By Sam Youngman - 07/16/09 07:53 PM EDT
In a speech honoring the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, the president faulted the economic crisis, a broken health care system and the nation’s energy policy for many of the societal ills facing the black community, but he urged African-Americans to take responsibility for their success.
"Still, even if we do it all, the African-American community will fall behind in the United States and the United States will fall behind in the world unless we do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters," Obama said.
The president warned the supportive crowd that "government programs alone won't get our children to the Promised Land."
In the days before Obama’s speech, many members of the civil rights group said they were looking for details on how the first black president would reduce unemployment rates for African-Americans.
In response, the president spent a great deal of his remarks pushing the need to close the education achievement gap, and he challenged black parents and neighbors to do more to help their children learn and achieve.
"We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes – because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way that we have internalized a sense of limitation; how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves," Obama said.
He added: "They might think they’ve got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can’t all aspire to be the next LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court Justice. I want them aspiring to be president of the United States."
Obama talked about the need to fix and improve America's schools because he said "the state of our schools is not an African-American problem; it’s an American problem."
The president's speech, loaded with historical references and his signature inspirational passages, did lack some of the detail some NAACP officials said they wanted to hear from the president.
Regardless, the crowd was enthusiastic and overwhelmingly supportive throughout Obama's remarks. The hero’s welcome Obama received prompted him to say "it's just good to be among friends."
He also spoke movingly of the Civil Rights leaders he credited with allowing him to be president.
"Because of them I stand here tonight, on the shoulders of giants," Obama said. "And I'm here to say thank you to those proud leaders and thank you to the NAACP."
The president began the day with a rally for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) reelection and will end it with a fundraiser in Manhattan for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).