Video: President Obama’s Weekly Address

Published by Tanu Henry on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 8:23 am.

In his weekly address this past weekend, President Obama honored our men and women in uniform.


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Rand Paul No Fan of the Civil Rights Act

Published by Pamela Gentry on Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

May 20, 2010Rand Paul, the first candidate to win a primary election as a member of the Tea Party as a Republican and now vying for a Kentucky senate seat has shocking views on the Civil Rights Act and other anti-discrimination legislation. 

While he said he won’t call for their repeal of these laws – he thinks the government went too far  with civil rights legislation, fair housing legislation and setting a minimum wage. 

Here’s how he defended his position on ABC’s Good Morning America.

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Tuesday Night Primary Results Mixed

Published by Pamela Gentry on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 12:39 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

May 19, 2010 – The first three Senate races under the microscope resulted with a win, a loss and a tie.  Political pundits and prognosticators will analysis each race but may find it hard to find only one reason for a candidate’s success or failure.   

The biggest winner Tuesday was first-time political candidate Rand Paul who won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky.  Activist and member of the Tea Party, Paul defeated his opponent, Secretary of State Trey Grayson. 

The biggest looser of the night was five-term Pennsylvania Sen. Arlan Specter. Specter on the ballot for the first time in his 30 year career as a Democrat was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) in a race that dominated the national spotlight in recent weeks.

And the tie goes to two Democrats in Arkansas who will face-off again June 8.  Incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln wasn’t able to win the majority of the votes in the primary so she and her opponent Lt. Gov. Bill Halter will now spend the next three weeks campaigning in hopes of swaying enough votes to seal the nomination.

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Black Vote in Pennsylvania a Decider?

Published by Pamela Gentry on Monday, May 17, 2010 at 11:56 pm.

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May 17, 2010 – The African-American vote could be the decider in one the most closely watched primary races this political season.

Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, a former Republican will face off against Rep. Joe Sestak (D) for the senate seat in Tuesday primary.  Both candidates used the final week of campaigning to reach out to Black voters.

Sestak made a brief stop at Mount Ephraim Baptist Church where he waited patiently to make remarks to the congregation following the sermon.  Sestak highlighted his Clinton connection and his military career and promised to work for issues important to the Black community.

The congregation was polite and gracious to Sestak but not nearly as welcoming as they had been an hour earlier for Specter.  Specter greeted worshipers and received a standing ovation.  He also made the “ask” for the Black vote, touting his seniority in the nation’s capital and endorsements from President Barack Obama and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia.

Black voter turnout could be just what each of these candidates needs to make a difference.  My guess is the candidate who is able to deliver the best turnout among Black voters on Tuesday will win the primary by at least three percentage points.  

Let’s see if African-American voters make their way to the polls on Tuesday and exercise their power

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“Let’s Move”: Against Childhood Obesity

Published by Tanu Henry on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Anaylst

May 11, 2010 – First Lady Michelle Obama stepped up her plan for curbing childhood obesity Tuesday when she released an action plan with more than 70 recommendations to help curb the troubling trend.

The report on “Let’s Move” prepared by a task forced pulled together earlier this year defines the problem and offers  recommendations toward reaching the goal of lowering  obesity rates among young folks to just five percent by 2030. 

If successful that rate would mirror the rate for children prior to the 1970’s when trends began inching upward. 

Here is a summery of the report’s outlined recommendations. 

• Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; adherence to limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.

• Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help parents make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.

• Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall health of the school environment.

• Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.

• Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.

Will you work with children in your family following the above recommendations? 

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Obama Tells Hampton Grads: “Education Can Fortity You”

Published by Pamela Gentry on Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 11:53 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

May 10, 2010 – President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to 2,000 graduates and their families during the 140th graduation ceremony at Hampton University on Sunday.

The president told the class of 2010, “This is a period of breathtaking change” in history and those who are well educated will be able to shape change and adapt to meet the test of their lifetime.

“First and foremost, your education can fortify you against the uncertainties of a 21st century economy,” Obama told the graduates.  

More than 12,000 folks filled the stadium to witness 1,072 graduates receiving their undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. 

“Jobs today often require at least a bachelor’s degree, and that degree is even more important in tough times like these.  In fact, the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is over twice as high as for folks with a college degree or more,” Obama pointed out.

He also addressed the educational disparities for African American.  “By any number of different yardsticks, African Americans are being outperformed by their White classmates, as are Hispanic Americans,” Obama said.

The same is true when income is a factor, pointing out students from more affluent areas are outperforming students in poorer rural or urban communities regardless of race.  
 
“Globally, it’s not even close,” he said. “In 8th grade science and math, for example, American students are ranked about 10th overall compared to top-performing countries.  But African Americans are ranked behind more than 20 nations, lower than nearly every other developed country.”

“So all of us have a responsibility, as Americans, to change this; to offer every single child in this country an education that will make them competitive in our knowledge economy.  That is our obligation as a nation,” Obama told the crowd.

 
Hampton University’s enrollment is 5,400 and a couple of alum working at the White House accompanied the president to the commencement including; Danielle Crutchfield, director of scheduling, Dana Lewis, from the first lady’s office and Rashad Drakeford from the U.S. Department of Energy. .

After the speech the president was give a Hampton University jacket with his name and title and a seedling from the Emancipation Oak – a national historic landmark on the campus.
 
The president was also awarded an honorary doctor of laws. He joked, “This is much less expensive than my last law degree.”

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Nigerian President Dies After Long Illness

Published by Pamela Gentry on Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:39 am.

umaru-yaraduaMay 6, 2010 – The Nigerian Television Authority interrupted programing on Wednesday to announce the death of its commander-in-chief, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Yar’Adua, 58 years-old died from a heart condition and will be buried on Thursday.  The country will now begin seven days of national mourning and Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan who assumed the presidential duties in February will be sworn in.

During Yar’Adua’s tenure he was ill frequently and a presidential spokesman said at the time of his death he was being treated for acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining around the heart.

 Born in the northern Katsina, where he was elected as governor, Yar’Ardu was married with nine children.  He earned a degree in chemistry before entering politics and after serving as governor was elected in 2007 as president.  

In a statement released by The White House President Obama said, “We are saddened by the news of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua’s passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Yar’Adua family and the people of Nigeria as they mourn his loss.”

Nigeria is the largest country on the continent and home to 150 million people.  During Yar’Adua’s presidency he tackled a list of reforms including corruption, reforming inadequate power sector and working to create a free transparent electoral system. 
 
President Obama praised Yar’Adua work to promote peace and stability in his administration.  “He was committed to creating lasting peace and prosperity within Nigeria’s own borders, and continuing that work will be an important part of honoring his legacy,” Obama said.

It’s unclear how Yar’Adua death will impact future reforms he promoted but Obama was optimist and called to continue a supportive relationship with the U.S.

“The Nigerian people and government should know that in this time of national mourning they have a friend and enduring partner in the United States and that together we will continue to work to address the common challenges we face,” Obama said.

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President Kicks-Off Commencement Season at Hampton University

Published by Pamela Gentry on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 12:38 am.

President and Michelle Obama Easter Sunday_09

May 5, 2010 –This weekend President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will kick off the commencement season with addresses at two Black universities.  Saturday, May 8, the first lady will travel to Pine Bluff to speak the graduating class at the University of Arkansas. The following day the president  will deliver the commencent address at Hampton University.

 This year 11 Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) will hear commencement addresses from some of the highest ranking members of the Obama administration. 

Colleges and universities usually book commencement speakers early to insure good picks that  generate buzz and will  be of interest to faculty and staff.  

Mission accomplished.  

The White House didn’t have a great showing at HBCU’s in 2009 because most schools booked commencement speakers or had plans in the works before Obama won the presidency.   Who knew?

But judging from this list of political powerhouses heading to HBCUs in 2010, the request went out early and the administration responded in full force.

So if you’re planning to attend a graduation at any of the following HBCUs this spring, here’s who’s on tap to deliver the keynote;

•         John Wilson, Executive Director, White House Initiative on HBCUs -  Wilberforce University,  Harris-Stowe     State    University and Wiley College

•         Secretary Arne Duncan,  U.S. Department of Education – Xavier University

•         NASA Administrator Charles Bolden – Huston-Tillotson University

•         White House Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes – Virginia Union University

•         Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President – Morgan State University

•         Secretary Robert Gates, U.S. Department of Defense – Morehouse College

•       U.S.  Ambassador Susan Rice, United Nations – Spelman College   

 

Other than the president, who on the list would you select to speak at your graduation? 

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Black Celebs Headline White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Published by Pamela Gentry on Monday, May 3, 2010 at 1:56 am.

May 2, 2010 – At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday, there was gridlock on the red carpet with the number of high-profile Hollywood celebrities in the nation’s capital.  Could this turnout be another impact of  the “Obama effect”? 

WHCA_Brunch__1

Saturday was a star-studded day for folks inside the beltway.  For me, it began at the annual White House Correspondents’ Garden Brunch hosted at the home of veteran news producer Tammy Haddad and Ted Greenberg.  Other sponsors for the event included Hilary Rosen, David Adler, Jim Courtovictch, Alex Castellanos, BET’s Debra Lee, Steve McMahon and Franco Nuschese. 

Talk show host Wendy Willams and Pamela Gentry at the White House Correspendents Brunch Saturday May 1. 2010.

Talk show host Wendy Willams and Pamela Gentry at the White House Correspendents Brunch Saturday May 1. 2010.

The summer-like temps made it difficult to stay cool throughout the day, but television and film stars somehow managed to keep cool and look fabulous.  I can’t help but mention it appears the number of celebrities invited or seeking to attend this “political” event hit an all-time high.  Several of those I spoke with were attending for the first time and attributed their interest in coming to Washington to getting a chance to see the president.   

Obama’s presidency appears to be a calling card and few invites are turned down by “A-listers.”  Tickets for the dinner are hard to come by and the waiting list appeared to be growing at an alarming rate.  It could just be my perception, but it looked like the number of celebs skyrocketed. 

The president was the dinner’s headliner and delivered a witty and amusing monologue for the more than 2,500 guests at the Washington Hilton Hotel.  Jay Leno delivered an amusing routine as the night’s entertainment and managed to poke fun at the president and Washington politics with ease. 

 I was able to meet and speak with a number of the Hollywood folks at the garden brunch where the crowd of 300 was much smaller and a little easier to navigate.   The charitable event’s honorary chair, Susan Axelrod, wife of Obama adviser David Axelrod, gave brief remarks and thanked everyone for their support.    The event raised money for the fight against epilepsy and the Mother’s Day Every Day Campaign, dedicated to eliminating women dying during child birth.

Pamela Gentry and actor Tracy Morgan at the White House Correspondents Dinner reception.

Pamela Gentry and actor Tracy Morgan at the White House Correspondents Dinner reception.

Others in town for the dinner included: Queen Latifah, Morgan Freeman, Common, Chris Tucker, Gayle King and Gabourey Sidibe.

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A Tribute to Dorothy Height

Published by Pamela Gentry on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 11:46 pm.
Height_Funeral_Obama

Apirl 30, 2010 — The funeral for Dorothy Height was more like a family reunion than a funeral. It was great seeing folks gathered to honor Height so excited she had been a part of their life.   The number of political leaders and activists under one roof was in itself a tribute to Height.   I arrived at the Washington National Cathedral in time to comfortably make it to my seat and observe the arrival of political powerhouses, friends family and well-wishers filling the  sanctuary. 

I sat a few rows behind members of the Congressional Black Caucus and could see the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., just across the aisle;  I was about 20 rows from the front, seated two rows behind political strategist Donna Brazile and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.    

The church filled quickly with women donning hats with plums and feathers in honor of one of Height’s favorite fashion accessories.   Below are a few pictures I was able to snap  following the service.    

 

Former adviser to President Bill Clinton Vernon Jordon and his wife Ann Dibble Jordon.
Former adviser to President Bill Clinton Vernon Jordon and his wife Ann Dibble Jordon.

Following is the transcript of President Obama’s remarks on Thursday at the funeral service for civil rights leader Dorothy Height: 

THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Let me begin by saying a word to Dr. Dorothy Height’s sister, Ms. Aldridge. To some, she was a mentor. To all, she was a friend. But to you, she was family, and my family offers yours our sympathy for your loss.

We are gathered here today to celebrate the life, and mourn the passing, of Dr. Dorothy Height. It is fitting that we do so here, in our National Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Here, in a place of great honor. Here, in the House of God. Surrounded by the love of family and of friends. The love in this sanctuary is a testament to a life lived righteously; a life that lifted other lives; a life that changed this country for the better over the course of nearly one century here on Earth.

Michelle and I didn’t know Dr. Height as well, or as long, as many of you. We were reminded during a previous moment in the service, when you have a nephew who’s 88 — (laughter) — you’ve lived a full life. (Applause.)

But we did come to know her in the early days of my campaign. And we came to love her, as so many loved her. We came to love her stories. And we loved her smile. And we loved those hats — (laughter) — that she wore like a crown — regal. In the White House, she was a regular. She came by not once, not twice — 21 times she stopped by the White House. (Laughter and applause.) Took part in our discussions around health care reform in her final months.

Civil rights activist Dick Gregory.

Civil rights activist Dick Gregory.

Last February, I was scheduled to see her and other civil rights leaders to discuss the pressing problems of unemployment — Reverend Sharpton, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Marc Morial of the National Urban League. Then we discovered that Washington was about to be blanketed by the worst blizzard in record — two feet of snow.

So I suggested to one of my aides, we should call Dr. Height and say we’re happy to reschedule the meeting. Certainly if the others come, she should not feel obliged. True to form, Dr. Height insisted on coming, despite the blizzard, never mind that she was in a wheelchair. She was not about to let just a bunch of men — (laughter) — in this meeting. (Applause.) It was only when the car literally could not get to her driveway that she reluctantly decided to stay home. But she still sent a message — (laughter) — about what needed to be done.

And I tell that story partly because it brings a smile to my face, but also because it captures the quiet, dogged, dignified persistence that all of us who loved Dr. Height came to know so well — an attribute that we understand she learned early on.

Born in the capital of the old Confederacy, brought north by her parents as part of that great migration, Dr. Height was raised in another age, in a different America, beyond the experience of many. It’s hard to imagine, I think, life in the first decades of that last century when the elderly woman that we knew was only a girl. Jim Crow ruled the South. The Klan was on the rise — a powerful political force. Lynching was all too often the penalty for the offense of black skin. Slaves had been freed within living memory, but too often, their children, their grandchildren remained captive, because they were denied justice and denied equality, denied opportunity, denied a chance to pursue their dreams.

The progress that followed — progress that so many of you helped to achieve, progress that ultimately made it possible for Michelle and me to be here as President and First Lady — that progress came slowly. (Applause.)

Donna Brazile Democratic political strategist and feminist activist Gloria Steinem after the service.

Donna Brazile Democratic political strategist and feminist activist Gloria Steinem after the service.

Progress came from the collective effort of multiple generations of Americans. From preachers and lawyers, and thinkers and doers, men and women like Dr. Height, who took it upon themselves — often at great risk — to change this country for the better. From men like W.E.B Du Bois and A. Philip Randolph; women like Mary McLeod Bethune and Betty Friedan — they’re Americans whose names we know. They are leaders whose legacies we teach. They are giants who fill our history books. Well, Dr. Dorothy Height deserves a place in this pantheon. She, too, deserves a place in our history books. (Applause.) She, too, deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.

Look at her body of work. Desegregating the YWCA. Laying the groundwork for integration on Wednesdays in Mississippi. Lending pigs to poor farmers as a sustainable source of income. Strategizing with civil rights leaders, holding her own, the only woman in the room, Queen Esther to this Moses Generation — even as she led the National Council of Negro Women with vision and energy — (applause) — with vision and energy, vision and class.

But we remember her not solely for all she did during the civil rights movement. We remember her for all she did over a lifetime, behind the scenes, to broaden the movement’s reach. To shine a light on stable families and tight-knit communities. To make us see the drive for civil rights and women’s rights not as a separate struggle, but as part of a larger movement to secure the rights of all humanity, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity.

It’s an unambiguous record of righteous work, worthy of remembrance, worthy of recognition. And yet, one of the ironies is, is that year after year, decade in, decade out, Dr. Height went about her work quietly, without fanfare, without self-promotion. She never cared about who got the credit. She didn’t need to see her picture in the papers. She understood that the movement gathered strength from the bottom up, those unheralded men and women who don’t always make it into the history books but who steadily insisted on their dignity, on their manhood and womanhood. (Applause.) She wasn’t interested in credit. What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice. The cause of equality. The cause of opportunity. Freedom’s cause.

And that willingness to subsume herself, that humility and that grace, is why we honor Dr. Dorothy Height. As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” I don’t think the author of the Gospel would mind me rephrasing: “whoever humbles herself will be exalted.” (Applause.)

One of my favorite moments with Dr. Height — this was just a few months ago — we had decided to put up the Emancipation Proclamation in the Oval Office, and we invited some elders to share reflections of the movement. And she came and it was a inter-generational event, so we had young children there, as well as elders, and the elders were asked to share stories. And she talked about attending a dinner in the 1940s at the home of Dr. Benjamin Mays, then president of Morehouse College. And seated at the table that evening was a 15-year-old student, “a gifted child,” as she described him, filled with a sense of purpose, who was trying to decide whether to enter medicine, or law, or the ministry.

And many years later, after that gifted child had become a gifted preacher — I’m sure he had been told to be on his best behavior — after he led a bus boycott in Montgomery, and inspired a nation with his dreams, he delivered a sermon on what he called “the drum major instinct” — a sermon that said we all have the desire to be first, we all want to be at the front of the line.

Former Sec. Department of Transportation Rodney Slater and his wife Cassandra.

Former Sec. Department of Transportation Rodney Slater and his wife Cassandra.

The great test of a life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, is to harness that instinct; to redirect it towards advancing the greater good; toward changing a community and a country for the better; toward doing the Lord’s work.

I sometimes think Dr. King must have had Dorothy Height in mind when he gave that speech. For Dorothy Height met the test. Dorothy Height embodied that instinct. Dorothy Height was a drum major for justice. A drum major for equality. A drum major for freedom. A drum major for service. And the lesson she would want us to leave with today — a lesson she lived out each and every day — is that we can all be first in service. We can all be drum majors for a righteous cause. So let us live out that lesson. Let us honor her life by changing this country for the better as long as we are blessed to live. May God bless Dr. Dorothy Height and the union that she made more perfect.

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