- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

Obama at NAACP

President Obama deserves credit for broaching the difficult topic of single-parent families in the black community, as he did at the NAACP’s 100th anniversary dinner last week.

There, he reiterated his call for black parents to take more responsibility and raise expectations for their children, as he did while campaigning for the presidency on Father’s Day 2008, when he went to the Apostolic Church of God in his hometown of Chicago to talk about the high rate of absentee fathers among blacks.

It wasn’t just a campaign schtick. At the NAACP event, he told parents they needed to pressure their children to dream bigger, although they may come from crumbling communities, where it’s cooler to brag about joining the NBA than getting an MBA.

“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 Li’l Wayne,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”

He recalled his own upbringing in a single-parent home.

“I got into my share of trouble as a kid,” he said. “My life could easily have taken a turn for the worse. But that mother of mine gave me love; she pushed me and cared about my education; she took no lip and taught me right from wrong. Because of her, I had a chance to make the most of my abilities. I had the chance to make the most of my opportunities. I had the chance to make the most of life.

Steele’s take

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele also addressed the NAACP, a group that Republicans have eschewed in the past because it is so strongly Democratic.

Mr. Steele set his sights on changing that in his speech, saying his party was ready to engage the black community, “but we will do so with a different perspective.”

“True freedom is ill-served by diminishing educational choices, choking off entrepreneurial spirit, and empowering government more than the people,” said Mr. Steele, the RNC’s first black chairman. “As chairman of the Republican National Committee, I recognize the efforts it took to get a seat at the lunch counter, but I also know what it will take for this and future generations to own the diner.”

Boxer versus NBCC

National Black Chamber of Commerce CEO Harry Alford didn’t like it one bit when Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, went out of her way to say the NAACP was supporting her position on a cap-and-trade proposal, knowing Mr. Alford did not.

Mr. Alford wanted to explain before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which Mrs. Boxer is chairman, why he opposes the bill. During the hearing, Mrs. Boxer said she was putting information into the record, stating the NAACP has issued a “historic resolution” addressing climate legislation.

“If that isn’t interesting to you, we’ll quote John Grant, who is the CEO of 100 Black Men of Atlanta,” Mrs. Boxer continued. “Quote, clean energy is the key that will unlock millions of jobs, and the NAACP support is vital to ensuring that those jobs help to rebuild urban areas.”

Mr. Alford fumed. “Madame Chair, that is condescending to me. I’m the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and you’re trying to put up some other black group to pit against me.”

Mrs. Boxer replied that the other groups would be “proud” their statements were being read.

“We’ve been looking at energy policy since 1996, and we are referring to the experts regardless of their color, and for someone to tell me, an African-American college-educated veteran of the United States Army, that I must contend with some other black group and put aside everything else in there, this has nothing to do with the NAACP and really has nothing to do with the National Black Chamber of Commerce,” Mr. Alford retorted passionately.

“And that, that, road the chair went down I think is God-awful,” he said wagging his forefinger at Mrs. Boxer.

Mrs. Boxer responded, “As someone who is married to a veteran, that has nothing to do with this conversation,” and said she would put more information into the record from more groups.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com

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