Last night, President Barack Obama spoke at the NAACP's Centennial conference, held at the Midtown Hilton, giving what the NY Times called a "fiery sermon to black America.. warning black parents that they must accept their own responsibilities by 'putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour,' and telling black children that growing up poor is no reason to get bad grades." He added, "It means attending those parent-teacher conferences, reading to our kids, and helping them with their homework...No one has written your destiny for you...Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that. That’s what we have to teach all of our children! No excuses! No excuses!"
Obama emphasized the importance of education (as a national issue, not just an African American one) and pushing kids further:
We have to say to our children, Yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not. But that's not a reason to get bad grades, that's not a reason to cut class, that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school...
It also means pushing our kids to set their sights higher. They might think they've got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can't all aspire to be the next LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court Justice. I want them aspiring to be President of the United States.
You can read the prepared remarks here, but he veered off script; video is after the jump (the "no excuses" part begins around 24:45). The Post reports the speech was "extremely well-received" and NAACP president Benjamin Jealous said, "Bottom line, this has been the most forthright speech on the disparities between people in this country that he's talked about."
Earlier in the day, he attended a rally for NJ Governor Jon Corzine, who is trailing in the gubernatorial polls. Obama said that NJ's issues were "caused by the same small thinking that has plagued our politics for decades...We can put off tough decisions, defer the big challenges. We can just tell the people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. That's not the kind of leader that Jon Corzine is."