President Obama faced his most surprising critics Saturday night when he delivered remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual gala dinner. In recent weeks, CBC members, who still deeply support Obama, have been more publically open about their discontent over what they’ve perceived to be a lack of targeted policy solutions to address Black unemployment, which jumped to a scary high in August.
The president acknowledged that progress has been slow and that he understands their frustration, but told the audience that it is important that they not give in to their discouragement.
“Throughout our history, change has often come slowly. Progress often takes time. We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back. Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back,” Obama said. “But it’s never a straight line. It’s never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us. But we’ve had faith. We have had faith. We’ve had that good kind of crazy that says, you can’t stop marching.”
Obama acknowledged that the economic crises taking place in the nation and in too many households throughout the country are “heartbreaking” and cited the “fierce opposition” that both he and congressional Democrats are up against in their efforts to restore prosperity through shared sacrifice and not by making the rich richer. He said that while Democrats have won some important fights, such as the health care reform bill, there are more fights ahead and he needs CBC members to help him.
“We have to do more to put people to work right now. We’ve got to make that everyone in this country gets a fair shake, and a fair shot, and a chance to get ahead. And I know we won’t get where we need to go if we don’t travel down this road together. I need you with me,” he said.
But the president also called out CBC members for recent public rebukes during their August jobs initiative, which White House officials have privately complained were unfair and unfounded. And in what was perhaps a sly reference to Rep. John Conyers’ threat to hold a protest march in front of the White House on the night of the dinner, Obama urged the Black lawmakers to march with him.
“I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on,” he said. “I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”
(Photo: AP Photo/Earl Gibson III)