(The Root) — In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and guaranteeing that preschool is provided to every child in America. He emphasized the right to vote without long lines, and the right to earn a decent living. He urged Congress to address gun violence — not just to stop mass shootings, but to stop inner-city violence like the shooting that killed 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton.
And African-American leaders liked what they heard. After the speech, The Root caught up with NAACP President Ben Jealous and members of the Congressional Black Caucus to get their take on the content of the president’s message. Pleased, inspired and in some cases surprised by the bold content, these leaders — who aren’t at all shy about expressing when they’re unimpressed with Obama — gave the president high marks across the board. Here’s why.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous: A
I give the president a solid A tonight. He took on the gun lobby; he called for us to end voter suppression. He stood up for the long-term unemployed and women in the armed forces. He made it clear that we must pass comprehensive immigration reform. That’s a lot to take on … In one night. In one year. It speaks to this president’s resolve. It speaks to his confidence and commitment to having a progressive and inclusive legacy for his presidency. Tonight, you saw the president’s swag. We saw him step out there with the confidence of somebody who has won by a wide margin twice and who understands he has a mandate from the voters of this country to force this Congress to embrace commonsense reforms to this nation’s most vexing problems.
Rep. Bobby Rush: A
He talked about poverty, and he talked about domestic violence and gun violence, and he really spoke as I expected him to speak on these issues. It was a very moving speech as it relates to issues we’re struggling with in our communities … Also, he spoke about educational initiatives. He said every child in America should have a right to go to preschool. I give him an A. It is one of the better speeches I’ve heard him make.
Rep. Karen Bass: A+
[I give him] an A+ with high marks for mentioning poverty in America. I was particularly pleased with the president’s call to increase the minimum wage.
Rep. Barbara Lee: A