Obama asks coloured people to take responsibility

July 15th, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 15 (IANS) Vowing to stand up for them the way earlier generations stood up for him, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has asked America’s coloured people to take responsibility for their own lives. Americans must demand that government and business take more responsibility “to break the cycle of poverty and violence gripping this country,” he said Monday addressing the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), a civil rights organization for ethnic minorities.

“But we also have to demand more from ourselves,” said Obama making responsibility a key focus of his speech marking a historic first: an African-American poised to be the presidential nominee of a major party addressing America’s oldest civil rights organization

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, will address the NAACP Wednesday.

“Now, I know there’s some who’ve been saying I’ve been too tough talking about responsibility,” said Obama whose emphasis on personal responsibility has drawn some criticism with a black leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson suggesting he has “been talking down to black people.”

In what he thought was a private comment last week Jackson criticised Obama for chastising black fathers for not doing enough for their children during a Father’s Day speech and making “faith-based initiatives” part of his campaign platform.

“But here at the NAACP, I’m here to report I’m not going to stop talking about it,” he said suggesting taking responsibility simply “means turning off televisions and putting away video games and providing direct guidance to children.”

“Teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realise responsibility does not end at conception; that what makes them a man is not the ability to have a child but to raise one,” he said. “That’s a message we need to send.”

Addressing some key issues facing the black community, Obama, who would be America’s first black president noted that leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that civil rights meant more than erasing prejudice and bigotry, that social justice could not come without economic justice.

“What Dr. King and Roy Wilkins understood is that it doesn’t matter if you have the right to sit at the front of the bus if you can’t afford the bus fare,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have the right to sit at the lunch counter if you can’t afford the lunch.

“What they understood is that so long as Americans are denied the decent wages and good benefits and fair treatment that they deserve, the dream for which so many gave so much will remain out of reach; that to live up to our founding promise of equality for all, we have to make sure that opportunity is open to all.”

The “true genius” of the United States, he said, is “not that we are perfect, but that we can make ourselves more perfect; that brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand, people who love this country can change it.”

“And that’s our most enduring responsibility - the responsibility to future generations,” he said. “We have to change this country for them. … We have to leave them a planet that’s cleaner, a nation that’s safer, a world that’s more equal and more just.”

On his part, Obama said: “If I have the privilege of serving as your next president, 100 years after the founding of the NAACP, I will stand up for you the same way that earlier generations of Americans stood up for me - by fighting to ensure that every single one of us has the chance to make it if we try.”

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