A recent White House conference on African American policy trumpeted the Obama administration’s achievement in promoting programs beneficial to the black community. Over 150 leaders are reported to have attended the November 9th meet.
The daylong event was held at the Executive Office Building and was keynoted by White House advisor Valerie Jarrett. In a blog post touting the administration’s achievement Jarret said, “We have made healthcare more accessible and more affordable. We have made our schools better equipped to prepare our children for the 21st-centufry, and made college more affordable.”
Highlighting economic achievements she continued, ” We have made it easier for small and minority-owned businesses to compete for federal contracts. We have invested in cities, and attacked the cycle of poverty that traps too many African American young people.”
Unemployment in the black community is over 16 percent, a problem the president addressed in a surprise appearance. Obama said, “The unemployment rate in the African American community has always historically been higher than the norm. And since the unemployment rate generally is high right now, it is way too high when it comes to the African American community.”
Focusing on the jobs issue the president said, “as all of you know, we’ve got a sense of urgency right now-the fierce urgency of now-when it comes to putting people back to work. And many of you have been engaged in pushing Congress to pass the American Jobs Act. This is the only plan that-out there-that independent economists have said would put people to work right now.”
The president’s jobs bill is currently stalled in Congress blocked by right wing Republican opposition.
The White House conference is the first of its kind addressing the unique problem of black Americans. Previous Oval Office efforts addressed issues facing Native Americans, Latinos and Asians.
The Obama administration has been under pressure from some for not being forthright enough in addressing the issues of poverty and the African American poor in particular. Others however are quick to point out the recession, the deep problems the president inherited from the Bush administration, and ongoing GOP obstruction of the president’s agenda.
Rev Jesse Jackson recently called for a White House Commission on poverty.
The president, who enjoys an 86 percent approval rating among African Americans called for patience and unity in order to overcome the crisis. “”Our parents have been through tougher times; our grandparents have been through tougher times,” Obama said. “We know tough times. And what we also know, though, is that if we are persistent, if we are unified, and we remain hopeful, then we’ll get through these tough times and better days lie ahead.”
A special report reviewing the Administration’s record on helping the black community was prepared for the event. It can be found here.