(TriceEdneyWire.com) – For the first time during the administration of President Barack Obama he will not keynote the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner tonight, closing out the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (CBC-ALC). Instead it will be First Lady Michelle Obama going solo before the audience of approximately 3,000 guests.
Mrs. Obama, still basking in accolades for her speech at the Democratic National Convention, will deliver the keynote address at the gala, held annually at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at the conclusion of the Foundation’s 42nd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).
“We are so pleased that Mrs. Obama will serve as the keynote speaker for the awards dinner,” said Elsie L. Scott, president and chief executive officer for CBCF in a statement. “As a former CBC Spouse, Mrs. Obama is quite familiar with our mission at the Foundation and we are certain that her remarks will be both thought-provoking, and most importantly, inspire our audience to do their part to prepare the next generation of leaders.”
Mrs. Obama was involved with the CBC Spouses group when husband served in the U. S. Senate. Since his election as President, she has accompanied him every year to speak at the dinner. He is now heavily engaged on the campaign trail as he makes a bid for four more years in the White House.
Notably, last year the President gave a speech at the dinner that some perceived as a chiding to the CBC. The speech came after a series of summer job fairs held around the country by the CBC during which CBC members had become very vocal about the high unemployment rate in the Black community. His dinner speech appealed for the legislators to “Pass the jobs bill,” but the President went a step further: “I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC,” he concluded.
The audience responded with rousing applause and standing ovation, but not without some criticism. U. S. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was quoted in the Florida Courier as saying the President’s language toward the CBC was “curious.”
Reporting on her interview on “Meet the Press”, the Courier quoted Waters as saying, “I’m not sure who the president was addressing…(he) spoke to the Hispanic Caucus…he certainly didn’t tell them to stop complaining about immigration. He never would say that to the gay and lesbian community who really pushed him on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.” Even in a speech to AIPIC (the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee), he would never say to the Jewish community, “Stop complaining about Israel.”
A year later, Democrats – Black and White – appear to have set aside all quarrels, uniting to assure maximum participation by African-American voters. At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, CBC members showed up in full force and Chairman Emmanuel Cleaver delivered compelling remarks directed to the President, pressing him to “Hope on!”
This Saturday’s dinner will be yet another chance to rally the troops as the dinner will no doubt pack in thousands at the close of the four-day series of issues forums and brain trusts by day and parties, receptions and networking by night. The Caucus, themed “Inspiring Leaders, Building Generations”, takes place Sept. 19-22.
Though the annual dinner is widely seen as the staple event, the National Town Hall meeting also draws thousands. This year’s town hall will focus on Voting Rights and New Age Discrimination. Information on all events, including the Annual Prayer Breakfast, which will feature keynote speaker Bishop Noel Jones, can be found atwww.cbcinc.org.
The four Phoenix Awards recipients this year are:
- U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. will receive The CBCF Chair’s Award for “an individual whose work and accomplishments stand as a role model for the African-American community and the African Diaspora.”
- Writer, director George Lucas will also receive The CBC Chair’s Award for “an individual who exhibits the highest standards of dedication, ability and creativity.”
- U. S. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Charlotte’s first Black Mayor Harvey Gantt will each receive The Harold Washington Award for individuals who have “contributed immeasurably to African-American political awareness, empowerment and the advancement of minorities in the electoral process.”
Phoenix award recipients in past years have included Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson; Athlete, Entrepreneur and Humanitarian George Edward Foreman, Sr.; civil rights activist the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery; and civil rights activist U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga). A release describes the Phoenix Award as symbolizing “the immortality of the human spirit and an eternal desire to reach its full potential.”