Obama Tries to Rally Support at Black Caucus Gala
The president, often accused of evading racial issues, warned his most loyal constituents that the opposition wants to "turn back the clock."
President Obama, who has been accused of avoiding racial issues, jumped into the lion's mouth Saturday when he made an unannounced appearance at the Congressional Black Caucus' annual Washington conference and called on his most loyal constituents to resist plans to change the course his administration has set for the nation.
Without naming the Republican Party, the president warned that his opponents want to "turn back the clock" and reverse many of the changes he has made in the first two years of his administration. "I need everybody here to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back to your workplaces, to go to the churches, and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops, and tell them we've got more work to do," Obama said to cheers from a black-tie audience at the Washington Convention Center. "Tell them we can't wait to organize. Tell them that the time for action is now."
With many pundits predicting that Democrats will lose control of the House and perhaps even the Senate, Obama needs to fire up black Democrats, who have continued to support him even as white liberals have expressed disappointment, and independents have indicated in polls that they would likely vote for Republicans in the fall election.
The president invoked the words of actor Ossie Davis, who, speaking at the caucus' first dinner in 1969, urged attendees to look beyond individuals. "It's not the man, it's the plan," the president told attendees. "That was true 40 years ago, and it's true today."
"We understood that during my campaign," the president told the audience, many of whom have spent the last four days attending workshops, seminars and speeches on issues that affect the African-American community. "It wasn't just about electing a black president. It was about a plan to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation. It was about giving every hardworking American a chance to join a growing middle class. It was about putting the American dream within reach for all Americans, no matter who you are, what you look like or where you come from."
The Annual Legislative Conference, put on by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the 42-member CBC, is a high point of black political activity every year. Several thousand black professionals travel to the nation's capital to ponder, debate and argue policy issues.