For Many, Black History Not Enough from Obama Administration

For Many, Black History Not Enough from Obama Administration


( – As millions prepared to watch President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday, interviews in recent weeks reveal that the historical significance of the first Black President has given way to a string of high expectations.

“The thrill is gone,” said 32-year-old postal worker Keith Reid of Landover, Md. “We need to move away from our fixation on the history President Obama made by becoming our first Black president and focus more on his execution of the platform he ran on.”

Expectations have risen for President Obama as he enters his second term in office, with many supporters seeking solutions to unresolved issues. This week’s State of the Union Address was expected to lay out President Obama’s economic plan. But supporters and critics alike are looking for significant change as the unemployment statistics of his most loyal constituents – African-Americans – remain in double digits.

“President Obama has done a lot for the economy but I think he needs to focus more on struggling communities that were suffering long before and well after the recession,” said 27-year-old banker Stacy Warner of Los Angeles.

Anticipation is especially high because many political observers argued that the President was limited in his first term for fear of losing his re-election bid.

“He’s done a phenomenal job so far, but now that he does not have to worry about getting [re-elected], I want him to be a little tougher on issues that he feels strongly about, like automatic gun restrictions,” said 24-year-old fourth grade teacher Josephine Brown of Palo Alto, Calif.

The gun control issue has landed squarely in the laps of the White House and Congress since the Dec. 17 mass killings of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The debate now rages between some, like Brown, who want major gun restrictions and others who want more controls on the people who are allowed to buy them.

Either strategy raises a question about how to end gun violence that has raged in inner city neighborhoods for decades.

“I’m hoping to see him reduce the number of assault weapons available on the streets,” said Pastor Byron Craig of Macedonia Baptist Church in Norristown, Pa.

Some civil rights leaders, including Marc Morial, president/CEO of the National Urban League, say fighting gun violence alone won’t help city streets. Like Morial, many believe the socio-economic atmosphere of poor communities must also be strengthened along with any form of gun control – including, jobs, housing and education.

“I would really love to see Barack Obama focus on education reform,” said Ndidi Obasi, a sophomore in media studies and production at Temple University in Philadelphia. “He often speaks about working hard to make sure that our children have a better future, but that future starts now in the classroom. It’s insane to think that in 2013 our zip codes still determine whether or not we get a good education.”

The second inauguration of President Obama was filled with references to the historic anniversaries in 2013, including the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. But, there was no direct reference to the modern day racial disparities endured by African-Americans.

This was a disappointment to some. “By no means is the President weak. But there’s time when the bulldog in you needs to come out in order for things to get done especially when dealing with those who aspire to hold you back,” expressed 81-year-old Korean War veteran Wendell Merritt.

There are other issues that are not as prominent as race, gun violence and education. But they are equally important, points out Norristown, Pa. resident, James Brown.

“I would like to see President Obama do something about the environment,” says Brown. “If we keep digging it up and poisoning the earth, the soil won’t be able to produce crops and I want to stop breathing polluted air.”

At the beginning of President Obama’s first term he pushed one of the hardest hitting attacks on air pollution in US history using his executive powers. This legislation would have brought carbon dioxide limits to power plants, imposed new fuel efficiency laws for cars and put billions of dollars into clean energy projects. But, in 2012 the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed the “Stop the War on Coal Act”, affectively reversing President Obama’s efforts.

Randall Dottin, a New York film maker, says he “would like to see him work on energy again.” But Dottin’s reason has little to do with air pollution.

“Coming up with ways to harness the new opportunities for energy will create jobs, which I think is obviously incredibly important to the economy,” he said.

That is the recurring issue, an economy that has left many with a feeling of hopelessness that they least expected under a Black president.

“All I want is for Obama to be a little more vocal,” explained Judy Butler, a retired 64-year-old of Washington, D.C. “He has to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.”

Though the nation is led by the President, the First Lady also plays a major roll in the White House. Dorothy Wilson, a retired resident of Prince George’s County, Md., is First Lady Michelle Obama’s next move.

“I’m excited to see what Michelle Obama has in store this term also. She did a good job at creating awareness to obesity and supporting the troops,” Wilson said.

Vietnam War veteran Michael Lyes also applauded the First Lady’s support of the troops and is also comforted by the President’s promise to bring home the troops from Afghanistan.

“I almost jumped for joy when Obama talked about ending war. It is something so traumatizing to be put in the front line of war, it’s time to come home,” said Lyes, who was tearful after explaining his war experience.

In a nation overrun with controversial issues, all of which appear to be priorities, there are some who simply want to see the President succeed in being a good family man.

“Even though I don’t agree with many of his policies, I do think he is a good father and a good person,” said Shannon Gibson. “I would like to see him continue his devotion to his family in his second term.”

Writer Mignon Hemsley contributed to this article.