Barack Obama tries to navigate a middle path in a speech to one of the nation's most important civil rights groups, praising the blood, sweat, and tears of those who paved the way for him to run for president -- but not backing away from tough love for the African-American community.
Obama's repeated challenges, including in a much noted Father's Day speech, have been criticized by an older generation of black leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson last week, who put more blame on government neglect for the social ills of black neighborhoods.
In a speech tonight in Cincinnati to the NAACP, Obama plans to say that Washington needs to do more, and Wall Street needs to pay more attention to working families. He also listed a litany of programs he proposes to improve education, healthcare, and the economy.
"But we also have to demand more from ourselves," he plans to say, according to prepared remarks released by his campaign. "Now, I know some say Iíve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But Iím not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesnít matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch -- none of it will make any difference if we donít seize more responsibility in our own lives.
"Thatís how weíll truly honor those who came before us," Obama continues. "Because I know that Thurgood Marshall did not argue Brown versus Board of Education so that some of us could stop doing our jobs as parents. And I know that nine little children did not walk through a schoolhouse door in Little Rock so that we could stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they are not getting elsewhere. Thatís not the freedom they fought so hard to achieve. Thatís not the America they gave so much to build. Thatís not the dream they had for our children....Thatís why if weíre serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families, and our own communities."
Obama says his bid to become the nation's first black president is built on the shoulders of civil rights leaders, many of them younger than him and not too much older than those in the audience for the NAACP's Youth Night.
"It is because of them; and all those whose names never made it into the history books -- those men and women, young and old, black, brown and white, clear-eyed and straight-backed, who refused to settle for the world as it is; who had the courage to remake the world as it should be -- that I stand before you tonight as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America," he plans to say, according to the prepared remarks.
"And if I have the privilege of serving as your next President, I will stand up for you the same way that earlier generations of Americans stood up for me Ė by fighting to ensure that every single one of us has the chance to make it if we try. That means removing the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding that still exist in America. It means fighting to eliminate discrimination from every corner of our country. It means changing hearts, and changing minds, and making sure that every American is treated equally under the law."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.