President Barack Obama spoke at the centennial celebration of the NAACP, and he offered his thoughts on how lessons from the past should drive the Black community in the future.
The president gave a nod to those who first formed the NAACP 100 years ago and to the civil rights leaders that strove for equality for people of all races. He acknowledged that without their efforts it wouldn’t have been possible for him to even run for the presidency, let alone win it.
But he was quick to remind the crowd that although he is president, the struggle is far from over.
“Even as we celebrate the remarkable achievements of the past 100 years,” he said, “we know that too many barriers still remain. We know that even as our economic crisis batters Americans of all races, African-Americans are out of work more than just about anybody else.”
He also pointed out that although everyone is getting hit hard by the rising cost of health care, Black people are the least likely to have coverage even though we are most likely to suffer serious illnesses.
However, it was a trip to the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, where slaveships bound for America sailed from, that reminded him how far we have come.
“No matter how bitter the rod, how stony the road, we have always persevered. We have not faltered, nor have we grown weary,” he said. And using examples from our collective past, he commented on what he commented on how he thinks that resilience should inspire the Black community to do better.
“If John Lewis could brave billy clubs to cross a bridge, then I know young people today can do their part and lift up our community,” Obama encouraged. “If Emmet Till’s uncle, Mose Wright, could summon the courage to testify against the men who killed his nephew, I know we can be better fathers and better brothers and better mothers and sisters in our own families. “
“If three civil rights workers in Mississippi…could lay down their lives in freedom’s cause, I know we can come together to face down the challenges of our own time,” the president continued. “We can fix our schools we can heal our sick, we can rescue our youth from violence and despair.“
– Sonya Eskridge