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Liveblogging President Barack Obama’s Address to the NAACP

Alex Kane Jul 16, 2009

 Benjamin Todd Jealous, Julian Bond Speak to the Press 8:17 PM:  I wish I had the chance to ask Jealous or Bond about corporate sponsorships of the convention or the Troy Davis death penalty case.  None of the members of the press came close to asking those questions; a press person from the NAACP handpicked corporate media reporters from USAToday, the Associated Press, and the New York Daily News.  I think my favorite question was from a reporter for the NY Daily News, who asked Jealous “how he felt” being in the Grand Ballroom.  Nice use of your time!  Does this post sound bitter?  I’m tired and hungry, so I’m signing off.

Hazel Dukes Speaks, 7:50 PM:  Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, is giving a post-Obama speech statement to the press.  She says she is elated after Obama’s speech, and launched into a discussion about the importance of education.  “I want our children to begin education at an early age,” Dukes said.  She went on, saying that President Obama “told America what we have to do, not just for African Americans, but for all children.”  A question was asked about mayoral control of schools in New York State, and Dukes said that she did not support it when the original plan surfaced, and that parents need to be involved.

A Short Speech Ends, 7:45 PM:  I wasn’t really keeping track of the time, but that speech had to have lasted only about twenty to thirty minutes.  By the end of it, Obama was proving why he has been called one of the greatest political orators of our time.  In a campaign-style, emotional closing, President Obama looked to the next one hundred years, saying that he knows America will continue to improve.

Emphasizing Education, 7:35 PM:  President Obama emphasized the importance of education for Americans, particularly for black Americans.  In a familiar line he urged parents to “turn off that XBox,” and “get your kids to bed on time.”  “Your destiny is in your hands,” Obama said.  (10:17 PM:  Looking back on that sentence, I should have included this particularly incisive critique of Obama’s rhetoric towards black audiences that he repeated earlier tonight, from Counterpunch.

Sounding More Progressive? 7:15 PM:  This speech sounds like the Obama that captured some liberal Democratic hearts in the primary campaign.  President Obama started the meat of his speech by mentioning the fact that African Americans are disproportionately bearing the brunt of the economic recession.  He mentioned New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson’s report that the unemployment rate among African Americans has rose four times faster than other ethnic groups.  Obama talked about his health care plan, and how African Americans suffer from health problems more than other ethnic groups, and that incarceration rates among blacks are higher than other ethnic groups.  “These are some of the barriers of our time.  They’re very different from the barriers faced by other generations,” he said.  Going on, Obama says that while discrimination is at it’s “lowest” in the United States, “Make no mistake, the pain of discrimination is still felt in America,” pointing to the Latino, LGBT and Muslim experience in the U.S.

Obama Begins, 7:05 PM:  Wow, I really didn’t expect President Obama to start out with talking on race and the civil rights movement–topics that he has avoided except when he had to speak on them.  Chairman Julian Bond introduced Obama, and he came out to raucous applause.  “Hello, NAACP,” he said.  “What we celebrate tonight is not just the journey the NAACP has traveled, but the journey Americans have traveled over the past 100 years.”  Obama is currently talking about the NAACP’s centuries-long struggle against Jim Crow, lynching, and racism.  “Because of them, I stand here tonight, on the shoulders of giants.  I am here to say thank you,” Obama said.

What to Expect, 6:55 PM:  In case you were wondering, what exactly is President Obama planning to speak on tonight?  This article from the Washington Post suggests that the topic of his speech will be on health care, education and the economy, areas that President Obama has been focusing on since he got back from overseas.  He gave a speech last Tuesday, July 14, in the struggling state of Michigan on the economy.  But this report from ABC News suggests it will be on “personal responsibility.”  We’ll find out soon.

Julian Bond Gets Springarn Award 6:39 PM:  The NAACP just got done celebrating Chairman Julian Bond’s  winning of the Springarn Award.  The following description of the Springarn Award is from the NAACP’s website:  “The Spingarn Award, first presented in 1915 by NAACP Chairman Joel E. Spingarn, is designed to highlight distinguished merit and achievement among African Americans. Previous Spingarn winners include: Oprah Winfrey, Vernon Jordan, Earl G. Graves, Sr., former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., William H. Cosby, Jr., Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Maya Angelou, General Colin Powell, Edward “Duke” Ellington, Carl T. Rowan, Alex Haley, Jacob Lawrence, Henry “Hank” Aaron, and Myrlie Evers-Williams, Chairman Emeritus, the NAACP Board of Directors.”  winning of the Springarn Award, the highest honor from the NAACP.  Bond has served as the chairman of the famed civil rights organization since 1998.  He is one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee a huge part of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Real Important Stuff, 5:33 PM:  Breaking news, readers.  The national anthem has been sung, Calvin Butts of the famed Harlem Abyssinian Baptist Church gave an invocation, and the most important thing of all, dinner is served!  But again, not for the media.  I’ll be going hungry tonight.

Street Shutdown, RCP Demonstration, 5:11 PM:  The New York Police Department has begun to direct pedestrians standing around the New York Hilton to “get in” their “hotel rooms or move out.”  It looks like some blocks around the Hilton will be shut down–the President’s coming to town.  Meanwhile, a dozen or so members of Bob Avakian’s Revolutionary Communist Party showed up outside the Hilton, marching down 6th Ave.  The demonstrators were chanting, “Barack Obama’s part of the system, what we need is a revolution!”  Pedestrians and on-lookers looked befuddled, as is usually the case when it comes to RCP events.  I could almost read their minds:  “There are still communists around?  And why are they protesting President Obama?  Isn’t he a socialist?”  Reporters are beginning to fill up the different rooms to watch the Obama speech on television, as apparently the NAACP doesn’t think the media is important enough to get into the actual Grand Ballroom.  And on the television set now?  A podium with no one behind it, flanked by the U.S. and New York flags.  It’s quite captivating.  Anyway, stay tuned to this post!  If you find this entertaining, it will only get better.

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