Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

National Urban League conference site for new initiative announcement

6th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

“For nearly a century, the National Urban League has been inspiring people of every race and every religion and every walk of life to reach for the dream that lies at the heart of our founding…”
—– President Barack Obama

By Marc H. Morial
National Urban League

Last Wednesday, before a packed crowd at the National Urban League annual conference in New Orleans, President Barack Obama delivered a major domestic policy speech focused on creating more fairness and opportunity for middle-class and working-class Ameri­cans. Citing the example of New Orleans’ remarkable resilience seven years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Presi­dent urged the nation to come together to rebuild our faltering economy and ensure a quality education for all. The Presi­dent’s speech came on the same day that the United States Senate passed a bill to extend middle-class tax cuts another year for “98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small business owners.” President Obama urg­ed the House of Represen­tatives to follow suit and added, “They should not be holding middle-class tax cuts hostage just to get more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.” The tax de­bate is a defining issue in this year’s presidential campaign and will most likely be decided by the voters in November.

The President’s speech dealt with many of the issues important to the National Urban League and the record 2.7 million people we served last year. One of our key empowerment goals is that “Every American child is ready for college, work and life.” The President gave voice to that vision by making the point that strong communities are built on strong schools. He added, “If this country is about anything, it’s about passing on even greater opportunity to the next generation.”

In recent years that dream has been slipping away for millions of African Am­ericans. While pointing to pro­gress that has been made since he took office, the President also ack­nowledged that substantial obstacles to equal ed­ucational opportunity still remain. To help overcome those obstacles Pre­sident Obama an­nounc­ed a new White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

His executive order, signed the next day, recognizes that “African Am­ericans lack equal ac­cess to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes.” It points out the wide disparity in student ac­hievement bet­ween Afri­can Americans and their peers in this country. And it recognizes the lower rate of graduation and higher rate of incarceration for Black males.

The stated goal of the new initiative is to help ex­pand educational op­portunities, improve educational outcomes, and deliver a complete and competitive education for all African Ameri­cans. We pledge to work with the Admini­stration and the Depart­ment of Education to make real progress. This unprecedented focus on African American education is much needed and supports a National Urban League empowerment goal that is critical to the future of our youth, our communities and our nation.

This year’s annual conference was hotter than a New Orleans summer. Our “Occupy the Vote” theme reminded the nation that while the National Urban League does not en­dorse candidates, we endorse demo­cracy. That means opposing those who would deny anyone the right to vote and urging everyone to get to the polls this November.

This article was originally published in the August 6, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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