- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CINCINNATI (AP) | Sen. Barack Obama insisted Monday that blacks must show greater responsibility for their actions.

In remarks prepared for delivery at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the man who could become the first black president said Washington must provide greater education and economic assistance, but that blacks must demand more of themselves.

“If we’re serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families and our own communities,” the Democratic presidential candidate said. “That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework and setting a good example.”

He added: “I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I’m not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch - none of it will make any difference if we don’t seize more responsibility in our own lives.”

Video:Obama talks tough at NAACP convention

Mr. Obama speaks often on this issue. A similar speech on Father’s Day prompted an awkward rebuke from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Democratic presidential contender in 1984 and 1988, a protege of Martin Luther King and a fellow Chicago political activist.

Mr. Jackson apologized last week after being caught saying on an open microphone that he wanted to castrate Mr. Obama for speaking down to blacks.

The civil rights activists of the NAACP beg to differ with Mr. Jackson. They think Mr. Obama is doing a good job balancing his role as a black candidate with the need to speak to all races.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, the city’s first directly elected black mayor, disputed the view that Mr. Obama isn’t speaking to black voters.

“I think he absolutely has,” said Mr. Mallory, whose city is hosting the 99th meeting of the nation’s largest civil rights organization.

Besides his messages about responsibility, Mr. Mallory said, Mr. Obama has talked about jobs, health care, education, and other “areas where black people are disproportionately affected.”

Ronald Walters, a University of Maryland political scientist who was an aide to Mr. Jackson’s presidential bids, said blacks understand Mr. Obama is trying to be elected president in a majority-white nation. But he said there has been frustration for those who want Mr. Obama to lay out a specific agenda for the black community beyond speeches from the pulpit about responsibility.

“We don’t expect him to be a minister,” Mr. Walters said in a telephone interview. “He’s running to be president. … What is the nature of your public policy?”

Gwendolyn Baker, here from Grand Prairie, Texas, said she thought Mr. Obama’s talk about parental responsibility applies to all races.

“It’s not just black families,” she said. “He’s talking about an issue that affects everybody - black families, Hispanic families, white families.”

Ronnie Robinson, here for the convention from North Carolina, said he hears some blacks say Mr. Obama, son of a white mother and black father, “isn’t black enough.” Mr. Robinson, though, thinks Mr. Obama’s multiracial background helps him in having a broad appeal.

“He’s unique,” Mr. Robinson said. “He understands both sides.”

Some people also understand the politics involved.

“Any candidate has to speak to all the people; they can’t afford to speak exclusively to one group,” said Dennis Courtland Hayes, NAACP interim president and chief executive. “I would encourage us all to understand that we are not all going to get what we want. But working together, we can come up with resolutions to problems to get us to where we want to be.”

The Baltimore-based NAACP is officially nonpartisan. Likely Republican Party presidential nominee Sen. John McCain plans to speak here Wednesday.

The Arizona Republican plans to talk about education, including expanded merit-pay programs for teachers who improve their students’ academic performance.

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