President Barack Obama's Black agenda
Ph.D. | 1/19/2011, 5 p.m.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will deliver his second State of the Union address, as called for by the United States Constitution. This will also be his fourth speech to a joint session of Congress.
It is hoped that there will be no more of the egregiously disrespectful conduct exhibited by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, with his "You lie" outburst (a violation for which he received a mere hand slap penalty from the House of Representatives).
However, there has admittedly been a strong reaction from the right to Obama's massive legislative successes of the past two years. This has given rise to the Tea Party phenomenon, and Obama himself acknowledged that he took "a shellacking" during the November 2010 elections in which the GOP took over the House. Many Democrats fear that Obama and the party's hands are tied for the next two years, and that is a real concern. But Democrats have much to applaud already in one of the most productive legislative periods on record.
Will the shellacking be followed by a shackling of Obama's legislative agenda? This leader has impressed with his skill, and it's unlikely that we won't see flashes of those skills in the coming months.
As the first African-American to attain the highest office in the land, President Obama can legitimately claim many accomplishments along the pathway of change in and for America during the 24 months since his inauguration. Troops are steadily being drawn down from the Iraq military adventure without panic or loss of face, as occurred in Vietnam.
The Lillie Ledbetter legislation the president signed has provided the strongest legal basis yet for comparable worth in the workplace for American women.
There are new regulations on credit card companies. There is a relatively strong set of regulations and constraints regarding financial institutions and consumer protection in the U.S. Financial Reform Act. All these measures, the White House staff says, help all of America, including the Black community.
During the 2011 speech, which will probably be great oratory, what can Black Americans expect to hear? And, more importantly, what can they expect in tangible terms from the next two years of Barack Obama's first term?
The most practical answer to both questions regarding our most pragmatic of presidents is very probably more of the same.
That "same" means a thick mesh of third-or-fourth page news-producing decisions that have benefited the Black community in distinctive ways; with one or two headline-crashing exceptions to that rule. That "same" means the president not specifically targeting in public the goals, projects and activities he wants done to satisfy demands of the Black community. The tasks and projects just get done without fanfare or bombast.
For example, with the 2010 Executive Order and the corresponding White House initiative on HBCUs, nearly $100 million became available to HBCUs in the 2011 budget, along with financial access to regular annual federal support for an expanded list of these schools, all not available to them since the Lyndon Johnson era. Few but insiders knew. A second example is the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which appropriated monies to settle the Cobell Indian lawsuit and the Pigford II Black farmers' lawsuit, although this one was publicized a little more widely than other such Obama efforts.