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Barack Obama Gives Black Press Interview During Historic Train Tour

The Washington Informer, News Report, Hazel Trice Edney Posted: Jan 24, 2009

Still wearing his dark, cashmere coat after speaking to a Baltimore audience of 40,000 in bone-chilling temperatures during the Amtrak train tour from Philadelphia to Baltimore, President-elect Barack Obama described plans to use his presidential bully pulpit to challenge the Black community to strengthen itself from within. He also pushed public policies to deal with inequities that have long plagued African Americans from without.

In terms of the African American community, one of the things that I want to make sure that everybodys clear about is - to paraphrase JFK Dont ask just what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for yourself.

He was responding to a question about how his administration will address social and economic ills that have historically and disparately plagued Black Americans. He continues, I want fathers to start being part of their childrens lives. I want our children to stop spending so much time watching television and hit the books. There are a lot of things under our control that can make our communities stronger and can open up opportunities for all of us. And I want to make sure that Im using the bully pulpit to send that message loud and clear throughout my presidency.

Nevertheless, Obama, a civil rights lawyer, who made 100 percent on all NAACP Civil Rights Report Cards as a U.S. senator, recognizes that systemic racism and White supremacy have caused the African American jobless rate to remain nearly twice that of the national average.

Because African Americans and Latinos are often the last hired, it also means theyre the first fired, he said. Thats why getting the economy moving for everybody is so important because theyre disproportionately impacted going up and going down.

One way to address the economic woes of Americas general population, while specifically improving the employment rates of Blacks and Hispanics, would be to focus on jobs in urban communities, Obama said. More than three-fourths of African Americans live in inner city or urban communities.

Obama reminded that his economic recovery plan, now before Congress, calls for special training at community colleges to help people obtain new energy or green jobs.

Obama said his administration will maintain an open door to African American organizations and community groups that desire to influence public policy, but who are also willing to make progress through service outside of government.

We want to have an inclusive administration where all voices are heard, he said. My job for all of my team is that theyre constantly reaching out and listening to all voices. And so, were going to have a very aggressive public liaison.

The first African American to be elected president, Obama has risen to leadership during tumultuous racial issues and incidents, including criminal justice inequities that have sparked protests over the past two years, race hate crimes, Black on Black crime, and a string of controversial police shootings in African American communities.

Crime escalation is often the result of economic recession, Obama said. His economic recovery package includes more police on the streets to help deter crime. But, unjust police practices will not go unheeded either, he said.

It is important that police officers receive effective training. And I think that my Justice Department is going to be in a position to work with local and state officials to provide the kinds of training that allows for effective law enforcement, but also fair and just law enforcement.

He credits his faith and a supportive and loving wife and family for keeping him cool as some have described him. Their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, seven, joined him on the train tour, bouncing onto the stage together in Philadelphia.

Theyre handling this transition wonderfully. And Michelle is so steady and so supportive, he said. Faith makes a huge difference; and then just confidence in the American people.

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