NEW YORK 07-16-09 08:07 PM - President Barack Obama on Thursday traced his historic rise to power to the vigor and valor of black civil rights leaders, telling the NAACP that the sacrifice of others "began the journey that has led me here." The nation's first black president bluntly warned, though, that racial barriers persist.
"Make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America," the president said in honoring the organization's 100th convention.
White House aides said the President had been working on the speech for two weeks. Obama urged African-Americans to be realistic about some of the difficulties they may face, but to remember that "your destiny is in your hands."
"We've got to say to our children, Yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. That's not a reason to get bad grades, that's not a reason to cut class, that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school," he said. "No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands - and don't you forget that."
"No excuses. No excuses," Obama added, verging off his prepared remarks. "You get that education. All those hardships will just make you stronger, better able to compete. Yes, we can."
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Painting himself as the beneficiary of the NAACP's work, Obama cited historical figures from W.E.B. DuBois to Thurgood Marshall to explain how the path to the presidency was cleared by visionaries.
Obama's remarks, steeped in his personal biography as the son of a white mother from Kansas and black father from Kenya, challenged the audience -- those in the room and those beyond -- to take greater responsibility for their own future. He told parents to take a more active role and residents to pay better attention to their schools.Continue...
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