WASHINGTON — In a fiery summons to an important voting bloc, President Barack Obama told blacks on Saturday to quit complaining and "put on your marching shoes" to follow him into battle for jobs and opportunity.
And though he didn't say it directly, for a second term, too.
Obama's speech to the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus was his answer to increasingly vocal griping from black leaders that he has been giving away too much in talks with Republicans — and not doing enough to fight black unemployment, which is nearly double the national average at 16.7 percent.
"It gets folks discouraged. I know. I listen to some of y'all," Obama told an audience of about 3,000 in a Washington convention center.
But he said blacks need to have faith in the future — and understand that the fight won't be won if they don't rally to his side.
"I need your help," he said.
He will need black turnout to match its historic 2008 levels if he's to have a shot at winning a second term, and Saturday's speech was a chance to speak directly to inner-city concerns.
He acknowledged blacks have suffered mightily because of the recession, and are frustrated that the downturn is taking so long to reverse. "So many people are still hurting. So many people are barely hanging on," he said, then added: "And so many people in this city are fighting us every step of the way."
But Obama said blacks know all too well from the civil rights struggle that the fight for what is right is never easy.
Topping the to-do list, he said, is getting lawmakers to the pass jobs bill he sent to Congress two weeks ago. He said the package of payroll tax cuts, business tax breaks and infrastructure spending will benefit 100,000 black-owned businesses and 20 million African-American workers.