Obama on the Record: NAACP Centennial Convention

On the 45th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination cannot stand — not on account of color or gender; how you worship or who you love. Prejudice has no place in the United States of America. That’s what the NAACP stands for. That’s what the NAACP will continue to fight for as long as it takes. (Applause.)

But we also know that prejudice and discrimination — at least the most blatant types of prejudice and discrimination — are not even the steepest barriers to opportunity today. The most difficult barriers include structural inequalities that our nation’s legacy of discrimination has left behind; inequalities still plaguing too many communities and too often the object of national neglect.

These are barriers we are beginning to tear down one by one — by rewarding work with an expanded tax credit; by making housing more affordable; by giving ex-offenders a second chance. (Applause.) These are barriers we’re targeting through our White House Office on Urban Affairs, through programs like Promise Neighborhoods that builds on Geoffrey Canada’s success with the Harlem Children’s Zone — (applause) — that foster a comprehensive approach to ending poverty by putting all children on a pathway to college, and giving them the schooling and after-school support that they need to get there. (Applause.)

I think all of us understand that our task of reducing these structural inequalities has been made more difficult by the state and structure of our broader economy; an economy that for the last decade has been fueled by a cycle of boom and bust; an economy where the rich got really, really rich, but ordinary folks didn’t see their incomes or their wages go up; an economy built on credit cards, shady mortgage loans; an economy built not on a rock, but on sand.

That’s why my administration is working so hard not only to create and save jobs in the short-term, not only to extend unemployment insurance and help for people who have lost their health care in this crisis, not just to stem the immediate economic wreckage, but to lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity that will put opportunity within the reach of not just African Americans, but all Americans. All Americans. (Applause.) Of every race. Of every creed. From every region of the country. (Applause.) We want everybody to participate in the American Dream. That’s what the NAACP is all about. (Applause.)

Now, one pillar of this new foundation is health insurance for everybody. (Applause.) Health insurance reform that cuts costs and makes quality health coverage affordable for all, and it closes health care disparities in the process. Another pillar is energy reform that makes clean energy profitable, freeing America from the grip of foreign oil; putting young people to work upgrading low-income homes, weatherizing, and creating jobs that can’t be outsourced. Another pillar is financial reform with consumer protections to crackdown on mortgage fraud and stop predatory lenders from targeting black and Latino communities all across the country. (Applause.)

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