President Barack Obama preached to the choir this week, telling members of The National Urban League in an election-year speech that he will create a new White House office to ensure that African-American students are better prepared for high school, college and to compete in the global marketplace.

“I’m establishing the first-ever White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans so that every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career,” Obama told the Urban League in New Orleans on Wednesday.

Obama, who is locked in a tight race with Republican rival Mitt Romney, needs the unbridled support of The National Urban League, and other civil rights organizations,  to win re-election in November.

The president’s high-profile announcement to The National Urban League was designed to rally the troops three months before the election while addressing a black, upper-middle-class organization that has spoken out for years about the educational achievement gap between the nation’s black and white students.

Obama’s education initiative for black students is a good government policy and it’s also good politics. He signed an executive order Thursday making it official.

“We’re pushing all colleges and universities to cut their costs because we can’t keep asking taxpayers to subsidize skyrocketing tuition,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, Obama’s black critics have been waiting for the president to unveil a major plan that specifically addresses the needs of African-Americans and black young people, in particular.

“I am pleased that President Obama has signed an executive order focused on improving educational outcomes for African-American students,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said in a statement Thursday. “For three years, I, along with the Congressional Black Caucus, have worked diligently with the Obama Administration to develop a mechanism ….to comprehensively address the state of African-American education.”

The president is keenly aware that black Americans need to vote with enthusiasm in November – and vote in large numbers – if he is going to have a shot at being re-elected. Perhaps Obama’s education-plan announcement will be the emotionally-charged initiative he needs to help get black voters revved up for November. The Obama campaign is also hoping to attract several million black voters who were not registered to vote in 2004. It’s a tight race: A new poll shows Obama leading Republican rival Mitt Romney, 49 percent to 43 percent, in a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week. Among voters in 12 battleground states, Obama led 49 to 41.

Despite the surveys, Urban League leaders have suggested that Obama may have a tougher time winning at least three battleground states in November if black voter turnout does not reach the record numbers of 2008. A similar slide would also make it difficult for Obama to win in Virginia and Ohio too, Urban League officials said.

“We wanted to point out that turnout makes a difference and African-American turnout makes a difference,” Marc Morial, president of The National Urban League, said in a statement.

But heavy black voter turnout isn’t the only concern within the Obama campaign. Obama also needs money: The Romney financial blitz prompted Obama to write a letter to donors warning supporters that he could trail Romney by historic proportions. Romney has raised more money than Obama two months in a row.

“I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his reelection campaign, if things continue as they have so far,” Obama wrote.

So here’s the problem: the black unemployment rate remains at an unacceptable 14.4 percent, which means many of the 23 million Americans who are out of work are black.

Several black Democrats who donated to Obama’s campaign in 2008 tell me they won’t be able to contribute this time around. And these people are not alone. I suspect the campaign could see a drop in donations among African-Americans simply because so many black folks are unemployed.

Still, the Urban League was a good place for Obama to take his campaign message because, overall, the Urban League attracts corporate executives and upwardly mobile African-Americans, many of whom are employed.

Obama’s speech to the Urban League comes as the Urban Institute’s Unemployment and Recovery report shows how badly black Americans are hurting.

“For black workers, it’s a one-two punch to their economic security: blacks are not only disproportionately more likely than whites or Hispanics to experience long-term unemployment, they are less likely than whites to benefit from unemployment insurance,” according to the Urban Institute report.

The report said that African-Americans, 11.6 percent of the labor force in February, were 22.9 percent of those unemployed for more than six months.

Three months before the November election, Obama’s challenge is to fire up his base and try to recapture that historic enthusiasm from the 2008 campaign.

“We still have much more work to do,” Obama told the Urban League. “There’s still too many out of work, too many homes underwater, too many Americans struggling to stay afloat…I still believe in you.  And if you still believe in me, I ask you to stand with me, march with me, fight with me.”

This was Obama’s rallying call to black America: the president is counting on millions of black folks to march to the polls in 103 days so Obama does not go down in history as a one-term commander-in-chief.

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9 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Obama Making Blacks a Priority

  1. Chris40 on said:

    “Most Black folks are starting to see the light with Obama.”

    Well, Just like that old GZA/Method Man song “Shadowboxin.” Meth said, “My third eye see it coming, before ti happen” I knew Obama was gon be a skunk to Black folks early on. I guess the Black president kick wore off!!!!

  2. Chris40 on said:

    Well, the way I look at it neither Obama or Romney not gon look out for us anyway cuz it’s Black folks fault!!!! We ain’t unified, we don’t have Black agenda, our so called Black issues are too general, not specific toward Blacks themselves. So these candidates (Black ones too) know Blacks don’t have a plan for an election and take advantage of us by getting us to vote for them but they don’t give anything in return (Like you mention the White folks in your post) I feel my vote don’t mean nothing so I won’t choose for the lesser of the two evils, I know I’m screwed anyway and I’m prepared like 2008!!!!

  3. Chris40 on said:

    I’ve been wondering myself, what is the Black agenda for the elections? We straight up need unity and a Black agenda to address SPECIFIC Black issues. The Black National Treasury sounds good.

  4. cm20 on said:

    Our black so called leaders and the educated black scholars are inexcusable and disgraceful.What is the black agenda or do they think we even need one. We need a plan and a focus with a definite destination,formed and thought out by our so called leaders and black scholars. This government won’t help us 1960 gonna fix inner city schools 1970 gonna fix inner city schools 1980 gonna fix inner city schools 1990 gonna fix inner city schools 2000 gonna fix inner city schools 2012 gonna fix inner city schools. How much longer are we gonna fall for this joke. Some black people say its the family brake down, well how about sending educated brothers into the cities on a national level to go house to house if need be to lend a hand of help to some young brothers paid for by a Black National Treasury some kind of national agenda I believe the kids will follow. They just feel no hope. Where are our leaders what is the plan.
    What is it that will make a race of people come together for the benefit of themselves.
    A.The unemployment rate White 7% Black 14%
    B.The dropout rate and the inner city school situation.
    C.The Republican Party and state vote cheating.
    D.The Tea Party
    E.A President that won’t come talk to the N.A.A.C.P for fear of what white people will think
    F.H.I.V., Heart disease, High Blood Pressure, Black lead
    G.Incarceration, Black lead
    H.Congress & The House and the majority vote
    I. The supreme Court and Citizens United
    Frederick Douglass said:”A race of people can’t be truly free when their freedom and economic stability is based on the thoughts, actions,and feelings of another race”
    Time to lose the fear: A BLACK NATIONAL TREASURY I have five dollars a week out of my check for that.We can fix our own schools, give bids to black construction companies something they have problems getting to build and remodel what we need. We also can buy America she’s for sale in the form of land. Ya its about that time our we should all be ashamed to leave generations of black kids still having to ask the white man for work.
    As long as I have a job its all good seems to be blacks attitude. Assimilation into a culture that is only concerned with its own survival. WAKE UP. Whats our agenda

  5. jimmyg on said:

    They keep telling us that this president may feel our pain soon.The last hired and the first fired.Is this the main reason Obama is making blacks a priority now? It looks as if white folks have lost their enthusiasm for this president despite the fact
    He has played up to them, compromised with them,given in to them.So what does he get in return?.Nothing.We’re still left with that choice in November folks.
    Do we choose Mr Greedy or do we continue with this president with the hope that
    Things will get better for us?.I will choose This president because we know plantation owners never cared for folks like us.They see us as cursed by God.

  6. DUKODY1 on said:

    Well too bad Mitch McConnell’s Republican party member Dr. king is not here. If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was here, the Blacks would have a CHAMPION to speak out on Obama’s FAILURES to Black America. He would not be afraid to be once again, like may times before, be called “Uncle Tom” by scared Shameful Black leaders. DR. King was a leader, and it is disrespectful and shameful to speak of Dr. King and weak Obama in the same text. Dr. King died protected and fighting for Negroes when time were disastrous for Negroes. Obama never entered a Black person home a a child. Again folks, Obama was not raised Black, He was raised by top of the line racist grandparents into his adulthood. Not just as a child, but as a teenager and an adult. Dr. King would have never Failed Black Americans.

  7. DUKODY1 on said:

    Most Black folks are starting to see the light with Obama. What does this so-called FBPOTUS want from Black folks. Obama will never be able to turn this weakest ever economy around. These businesses are not hiring with Obama in office. In Washington, the repubs and the Dems in the Senate and the Congress don’t respect Obama. That is why nothing is getting done, they don’t respect him because he is incompetent. His own political party behind closed doors talks about him. White folks are seeing the Failure and the desperation in his administration. All his close buddies out of Chicago has left DC. Axelrod, Gibbs, Rahm, Love, all gone. Michelle pleads with him to turn to Black folks, you know the one’s that have your back. The one’s that will never give up on you although you never had their interest in mind. WAKE UP BLACK FOLKS. It’s a shame that when Black Americans have gone through so much in years past, has had their hopes FAILED by their so-called FBPOTUS. It’s a shame for the so-called current Black leaders to turn their backs on their own people for the sake of skin color. Afraid of what the White man will think if they challenge Obama. Well, if that is the case, then maybe a White man should be in the office. Who Represents Black America? Shameful. Cowards. WAKE UP BLACK FOLKS. The Time is NOW. 8 years of Bush and 4 years of incompetent Obama means to much wasted time and Blacks will never recover. Think about yourself and your kids future. Forget political Obama. He sure Forgot about You.

  8. navi12 on said:

    Between the rescue of the auto industry and the healthcare plan, it would have behooved those on President Obama’s staff or cabinet to focus their man on putting blacks somewhere on his priority list. Now the preception will be that the President is now trying to play catch up. He is still popular among black population/minorities but walking on egg shells trying not to antagonize the conservatives or right wing has been ineffective. Republican senator Mitch McConnell said they(Republicans) are out to make him(Obama) a one-term president. Obama has got to come out punching now before he gets a political t.k.o. in November. Dr. King said it well “Now’s the time”.

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