Rev. Al Sharpton and President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama addresses National Action Network confab

By Cyril Josh Barker
Special to the NNPA

President Barack Obama went to New York last week with a renewed vigor to address the National Action Network’s annual gala. He hit on several key points as he praised the organization’s 20 years of existence. The now-confirmed candidate for the 2012 presidential election gave a rousing speech that was well received by the nearly 1,200 people (mostly Black) in attendance.

After a gracious introduction from the Rev. Al Sharpton, the president received a standing ovation. He opened his speech by acknowledging Rep. Charles Rangel, former Mayor David Dinkins, and the 20th anniversary of NAN, praising its continuing relevance.

“The National Action Network has not changed its commitment in the last two decades,” he said. “Not only in the lives of African-Americans,” but for the broader American family.

Making little mention of his 2012 run, Obama highlighted his own achievements along with commending his supporters for their work and loyalty to him. “If you stand with me and believe in what we can do together, if we put our shoulders to the wheel of history, we can move this county to the promise of a better day,” he said. “What I could commit to was telling you the truth even when it was hard. You made our campaign your own,” he said.

The president also highlighted some of the things he has been criticized for, and that many forgot the good that he’s done. When it came to jobs, he noted how General Motors recently announced its plans to rehire all of the people the car manufacturer had laid off, showing signs that the economy is on its way back.

Obama noted that a half million jobs were created in the first three months of this year.

“We’re making progress, but we are not there yet. I will fight for jobs and I will be in the fight for opportunity,” he said before getting a rousing applause. “We are going to keep fighting until every family gets a shot at the American dream.”

Specifically noting the joblessness rate in the Black community, Obama also mentioned the passing of his health care and Wall Street reforms, which, he says, were beneficial to Black Americans.

Obama topped off his speech by speaking about education, citing that every child deserves the right to a good education and that race should not be a factor when it comes to education reform, because it’s an American problem. He also set a goal to make every child a college graduate while reinvesting in HBCUs and community colleges.

In his parting words, Obama gave inspiring words to the audience about the future.

“The American dream is in reach for everybody,” he said. “I know there are times when the work is frustrating and it’s hard, and change can seem slow to come by. I am living testament that change is possible.”

Several notable people were in the audience for the speech, including many elected officials. Most agreed that the president’s speech was effective.

“I think this speech help set the record straight, because if you watch the media, you would have thought the deficit started in 2009 and the deficit started in 2001 when President Clinton left,” said former New York Gov. David Paterson.

State Sen. John Sampson described Obama’s speech as “phenomenal,” and said it served as a reminder of the work Obama has done and will continue to do.

Said Sampson, “Don’t forget what his presidency has done over the last two years. It has put America back on track and he deserves another term.”