry.  Teen pregnancy rates among girls of color are down, while high school and four-year college graduation rates are up.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.

But there’s no denying that black women and girls still face real and persistent challenges.  The unemployment rate is over 8 percent for black women.  And they’re overrepresented in low-paying jobs; underrepresented in management.  They often lack access to economic necessities like paid leave and quality, affordable child care.  They often don’t get the same quality health care that they need, and have higher rates of certain chronic diseases — although that’s starting to change with Obamacare.  (Applause.)  It’s working, by the way, people.  Just in case — (laughter) — just in case you needed to know.

And then there are some of the challenges that are harder to see and harder to talk about — although Michelle, our outstanding, beautiful First Lady talks about these struggles.  (Applause.)  Michelle will tell stories about when she was younger, people telling her she shouldn’t aspire to go to the very best universities.  And she found herself thinking sometimes, “Well, maybe they’re right.”  Even after she earned two degrees from some of the best universities in America, she still faced the doubts that were rooted in deep social prejudice and stereotypes, worrying whether she was being too assertive, or too angry, or too tall.  (Applause.)  I like tall women.  (Laughter and applause.)

And those stereotypes and social pressures, they still affect our girls.  So we all have to be louder than the voices that are telling our girls they’re not good enough — (applause) — that they’ve got to look a certain way, or they’ve got to act a certain way, or set their goals at a certain level.  We’ve got to affirm their sense of self-worth, and make them feel visible and beautiful, and understood and loved.  (Applause.)  And I say this as a father who strives to do this at home, but I also say this as a citizen.  This is not just about my family or yours; it’s about who we are as a people, who we want to be, and how we can make sure that America is fulfilling its promise — because everybody is getting a chance, and everybody is told they’re important, and everybody is given opportunity.  And we got to do more than just say we care, or say we put a woman on ten-dollar bill, although that’s a good idea.  We’ve got to make sure they’re getting some ten-dollar bills; that they’re getting paid properly.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to let our actions do the talking.

It is an affront to the very idea of America when certain segments of our population don’t have access to the same opportunities as everybody else.  It makes a mockery of our economy when black women make 30 fewer cents for every dollar a white man earns.  (Applause.)  That adds up to thousands of dollars in missed income that determines whether a family can pay for a home, or pay for college for their kids, or save for retirement, or give their kids a better life.  And that’s not just a woman’s issue, that’s everybody’s issue.  I want Michelle getting paid at some point.  (Laughter and applause.)  We’ve got an outstanding former Secretary of State here who is also former First Lady, and I know she can relate to Michelle when she says, how come you get paid and I don’t?  (Laughter and applause.)  How did that work?  (Laughter.)

When women of color aren’t given the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential, we all lose out on their talents; we’re not as good a country as we can be.  We might miss out on the next Mae Jemison or Ursula Burns or Serena Williams or Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)  We want everybody to be on the field.  We can’t afford to leave some folks off the field.

So we’re going to have to close those economic gaps so that hardworking women of all races, and black women in particular can support families, and strengthen communities, and contribute to our country’s success.  So that’s why my administration is investing in job training and apprenticeships, to help everybody, but particularly help more women earn better-paying jobs, and particularly in non-traditional careers.  It’s why we’re investing in getting more girls, and particularly girls of color interested in STEM fields — math and science and engineering — (applause) — and help more of them stay on track in school.

It’s why we’re going to continue to fight to eliminate the pay gap.  (Applause.)  Equal pay for equal work.  It’s an all-American idea.  It’s very simple.  And that’s why we’re going to keep working to raise the minimum wage — because women disproportionately are the ones who are not getting paid what they’re worth.  That’s why we’re fighting to expand tax credits that help working parents make ends meet, closing tax loopholes for folks who don’t need tax loopholes to pay for.  It’s why we’re expanding paid leave to employees of federal contractors.  And that’s why Congress needs to expand paid leave for more hardworking Americans.  It’s good for our economy.  It’s the right thing to do.  No family should have to choose between taking care of a sick child or losing their job.  (Applause.)

And just as an aside, what’s not the right thing to do, what makes no sense at all, is Congress threatening to shut down the entire federal government if they can’t shut down women’s access to Planned Parenthood.  (Applause.)  That’s not a good idea.  Congress should be working on investing things that grow our economy and expand opportunity, and not get distracted and inflict the kind of self-inflicted wounds that we’ve seen before on our economy.  So that’s some of the things we need to do to help improve the economic standing of all women; to help all families feel more secure in a changing economy.

And before I go tonight, I also want to say something about a topic that’s been on my mind for a while, another profound barrier to opportunity in too many communities — and that is our criminal justice system.  (Applause.)

I spoke about this at length earlier this year at the NAACP, and I explained the long history of inequity in our criminal justice system.  We all know the statistics.  And this summer, because I wanted to highlight that there were human beings behind these statistics, I visited a prison in Oklahoma — the first President to ever visit a federal prison.  (Applause.)  And I sat down with the inmates, and I listened to their stories.  And one of the things that struck me was the crushing burden their incarceration has placed not just on their prospects for the future, but also for their families, the women in their lives, children being raised without a father in the home; the crushing regret these men felt over the children that they left behind.

Mass incarceration rips apart families.  It hollows out neighborhoods.  It perpetuates poverty.  We understand that in many of our communities, they’re under-policed.  The problem is not that we don’t want active, effective police work.  We want, and admire, and appreciate law enforcement.  We want them in our communities.  Crime hurts the African American community more than anybody.  But we want to make sure that it’s done well and it’s done right, and it’s done fairly and it’s done smart.  (Applause.)  And that’s why, in the coming months, I’m going to be working with many in Congress and many in the CBC to try to make progress on reform legislation that addresses unjust sentencing laws, and encourages diversion and prevention programs, catches our young people early and tries to put them on a better path, and then helps ex-offenders, after they’ve done their time, get on the right track.  It’s the right thing to do for America.  (Applause.)

And although in these discussions a lot of my focus has been on African American men and the work we’re doing with My Brother’s Keeper, we can’t forget the impact that the system has on women, as well.  The incarceration rate for black women is twice as high as the rate for white women.  Many women in prison, you come to discover, have been victims of homelessness and domestic violence, and in some cases human trafficking.  They’ve got high rates of mental illness and substance abuse.  And many have been sexually assaulted, both before they got to prison and then after they go to prison.  And we don’t often talk about how society treats black women and girls before they end up in prison.  They’re suspended at higher rates than white boys and all other girls.  And while boys face the school-to-prison pipeline, a lot of girls are facing a more sinister sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.  (Applause.)  Victims of early sexual abuse are more likely to fail in school, which can lead to sexual exploitation, which can lead to prison.  So we’re focusing on boys, but we’re also investing in ways to change the odds for at-risk girls — to make sure that they are loved and valued, to give them a chance.

And that’s why we have to make a collective effort to address violence and abuse against women in all of our communities.  In every community, on every campus, we’ve got to be very clear:  Women who have been victims of rape or domestic abuse, who need help, should know that they can count on society and on law enforcement to treat them with love and care and sensitivity, and not skepticism.  (Applause.)

I want to repeat — because somehow this never shows up on Fox News.  (Laughter.)  I want to repeat — because I’ve said it a lot, unwaveringly, all the time:  Our law enforcement officers do outstanding work in an incredibly difficult and dangerous job.  They put their lives on the line for our safety.  (Applause.)  We appreciate them and we love them.  That’s why my Task Force on 21st Century Policing made a set of recommendations that I want to see implemented to improve their safety, as well as to make sure that our criminal justice system is being applied fairly.  Officers show uncommon bravery in our communities every single day.  They deserve our respect.  That includes women in law enforcement.  We need more of you, by the way.  We’ve got an outstanding chief law enforcement officer in our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.  (Applause.)  We want all our young ladies to see what a great role model she is.

So I just want to repeat, because somehow this never gets on the TV:  There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly.  Do not make this as an either/or proposition.  This is a both/and proposition.  (Applause.)  We want to protect our police officers.  We’ll do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they are being treated fairly.  I hope I’m making that clear.  (Applause.)  I hope I’m making that clear.

We need to make sure the laws are applied evenly.  This is not a new problem.  It’s just that in recent months, in recent years, suddenly folks have videos and body cameras, and social media, and so it’s opened our eyes to these incidents.  And many of these incidents are subject to ongoing investigation, so I can’t comment on every specific one.  But we can’t avoid these tough conversations altogether.  That’s not going to help our police officers, the vast majority who do the right thing every day, by just pretending that these things aren’t happening.  That’s not going to help build trust between them and the communities in which they serve.

So these are hard issues, but I’m confident we’re going to move forward together for a system that is fairer and more just.  We’ve got good people on both sides of the aisle that are working with law enforcement and local communities to find a better way forward.  And as always, change will not happen overnight.  It won’t be easy.  But if our history has taught us anything, it’s taught us that when we come together, when we’re working with a sense of purpose, when we are listening to one another, when we assume the best in each other rather than the worst, then change happens.

Like every parent, I can’t help to see the world increasingly through my daughters’ eyes.  And on that day, when we were celebrating that incredible march in Selma, I had Ms. Amelia’s hand in one of my hands, but Michelle had Sasha’s hand, and my mother-in-law had Malia’s hand — and it was a chain across generations.  And I thought about all those women who came before us, who risked everything for life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so often without notice, so often without fanfare.  Their names never made the history books.  All those women who cleaned somebody else’s house, or looked after somebody else’s children, did somebody else’s laundry, and then got home and did it again, and then went to church and cooked — and then they were marching.  (Applause.)

And because of them, Michelle could cross that bridge.  And because of them, they brought them along, and Malia and Sasha can cross that bridge.  And that tells me that if we follow their example, we’re going to cross more bridges in the future.  If we keep moving forward, hand in hand, God willing, my daughters’ children will be able to cross that bridge in an America that’s more free, and more just, and more prosperous than the one that we inherited.  Your children will, too.

Thank you CBC.  God bless you.  God bless this country we love.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
10:06 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Baltimore Riots — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Baltimore Riots

Source: WH, 4-28-15

With respect to Baltimore, let me make a couple of points.  First, obviously our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray.  Understandably, they want answers.  And DOJ has opened an investigation.  It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.

Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances.  It underscores that that’s a tough job and we have to keep that in mind, and my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.

Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday.  It is counterproductive.  When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing.  When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.  And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction.  That is not a protest.  That is not a statement.  It’s people — a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.

Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders.  And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention.  And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.

The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I think have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist.  And I think we have to give them credit.  My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.

Point number five — and I’ve got six, because this is important.  Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions.  And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks.  And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis.  What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis.  This has been going on for a long time.  This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.

What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference.  It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is, is that we don’t run these police forces.  I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain.  But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves.

And coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities.  The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdictions that want to purchase body cameras.  We are going to be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference.  And we’re going to keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary.

I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organization to acknowledge that this is not good for police.  We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are going to be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.  There are some bad politicians who are corrupt.  There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing.  Well, there’s some police who aren’t doing the right thing.  And rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize they got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.  And we’re committed to facilitating that process.

So the heads of our COPS agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore.  Our Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore.  But we’re going to be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.

And I’ll make my final point — I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us.

We can’t just leave this to the police.  I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching.  I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching.  But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching.  This is not new.  It’s been going on for decades.

And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.  In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.  And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.

If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.  That’s hard.  That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force.  And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.

Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.

But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could.  It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.  We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important.  And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.

That’s how I feel.  I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way.  But that kind of political mobilization I think we haven’t seen in quite some time.  And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference.  But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough because it’s easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.

Political Musings August 22, 2014: Holder’s visit to Ferguson calms community after Michael Brown shooting, unrest

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Holder’s visit to Ferguson calms community after Michael Brown shooting, unrest

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Attorney General Eric Holder was the first member of President Barack Obama’s administration to visit Ferguson, Missouri since unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown’s shooting death by a white police officer, Darren Wilson on Aug. 9…READ MORE

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 25th MLK Day

HISTORY FEATURES:

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS:

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IN FOCUS

  • Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 15, 1929 to April 4, 1968: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” With these words, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. built a crescendo to his final speech on April 3, 1968. The next day, the civil rights leader was shot and killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn…. – NYT
  • Obama, nation commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. DayChicago Times-Union
  • The King Center: The official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy of King. Founded by Coretta Scott King. – www.thekingcenter.org/
  • “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
  • “I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
  • “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
  • “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
  • “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
  • “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
  • “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

THE HEADLINES….

Michelle Obama's 'Embarrassing' 47th Birthday Serenade

  • Obama Honors Martin Luther King Jr: U.S. President Barack Obama has honored slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. by taking part in a service project at a local school. Mr. Obama, his wife Michelle and their two children participated in a painting project Monday, the federal holiday that honors King. Members of the president’s Cabinet are attending memorial events and taking part in community service projects across the nation.
    At the school, President Obama said King’s dream was for equality and justice, as well as service to the country. The King Center in Atlanta caps more than a week of events Monday with commemorative ceremonies, volunteer activities and community programs…. – VOA, 1-17-11
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 25: The message remains powerful: That question is the backdrop as the United States on Monday marks the 25th federal observance of Martin Luther King Day (see below for a timeline). Illinois became the first state, in 1973, to sign into law a King holiday, thanks to representative, and future Chicago mayor, Harold Washington…. – THE SPRINGFIELD STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, 1-15-11
  • Clarence B. Jones: On Martin Luther King Day, remembering the first draft of ‘I Have a Dream’: It was the late spring of 1963, and my friend Martin was exhausted. The campaign to integrate the public facilities in Birmingham had been successful but also tremendously taxing. In its aftermath, he wanted nothing more than to take Coretta and the children away for a vacation and forget – forget the looming book deadline, the office politics of his ever-growing Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the constant need to raise funds.
    But a date for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom had been nailed down – Aug. 28 – and Martin realized he couldn’t plan such a massive undertaking with the usual endless interruptions. No, if this march were going to come together in time, he would have to escape all the distractions. (This was a man, after all, whose best writing was done inside a jail cell.) He needed to get away to a place where very few people could reach him…. – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King Day: “I have a dream”: In his historic speech from the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963, Martin Luther King called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Why are you thankful?: On April 5, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a day of national mourning, saying in part: “Men of all races, all religions, all regions must join together in this hour to deny violence its victory — and to fulfill the vision of brotherhood that gave purpose to Martin Luther King’s life and work. … In our churches, in our homes, and in our private hearts, let us resolve before God to stand against divisiveness in our country and all its consequences.”
    On Monday, for the 43rd year, the country will pause in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. This year will mark an even bigger tribute with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, slated to open in August in Washington… – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • About a third of Americans say Obama’s presidency has improved race relations: Despite high public expectations that Barack Obama’s presidency would improve race relations in the country, barely more than a third of all Americans now say his tenure has made things better in this area, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Overall, 35 percent say Obama has helped race relations; down from 58 percent who, in January 2009, expected them to improve as a result of the country’s having its first black president. And blacks and whites continue to have starkly different assessments about how African Americans are faring in America today when it comes to the racial equality championed by Martin Luther King, Jr. WaPo, 1-17-11Full Story
  • For the Obamas, a Day of Service: President Obama took his family to a local middle school to participate in a painting project to help celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, calling attention to service projects around the nation in honor of the slain civil rights leader. Mr. Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha, went to Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington where they met mentors and the young people they were helping with different projects. It is Mrs. Obama’s 47th birthday, and she was greeted with a lively rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
    “Michelle and I and the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate is making sure we’re giving back to the community,” Mr. Obama said. Referring indirectly to the shootings in Tucson on Jan. 8, he said: “After a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about. This kind of service project is what’s best in us.” The Obamas helped paint apple characters in the cafeteria to encourage healthy eating…. – NYT, 1-17-11
  • President Barack Obama: “This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about … Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. That’s what this program is all about.” “Michelle and I and the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate is making sure we’re giving back to the community.” –
  • On his day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of peace lauded in wake of Arizona shootings: The nation observed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Monday with thousands volunteering for service projects and more reflecting on his lessons of nonviolence and civility in the week following the shootings in Arizona.
    Six people were killed in Tucson and Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life. The violent outburst was a reminder to many gathered at King’s former church in Atlanta that the Baptist preacher’s message remained relevant nearly four decades after his own untimely death at the hands of an assassin.
    Attorney General Eric Holder praised him as “our nation’s greatest drum major of peace” and said the Jan. 8 bloodshed was a call to recommit to King’s values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice. “Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King’s own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on,” Holder said.
    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle volunteered to paint for a service project at a middle school in Washington’s Capitol Hill. He urged Americans to get out into their communities — a step he suggested would have special meaning following the shootings. “After a painful week where so many of us were focused on the tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves of what this country is all about,” he said…. – Chicago Tribune, 1-17-11
  • Obama recalls MLK’s Challenge of a New Age in holiday sermon: President Barack Obama spent his Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington DC today…. Obama’s speech at Vermont Avenue Baptist ended four minutes shy of 30 minutes. He ended the sermon stating “it’s faith that gives me peace. The same faith that leads a single mother to work two jobs to put a roof over her head when she has doubts. The same faith that keeps an unemployed father to keep on submitting job applications even after he’s been rejected a hundred times. The same faith that says to a teacher even if the first nine children she’s teaching she can’t reach, that the 10th one she’s going to be able to reach.”
    He asked the congregation to “hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age. Together we shall seize the promise of this moment. Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we’re going to welcome the spring. Through God all things are possible.”
    Obama exited in hopes that the “memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us and ennoble our world and all who inhabit it.”
    President Obama is the first Democratic president in contemporary memory to freely call upon God, faith and religion without reservation to party politics or liberal ideologies…. – HULIQ, 1-17-11
  • On holiday, Massachusetts honors Martin Luther King Jr.: Some 1,000 people honored Martin Luther King Jr. this morning at the city’s annual holiday breakfast in his name, remembering the slain civil rights leader as a transformative force for good and pledging to build upon his legacy.
    “He showed us the path,” said Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, who paid tribute to King as an inspiring figure who “fought for the dignity of every human being.”
    In a well-received speech at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, keynote speaker Melissa Harris-Perry drew parallels between today’s divisive political climate and 1967, the year of King’s final book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”… – Boston Globe, 1-17-11
  • NY leaders gather to mark King day: New York’s civic leaders are gathering with the Rev. Al Sharpton to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are among those scheduled to participate in Sharpton’s annual event at held at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. There were several other city leaders slated to speak at the forum. Sharpton held a breakfast event earlier Monday in Washington…. – WSJ, 1-17-11
  • Obama attends church services in D.C. on Sunday: Metroplian AME was filled with people who are waiting to see the Obama family. “We have been waiting to see this for two years,” said one church member as he passed through a line of metal detectors. President Obama and the first family will join D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to worship at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Northwest during a service that will reflect on the spiritual fervor of Martin Luther King Jr.
    Last year the president delivered a major address the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Districts Vermont Avenue Baptist Church where King spoke when he was alive. White House sources say this year the president has chosen to sit quietly in the pews with members of the historic church and listen along with his family and other White House officials. The Rev. Ronald E. Braxton, pastor of the historic congregation founded in 1838, will deliver the sermon from a church designated as the “national cathedral” of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that has more than 7,000 churches and 3 million members around the world…. – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • For Some Students in the South, a King Day Lacking That ‘Holiday’ Feature: …By state law, the only holiday he cannot cancel is Veterans Day. His solution? Make children go to school on Monday, the day when most of the nation’s schools are closed to observe Martin Luther King’s Birthday.
    In the South, where establishing an official holiday for Dr. King was long in coming, that kind of move can be particularly controversial. But administrators in a handful of districts in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina say they have no choice after this past week of unusually brutal ice and snow in the South put the district behind schedule.
    That is not going over well with some parents and politicians.
    “It always seems like Martin Luther King day is the first one they are willing to give up,” said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
    The Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have also weighed in. “We’re urging people to keep their kids home,” Mr. Sharpton said. “It’s un-American not to observe the holiday.”… – NYT, 1-14-11
  • Rochelle Riley: What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dream’ be today?: His life has become part of our history texts — the Baptist minister who led the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., who four years before his death became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the man who gave the Speech. For this year’s celebration of King’s dream, I interviewed metro Detroiters about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in Detroit and then in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1963….
    As America debates what hate speech can ignite and whether vicious political rhetoric can be a match, I wonder whether one who dared to dream now might be drowned out by a million YouTube dismissals or the catcalls of boorish ideologues who see only the America they want? Had King lived to be 82, what would he write now? What would you say if you were giving the Speech?… – Detroit FREEP, 1-15-11
  • Taking to roads to find Martin Luther King’s legacy: It started as a series of high school road trips, chances to venture out of the District with the loose intention of picking apart a well-worn Chris Rock joke about the violence on streets named after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
    Eight teenagers from five D.C. high schools criss-crossed the country with two mentors and video cameras, visiting more than a dozen “MLK streets.” Their driving tours in 2008 coincided with the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, putting the students between a history they barely knew and history in the making.
    The documentary they produced is still in rough cut, though it was aired at Anacostia Library as a run-up to the Martin Luther King holiday. But the images they now carry with them, they said, have reshaped how they think about themselves and their world…. – WaPo, 1-17-11
  • CPS students honor King by lending a helping hand: Chicago Public Schools students and faculty volunteered today to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service.
    Students from Bogan High School filled bag after bag with food in the basement of Epiphany Catholic Church in Little Village, helping the regular volunteers prepare for a Monday food pantry.
    “It’s good to give the kids an opportunity to help out and do something good for the community,” said Rozella Garrett, who has volunteered with the food pantry every Monday for 40 years. “They’re a great help.”… – Chicago Tribune, 1-17-11
  • King Day presents opportunity for celebration, teaching Educators, historians discuss challenges of teaching his life, legacy: All of the elements were in place at Leith Walk Elementary School for a proper Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration. Students at the Northeast Baltimore school were prepped with songs from the civil rights movement; Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” was on deck. They’d completed assignments detailing their own dreams earlier in the week and listened in awe as Tony Marshall, who works for the school system, recited the “I Have a Dream” speech, excerpts from the work that he had learned decades earlier as a fourth-grader at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.
    For many schoolchildren, this kind of celebration has been a hallmark of King Day ever since the holiday, which is marked around the nation today, was established 25 years ago. But some experts and educators say that students need to know more about King’s life and legacy to place him in historical context. “There was a long legacy of heroes and ‘she-roes’ that led to Dr. King,” said Raymond A. Winbush, director of the Institute of Urban Research at Morgan State University. “As educators, we’ve got to contextualize Dr. King in the struggle for human rights, and we just don’t do that.”… – Baltimore Sun, 1-16-11
  • Dr. King and New York City: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is identified mostly with Washington and the South, but he was officially an honorary New Yorker and the city plays a not insignificant role in his biography. In 1958, 10 years before he was assassinated in Memphis, Dr. King was autographing copies of his book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in a Harlem department store when a deranged women stabbed him with a letter opener. He was taken to Harlem Hospital for surgery.
    In the summer of 1964, after the shooting of a 15-year-old by an off-duty police officer touched off riots in Harlem, Mayor Robert F. Wagner invited Dr. King to New York on a peace mission (one made slightly more complicated by the fact that some black leaders resented that the mayor had invited Dr. King without consulting them). Later that year, one week after he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway, Dr. King was proclaimed an honorary New Yorker by the mayor who presented him with the Medallion of Honor at City Hall…. – NYT, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day shares holiday with Gen. Robert E. Lee Day: In Arkansas, it’s not only Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s also the state holiday Gen. Robert E. Lee Day. That’s causing some heated discussion. Lee was a commander in the confederate army. His birthday is Wednesday. State lawmakers voted to make it a legal holiday back in 1947. On the State of Arkansas Facebook page, they wished everyone a happy holiday for both holidays and it spawned several comments both negative and positive. Alabama and Mississippi have the duel holiday as well…. – Todays THV AK, 1-17-11

QUOTES

President Barack Obama Helps Paint Pictures of Fruit During a Service Project on Martin Luther King Day

  • “An Example of What Martin Luther King’s Birthday Should Be All About”: THE PRESIDENT: This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about. I want to thank all the mentees and mentors who are participating.
    Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society, but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. And that’s what this program is all about and that’s what these participants are all about.
    Michelle and I the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate, is making sure that we’re giving a little something back to the community. And I hope that all the projects that are taking place all across the country on this day are getting similar attention, because this is part of what America is all about. And after a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about. This kind of service project is what’s best in us and we’re thrilled with everybody who is participating. – WH, 1-17-11
  • Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s Life and Legacy: Secretary Salazar reports on the progress underway at the memorial being constructed on the National Mall in Dr. Martin Luther King’s honor…. – WH, 1-17-11
  • John McCain: Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy today. He was a true American hero who stood up to adversity and will continue to impact our country for generations to come.
  • Sarah Palin: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Today is a day to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King dedicated himself to justice and the struggles of an imperfect world. In the face of fierce opposition, he stood up for the oppressed, and he ultimately sacrificed all for equality and freedom. His was a remarkable life of love and service for all mankind. His work must continue.
    With Dr. King’s faith in God and his unwavering hope in a brighter, stronger future, let us recommit today to continuing his work for a more peaceful and just nation…. – Fox News, 1-17-11
  • Giffords’ husband urges volunteer service: The husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is urging Americans to volunteer in their communities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “Many of you have asked how you can help and how you can honor the memory of those who were wounded or lost their lives. What united the victims of the tragedy on Saturday was service – they volunteered in church or at soup kitchens, worked in government, and tended to their communities. On behalf of Gabby and our family, I ask that you consider honoring their commitment to service by dedicating a few hours on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, this Monday, January 17th, to volunteer in your community,” Mark Kelly said in a statement distributed by the Giffords for Congress campaign.
    Kelly also said in the statement that “The prayers and good wishes from the people of Southern Arizona and the country are deeply appreciated by our family. Your continued outpouring of support is powerful. As Gabby continues her recovery, I know she will be inspired and motivated by the heartfelt messages you have sent. Keep sending them.” – JTA, 1-16-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dana Goldstein: American schools more segregated today than when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed: American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago. The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, and where just 32 percent of the student body lives in poverty. The average black child attends a school that is 59 percent poor but only 29 percent white. The typical Latino kid is similarly segregated; his school is 57 percent poor and 27 percent white.
    Overall, a third of all black and Latino children sit every day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent black and Latino…. – WaPo, 1-17-11
  • Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: “Dr. King’s message was about inclusion and the recognition of human dignity, of human rights and making sure that all of our voices are heard,” said Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University. “I hope people in Arizona, in particular, embrace that part of his message. The politics in Arizona recently have often seemed to revolve around excluding people.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Morgan State University professor Jared Ball: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: “So little of his real politics show up in these annual commemorations,” said Morgan State University professor Jared Ball. “Instead of actually reading what he wrote or listening to what he said, we pick catchphrases and throw his name around. We all feel for the tragic incident that took place in Arizona, but this is happening to people all over the world every day in one form or another.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: A national remembrance of the civil rights icon is an opportunity for the country to renew its commitment to King’s cause. Absent that, it’s unclear how his legacy would be remembered, said Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley. “The holiday brought the freedom struggle into the main narrative,” Brinkley said. “The day is meant to be a moment of reflection against racism, poverty and war. It’s not just an African-American holiday. The idea of that day is to try to understand the experience of people who had to overcome racism but in the end are part and parcel of the American quilt.” “The struggle that the holiday itself has is to not just be a day off,” Brinkley said. “We have trouble with that. We have to constantly be vigilant not to let that happen.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King’s legacy will be celebrated at forum: Martin Luther King Jr. will be celebrated at the annual “With Liberty and Justice for All” symposium Monday at 10 a.m. in Anderson Theatre, inside The Henry Ford. This year’s program will feature professor Martha S. Jones, a legal scholar and University of Michigan historian. Following her presentation will be a dramatic reading of an excerpt from the well-known 1978 Howard University address by Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a panel discussion with high school students from throughout Metro Detroit. This event is free; however, reservations are required. The Henry Ford is at 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn. For more information, call (313) 982-6001 or to reserve a seat, visit thehenryford.org. – The Detroit News, 1-16-11
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