Obama Urges NAACP to Insist on 'Responsibility'
By Perry Bacon Jr.
CINCINNATI -- Barack Obama drew loud applause tonight when he told one of the nation's most influential African American groups that he will press his call for blacks to take more responsibility for their lives.
"Yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Washington. And, yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But we also have to demand more from ourselves," Obama told several thousand people attending the annual convention of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People.
"Now, I know there are some who've been saying I've been too tough talking about responsibility. NAACP, I'm here to report I'm not going to stop talking about it ... We have to do more in our own lives -- there's nothing wrong with saying that."
He added: "No matter how much money we invest in our communities, how many 10-point plans we propose, how many government programs we launch -- none of it will make a difference ... if we ... don't seize more responsibility in our own lives."
Obama repeated a call for black parents to be more involved in their children's lives, but he stayed away from more pointed language, such as he used in a Father's Day speech chastising black fathers who were "acting like boys instead of men."
Such remarks drew criticism from some of Obama's backers, including some who were at the NAACP convention. Jesse L. Jackson suggested last week that was an example of the Democratic candidate "talking down to black people."
On Monday, Obama spoke of the importance of parents "teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. That what makes them a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one -- that's a message we need to send."
The bulk of Obama's speech focused on the responsibility of government to help black families more and of corporate America to provide more support for reducing the pay gap between executives and employees. He also praised black leaders who came before him.
"If I have the privilege of serving as your next President, 100 years after the founding of the NAACP," he said, "I will stand up for you the same way that earlier generations of Americans stood up for me - by fighting to ensure that every single one of us has the chance to make it if we try."
Republican candidate John McCain is scheduled to address the convention Wednesday.
July 14, 2008; 9:31 PM ET
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