NEW ORLEANS — President Barack Obama joins National Urban League Presideent Marc Morial at the organization’s national convention in New Orleans on July 27. The President used the occasion to speak out against assault weapons like the one used in the recent Colorado movie theatre mass murders. He also announced an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
By JULIE PACE
NEW ORLEANS _ In one of his most expansive responses yet to gun crime, President Barack Obama on Wednesday, June 29, embraced some degree of control on the sale of weapons but said he would also seek a national consensus on combating violence. He said responsibility for curtailing bloodshed also rests with parents, neighbors and teachers to ensure that young people ”do not have that void inside them.”
Speaking just six days after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead, Obama pledged to work with lawmakers of both parties to stop violence, not only the sudden massacres that have bedeviled the nation, but the steady drip of urban crime that has cost many young lives.
”We should leave no stone unturned and recognize that we have no greater mission that keeping our young people safe,” Obama said in a speech to the National Urban League.
Obama called for stepped-up background checks for people who want to purchase guns and restrictions to keep mentally unbalanced individuals from buying weapons. He says those steps ”shouldn’t be controversial, they should be common sense.”
But he also added: ”We must also understand that when a child opens fire on other children, there’s a hole in his heart that no government can fill.”
Obama’s speech represented a bookend to a four-day trip that began in Colorado on Sunday when he visited with survivors of the theater massacre.
For Obama, the address to the National Urban League was a necessary overture to a voting bloc that overwhelmingly backs him but that has sustained much of the brunt of the economic downturn.
In his speech Obama promoted his economic and health care policies, tailoring what has become a standard campaign speech to his African-American audience. He drew attention to initiatives that have helped Americans in general, and African-Americans in particular.
But, as he did during his 2008 campaign, he also pressed personal responsibility.
He said young Americans are competing against kids in Beijing and Bangalore. ”You know, they’re not hanging out … they’re not playing video games, they’re not watching ‘Real Housewives,”’ he said. ”I’m just saying. It’s a two-way street. You’ve got to earn success.”
Ahead of Obama’s remarks, the Urban League played a video showing photos of famous African-Americans that culminated with images of the president and his family the night of the 2008 election. The crowd of several thousand responded with thunderous applause that was sustained as Obama walked on stage and peppered with chants of ”four more years.”
Obama spoke on the same day that the Senate gave him a political victory by passing an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for households with less than $250,000 in earnings. The president has made retaining current tax rates for middle-class taxpayers a central piece of his economic policy while rejecting Republican efforts to extend the current tax rates for all. Under Obama’s plan, taxes for wealthier Americans would rise. The Senate measure, however, was expected to go no further because of the Republican-dominated House.
President Obama also raised campaign money at two separate stops in New Orleans: an intimate 20-person event at the cost of $25,000 per person, and a larger event at the House of Blues for 400 people, with tickets starting at $250.
Obama raised at least $6 million at events this week in California, Oregon and Washington. The president started the trip Sunday with a stop in Colorado to meet with survivors and families of the victims of last week’s movie theater massacre.
Obama announced that he would sign an executive order on Thursday of this week that creates a new office to bolster the education of African-American students. The White House says the office will coordinate the work of communities and federal agencies to ensure that these youngsters are better prepared for high school, college and career.