Friday, July 17, 2009

Obama NAACP Speech

The President gave a speech to the NAACP yesterday in honor of that organization's 100th Anniversary. I continue to wonder whether the NAACP is relevant in today's world but I'll leave that for a later post. I want to briefly consider the President's speech.

Overall, the President gave a pretty masterful speech. He covered the past history of the NAACP. He obligatorily traced his rise to the work of that organization. He talked about structural racism and what his government is doing to minimize it's impact. He reinterpreted the NAACP's mission to include all Americans of all races, creeds, and sexual orientations. He spent quite a bit of time on personal responsibility. And he provided a basis for hope for a better future. He was a man at home in his element.
The question in my mind is whether speeches from politicians on how people of color need to do better are effective motivators. When the president states that a child's destiny is in her hands, I'm skeptical. It depends on who that child is. If that child is Sasha and Malia, sure. But if that child is born to a crack-addicted mother and an absentee father, i'm less sure. Of course, that does not mean that individuals cannot overcome their circumstances, we do so all of the time. But the probability that we can overcome our circumstances is directly related to the severity of those circumstances. But more to the point, I don't think a speech by a politician will do much help. Programs by a politician, more likely, a speech, I'm doubtful.