Obama has tough-love message for African-Americans

Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:30pm EDT
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By Steve Holland

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama had a tough-love message for fellow African-Americans on Thursday, urging black parents to push their children to think beyond dreams of being sports stars or rap music performers.

Obama's election as the first African-American president buoyed the black community. At the 100th anniversary celebration of the NAACP, the country's oldest civil rights group, he urged blacks to take greater responsibility for themselves and move away from reliance on government programs.

"We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes -- because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way that we have internalized a sense of limitation; how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves," he said.

Obama told a packed ballroom at a Manhattan hotel that blacks need to recapture the spirit of the civil rights movement of a half century ago to tackle problems that have struck African-Americans disproportionately -- joblessness, spiraling healthcare costs and HIV-AIDS.

"What is required to overcome today's barriers is the same as was needed then -- the same commitment. The same sense of urgency. The same sense of sacrifice," he said.

Obama said parents need to force their children to set aside the video games and get to bed at a reasonable hour, and push them to set their sights beyond such iconic figures as NBA star LeBron James and rap singer Lil Wayne.

Education is the path to a better future, said Obama.

"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," he said.   Continued...

<p>President Barack Obama speaks at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP) 100th anniversary convention in New York City July 16, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</p>