Black Americans should expect more from President Barack Obama in his second term, according to a panel of political experts.
The prominent topic of the panel discussion Friday at Howard University was President Obama’s relationship with the Black American community and his Black American political agenda.
The panel discussion, “Looking Back, Looking Ahead: The Legacy of President Barack Obama,” is one of several events hosted by Howard University during Inauguration 2013.
Wilmer Leon, a political scientist and radio talk show host, moderated the panel and opened the discussion acknowledging that the President’s second inauguration coincides with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
“Some see Obama as a manifestation of Martin Luther King’s dream,” Leon said. “The dream can not be fulfilled when President Obama has to run a deracialized campaign to make the masses comfortable. As we look back on the past four years and forward on the next four years, do not confuse a down payment with a balance paid in full.
“African Americans gave 95 percent support to Obama, but none of the issues African Americans face were touched on during the presidential campaign,” Leon said.
In the 2012 general election, about 94 percent of blacks who voted cast a ballot for President Obama. In 2008, the percentage was slightly higher. Since President Obama’s reelection, some in the black community have called for a return for their overwhelming support. In December, a group of about 40 prominent blacks met to hash out a strategy to force the President to pay more attention to black America.
The panel at the Howard event included Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), Michael Grant, president of the National Bankers Association, Stefanie Brown James, a member of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration Committee and Dr. Greg Carr, Howard University associate professor and chairman of Africana Studies.
“President Obama is the leader of our country, not the leader of our movement,” Grant said. But “we (African Americans) need to take our agenda to President Obama and hold him accountable for what we need. Not to tear him down, but to respect him and hold him up.”
Grant and the other panelists gave President Obama credit for getting the United States through the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression.
“President Obama is consequential because he got the country through the most detrimental situation the country has been in since Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Mayor Reed said.
Toward the end of the program, audience members posed questions to the panelists.
One question came from Rose Porter, a health management major at Howard. After hearing Mayor Reed say that the younger generation hasn’t faced the kinds of hurdles faced by those who came before them and should stop complaining, Porter asked how the panelists would motivate youth to get where they need to be.
James, the 2013 Inaugural Committee member, stepped forward to answer.
“Sometimes it is okay to not have it together,” James said, “It can be a motivating piece to see that you need to move forward.”
When faced with the question of why minorities are not working together toward a common goal, the panelists explained that this collaboration is occurring, but there is nothing wrong with an interest group having its own agenda.
“Until we (African Americans) can be ourselves in public, we can never be free,” Carr said. “We have to be ourselves in public first in order to come together. Stop being so scared. If Hilary Clinton becomes president in four years, she will have a more progressive agenda than Obama because she will not be scared to be herself.”