Black Conservatives Criticize Obama's March on Washington Speech
Partisan Words Inappropriate for Solemn Occasion, Project 21 Members Say
Washington, D.C. - Black activists with the Project 21 leadership network are critical of President Barack Obama's divisive and political comments made today as part of the 50th anniversary observance of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Approximately 50 years to the minute from when Dr. Martin Luther King began his "I Have a Dream" speech, President Obama stood in the same place as Dr. King to commemorate a solemn yet joyous anniversary. Yet the President seemed more interested in promoting his political agenda than celebrating progress earned through Dr. King's inspiring speech and his legacy, Project 21 members say.
"In the span of five decades, our nation moved from institutional racism to electing a black man to the presidency. My children are taught side-by-side with children of all colors and backgrounds, and my family enjoys boundless opportunities. In my mind, Dr. King's Dream has been realized," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon. "That's why it is so difficult to understand why President Obama would choose to be so divisive on a day when we should all be celebrating. Why use this hallowed occasion to take pot shots at the Supreme Court for protecting our ballots, at laws that seek to protect us from crime and to support programs that break up families and encourage bad behavior? It's not right."
While Obama was not the only speaker, and not the only president, to use the event to push a political agenda, Project 21 members believe it would have been more appropriate for the sitting president to eschew partisanship for the momentous occasion.
"On the surface, President Obama gave homage to our founding documents and appeared to discourage those who seek excuses for their bad behavior. But this speech, peppered with Biblical references, seemed to use all of this as window dressing for his liberal agenda," said Project 21's Stacy Swimp. "He condemned segregated schools of the past and current substandard schools, but the contradiction is that he opposes school choice and promotes union supremacy. The same president who praised triumph over racial animosity contributed to it with his comments earlier this year on the George Zimmerman case."
After appropriately discussing and honoring the spirit and plight of 1963 marchers, Obama veered into a discourse on the "second goal of the March" -- what he called "our great unfinished business" of "material security." In doing so, he played into the class warfare rhetoric common to his campaign speeches. Saying critics offer a "life of lower expectations," those with "courage to change" -- those who would follow his campaign -- recognize a "right to health care," have compassion for homosexuality and oppose those who erect "new barriers" to voting.
"What is astounding to me is the abundance of discouragement and condemnation Obama piled on for this historic and uplifting occasion," added Project 21's Lisa Fritsch. "As a whole, the event was full of woe to the people and grumbling about social and class warfare that has become the norm when black leaders speak. But we are not trapped by the mistakes of history as much as we are trapped by Obama's vision of a present and a definition of 'courage' and freedom that seems to mean a free lunch for all. That's what puts our nation in a moral and economic decline of self-entitlement and victimization. Instead of standing on their shoulders with gratitude, joy and pride, Obama slapped us all in the face with anger and bad news."
"The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington afforded President Obama the perfect opportunity to sum up the stunning racial progress the nation has made since 1963. He failed that test," said Project 21's Joe R. Hicks. "Instead, the President gave a confused, plodding talk that meandered into orthodox left/liberal ideological cul-de-sacs. While briefly touching on obvious changes that have re-shaped the nation's political and social landscape -- something required by the reason for his speech -- the President then proceeded to overshadow these themes by sounding at points like a spokesperson for the disgraced Occupy Wall Street protestors. He descended into left rhetoric about the damage of voter ID laws, injustice in the nation's criminal justice system and the need for a so-called 'liveable wage.' Once again, Obama took the low road -- blaming conservative opponents for his inability to produce policies that would stimulate the economy and grow jobs for black workers and jobs for all Americans. All in all, it was a thoroughly unpresidential speech that missed the opportunity to help reconnect a racially-divided nation."
"President Obama obviously benefited from the past 50 years of racial progress, but he must realize deep down in his soul that Dr. King would likely oppose many of the left-wing policies the Obama Administration promoted over the past five years," said Project 21's Kevin Martin. "While Obama can speak beautiful words about Dr. King's legacy, the truth of the matter is that the black community has seen more regression over Obama's presidency than at probably any time since the March on Washington."
Horace Cooper, co-chairman of Project 21, suggests President Obama lead by example, promoting his own personal family values rather than allowing family structure to disintegrate: "Strong families and educational achievement are the two basic tools necessary for black Americans to realize the vision that Dr. King put forward 50 years ago. This means the solution rests in our hands today, and the President could make his mark in history by leading by example."
Members of the Project 21 black leadership network already completed or are scheduled to participate in several dozen interviews about the March on Washington anniversary, including on syndicated radio such as the Westwood One Radio Network, American Family Radio Network and America's Radio News Network; television such as WUSA-TV (Washington, DC), Fox News Channel and Blaze TV; international media such as Voice of Russia and Arise TV and local radio stations coast-to-coast such as WJR-Detroit, WVON-Chicago, WHO-Des Moines, WPTF-Raleigh, KTKZ-Sacramento and WGSO-New Orleans.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for nearly two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).