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President Obama's remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner

President Obama's remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner

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President Obama speaks of his Administration's work to deliver on his campaign promises and reaffirms his Administration's commitment to restoring the economy and creating new jobs during remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner. September 18, 2010.
President Obama speaks of his Administration's work to deliver on his campaign promises and reaffirms his Administration's commitment to restoring the economy and creating new jobs during remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner. September 18, 2010.

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The White HouseOffice of the Press SecretaryFor Immediate ReleaseSeptember 18, 2010
Remarks by the President at the Congressional Black CaucusFoundation Phoenix Awards Dinner
8:47 P.M. EDTTHE PRESIDENT: Hello, CBC! (Applause.) Well, it is wonderful to be back with allof you.I want to acknowledge, first of all, chair of the CBC, Barbara Lee, for the outstandingwork that she has done this year. (Applause.) Somebody who not only is a passionatedefender of our domestic agenda, but also somebody who knows more about our foreign policy than just about anybody on the Hill, the chair of the CBC Foundation, DonaldPayne. Thank you. (Applause.) Our ALC Conference co-chairs, Elijah Cummings andDiane Watson -- thank you. (Applause.) Dr. Elsie Scott, president and CEO of the CBCFoundation, thank you for your outstanding work.We've got a couple of very special guests here today. I want to give a shout out to myfriend, somebody who all of us rely on for his wisdom, his steadiness -- the HouseMajority Whip, Jim Clyburn. (Applause.) A couple of folks who are working tirelesslyin my Cabinet -- the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, is in the house.(Applause.) The woman who is charged with implementing health care reform -- HHSSecretary Kathleen Sebelius is here. (Applause.) Our United States TradeRepresentative, Ambassador Ron Kirk is here. (Applause.)And obviously it is a great honor to have been able to speak backstage to this year’sPhoenix Award honorees, Judith Jamison, Harry Belafonte, Sheila Oliver, and SimeonBooker. Thank you for everything that you’ve done for America. (Applause.)I know you’ve spent a good deal of time during CBC weekend talking about a wholerange of issues, and talking about what the future holds not just for the African Americancommunity, but for the United States of America. I’ve been spending some time thinkingabout that, too. (Laughter.) And at this time of great challenge, one source of inspirationis the story behind the founding of the Congressional Black Caucus.I want us to all take a moment and remember what was happening 40 years ago when 13 black members of Congress decided to come together and form this caucus. It was 1969.More than a decade had passed since the Supreme Court decided Brown versus Board of Education. It had been years since Selma and Montgomery, since Dr. King had told
 
America of his dream -- all of it culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act andthe Voting Rights Act.The founders of this caucus could look back and feel pride in the progress that had beenmade. They could feel confident that America was finally moving in the right direction.But they knew they couldn’t afford to rest on their laurels. They couldn’t be complacent.There were still too many inequalities to be eliminated. Too many injustices to beoverturned. Too many wrongs to be righted.That’s why the CBC was formed -– to right wrongs; to be the conscience of theCongress. And at the very first CBC dinner, the great actor and activist, Ossie Davis, toldthe audience America was at a crossroad. And although his speech was magnificent andeloquent, he boiled his message down to a nice little phrase when it came to howAmerica would move forward. He said, “It’s not the man, it’s the plan.” It’s not the man,it’s the plan. That was true 40 years ago. It is true today. (Applause.)We all understood that during my campaign. This wasn’t just about electing a black President. This was about a plan to rescue our economy, and rebuild it on a newfoundation. (Applause.)Statistics just came out this week: From 2001 to 2009, the income of middle-classfamilies in this country went down 5 percent. Think about that. People’s incomes duringthat period, when the economy was growing, went down 5 percent. That's what our agenda was about -- making sure that we were changing that pattern. It was about givingevery hardworking American a chance to join a growing and vibrant middle class -- andgiving people ladders and steps to success. It was about putting the American Dreamwithin the reach of all Americans -- not just some -- no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, everybody would have access to theAmerica Dream. (Applause.)I don’t have to tell you we’re not there yet. This historic recession, the worst since theGreat Depression, has taken a devastating toll on all sectors of our economy. It’s hitAmericans of all races and all regions and all walks of life. But as has been true often inour history, as has been true in other recessions, this one came down with a particular vengeance on the African American community.It added to problems that a lot of neighborhoods had been facing long before the storm of this recession. Long before this recession, there were black men and women throughoutour cities and towns who’d given up looking for a job, kids standing around on thecorners without any prospects for the future. Long before this recession, there were blocks full of shuttered stores that hadn’t been open in generations. So, yes, thisrecession made matters much worse, but the African American community has beenstruggling for quite some time.It’s been a decade in which progress has stalled. And we know that repairing thedamage, climbing our way out of this recession, we understand it will take time. It’s not
 
going to happen overnight. But what I want to say to all of you tonight is that we’ve begun the hard work of moving this country forward. We are moving in the rightdirection. (Applause.)When I took office, our economy was on the brink of collapse. So we acted immediately,and the CBC acted immediately, and we took steps to stop the financial meltdown andour economic freefall. And now our economy is growing again. The month I was swornin we had lost 750,000 jobs. We've now seen eight months in a row in which we'veadded private sector jobs. (Applause.) We’re in a different place than we were a year ago -- or 18 months ago.And let’s face it, taking some of these steps wasn’t easy. There were a lot of naysayers, alot of skepticism. There was a lot of skepticism about whether we could get GM andChrysler back on their feet. There were folks who wanted to walk away, potentially seeanother million jobs lost. But we said we've got to try. And now U.S. auto industries are profitable again and hiring again, back on their feet again, on the move again.(Applause.)There were folks who were wondering whether we could hold the banks accountable for what they had done to taxpayers; or were skeptical about whether we could makeinfrastructure investments and investments in clean energy and investments in education,and hold ourselves accountable for how that money was spent. There was a lot of skepticism about what we were trying to do. And a lot of it was unpopular.But I want to remind everybody here, you did not elect me to do what was popular. Youelected me to do what was right. (Applause.) That’s what we’ve been fighting together for -- to do what’s right. (Applause.) We don't have our finger out to the wind to knowwhat’s right.That’s why we passed health insurance reform that will make it illegal for insurancecompanies to deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.)Historic reforms that gives over 30 million Americans the chance to finally obtain qualitycare, tackles the disparities in the health care system, puts a cap on the amount you can becharged in out-of-pocket expenses. Because nobody should go broke because they gotsick in a country like the United States of America. Not here. (Applause.)That’s why we passed Wall Street reform, to finally crack down on the predatory practices of some of the banks and mortgage companies -- so we can protect hardworkingfamilies from abusive fees or unjustified rates every time they use a credit card, or makea mortgage payment, or go to a payday loan operation, or take out a student loan, or overdraw on their account at an ATM. Laws that will help put an end to the days of government bailouts so Main Street never again has to pay for Wall Street’s mistakes.(Applause.)That’s why we made historic investments in education, including our HBCUs --(applause) -- and shifted tens of billions of dollars that were going to subsidize banks, and

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