President Obama took his message of education and community reform to New York last week to speak to a group that is quite familiar with tackling the needs of underrepresented people.
The National Action Network (NAN) welcomed the president as their keynote speaker for the annual gala, speaking to a group of over 1,200 people who are committed to solving community problems. The New York-based group was founded in 1991 by Rev. Al Sharpton as a vehicle to promote a modern civil rights agenda for people of all races and colors. They advocate for issues including education, police misconduct, non-violence, and voter protection, to name a few. The group has approximately 40 chapters across the United States.
Though the audience was primarily African-American, the National Action Network promotes civil rights for all people regardless of color. Still, the president and some of his top administration officials focused on issues related to the black community, including education, parenting, and healthcare reform efforts over the past two years.
The president touched on standard issues that have permeated many of his public speeches over the past few months. He talked about healthcare, transportation, and Wall Street reform efforts, along with issues related to small businesses.
“[We have] got to rebuild our crumbling transportation networks with high-speed rail, upgrade our communications networks with high-speed Internet. It means we’re investing in cutting-edge research and technology like clean energy,” said President Obama.
The discussion quickly turned to the subject of education, the main focus of his remarks last Wednesday. The president reminded the audience of the importance of not only education reform and investment, but of communities coming together to ensure that children learn and are raised properly.
“[We have to make] sure we are giving every one of our children the best possible education. [It] is the single most important factor in determining whether they succeed. But it’s also what will determine whether we succeed. It’s the key to opportunity. It is the civil rights issue of our time,” said the president.
“When too many of our schools are failing our children, too many of our kids are dropping out of school, that’s not a black or white or brown problem — that is an American problem. We’re going to have to solve that problem. We are all responsible for the education of all of our children,” Obama added.
President Obama also discussed some issues important to those who do make it to college and receive their degree. He told his own story of he and the First Lady’s indebtedness after they graduated with law degrees from Ivy League universities. He used the example to underscore the reason he fought for student loan reform since arriving at the White House.
The audience was reminded about President Obama’s goal of America having the greatest proportion of college graduates in the world again by 2020. The push for increased education, as he described it, will allow the nation to meet the goal. The result will allow America to remain as competitive as possible in the global economy, a key component of our economic recovery.
For more information about the work of the National Action Network, visit their website.