Excerpts from President Barack Obama's speech to the NAACP convention

Excerpts from President Barack Obama's speech Thursday at the NAACP Centennial Convention:

"The first thing we need to do is make real the words of the NAACP charter and eradicate prejudice, bigotry and discrimination among citizens of the United States. I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. And I believe that overall, there probably has never been less discrimination in America than there is today. I think we can say that.

But make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African-American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights...

"The dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across the country. African-American students are lagging behind white classmates in reading and math — an achievement gap that is growing in states that once led the way in the civil rights movement. Over half of all African-American students are dropping out of school in some places. There are overcrowded classrooms, and crumbling schools, and corridors of shame in America filled with poor children — not just black children, brown and white children as well.

The state of our schools is not an African-American problem; it is an American problem. Because if black and brown children cannot compete, then America cannot compete. And let me say this, if Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich can agree that we need to solve the education problem, then that's something all of America can agree we can solve. Those guys came into my office. Just sitting in the Oval Office — I kept on doing a double-take. So that's a sign of progress...

"Government programs alone won't get our children to the Promised Land. We need a new mind-set, a new set of attitudes, because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way we've internalized a sense of limitation; how so many in our community have come to expect so little from the world and themselves.

We've got to say to our children, yes, if you're African-American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not.... But that's not a reason to get bad grades, that's not a reason to cut class, that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands, you cannot forget that. That's what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. No excuses...

"To parents, we can't tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home. You can't just contract out parenting. For our kids to excel, we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn. That means putting away the Xbox; putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework.

"It also means pushing our children to set their sights a little bit higher. 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 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 the president...

"I know what can happen to a child who doesn't have that chance. But I also know what can happen to a child that does. I was raised by a single mom. I didn't come from a lot of wealth. I got into my share of trouble as a child. My life could have easily taken a turn for the worse. When I drive through Harlem or I drive through the South Side of Chicago and I see young men on the corners, I say, there but for the grace of God go I. They're no less gifted than me. They're no less talented than me.

But I had some breaks. That mother of mine, she gave me love; she pushed me, she cared about my education; she took no lip; she taught me right from wrong. Because of her... I had the chance to make the most of life...

"I want all the other Barack Obamas out there, and all the other Michelle Obamas out there to have the same chance, the chance that my mother gave me; that my education gave me; that the United States of America has given me. That's how our union will be perfected and our economy rebuilt...

"On the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, let it be said that this generation did its part; that we too ran the race; that full of faith that our dark past has taught us, full of the hope that the present has brought us; we faced, in our lives and all across this nation, the rising sun of a new day begun..."

Excerpts from President Barack Obama's speech to the NAACP convention 07/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 5:31am]

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