President Obama’s 100th birthday wish for NAACP

Indeed, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is an institution. And, rightfully so, the NAACP has been at the forefront for the past century and will continue into the next by meeting its mission to “Ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”

In celebratory fashion, the NAACP had a well-fitting person to culminate its centennial convention, the first African-American President of the United States, President Barack Obama. To the NAACP: Happy 100th Birthday!

As with most birthdays, we make wishes, usually silent and lofty, but nonetheless we make them. President Obama was not the “birthday boy” at this celebration. However, he was the center of attention, and he made his wish a very public one. President Obama touted many of his upcoming policies from health care to energy reform that would assist in forming a more perfect union. That perfect union will only become closer to perfect with the President’s wish for realizing a dream of equality in education.

When it comes to improving education, AHF has always taken a “no excuses” approach. In the future, we plan to develop more programs that address the challenges that face the state educational system.

President Obama said, “The United States will fall behind in the world unless we do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters.” He continued on by saying, “Yet, more than a half of century after Brown V. Board of Education, the dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across this country.”

I, too, wish like the President. I wish for equal education, without prejudice and disparities in graduation rates. According to data from Voices for Alabama’s Children, the state graduation rate for 2007 was 64.9%. This is lower than the national average, which is reported to be 70%. To be honest, both numbers are not great. Certainly, the numbers decline if we were to focus just on the African American ANDHispanic graduation rates.

President Obama addressed his community by pushing an agenda of personal responsibility. He addressed parents with a “no excuses” approach about the value placed on education. Some may agree or disagree with him on the issue of employing personal responsibility as a method for improving education. However, I do agree with him on this: “The state of our schools is not an African-American problem; it’s an American problem.”

We all must do our part to see that the dream deferred, now wished for will ultimately come to fruition. Here at the Alabama Humanities Foundation, our mission, although not one of advocating a specific policy, does work to incorporate logic through the humanities. We aim “to create and foster opportunities to explore human values and meanings through the humanities.” Thus, we hope our programming creates a more equal environment here in Alabama.

More specifically, through our SUPER Teacher Institutes, we are working very hard to make sure that those that come through our programs post the Brown v. Board decision are well-equipped to teach all students.

Additionally, our newest program, unveiled in our 35th anniversary year, SUPER Emerging Scholars, has already in this pilot year begun working with African-American high-school students from rural and urban communities in the state.

President Obama is correct in saying “our kids can’t all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne.” Case in point, the 15 students in our SES program aim to take a different route. Some have set their sights on becoming the next vetenarian, or the next Ambassador to a foreign country. I believe they will.

When it comes to improving education, AHF has always taken a “no excuses” approach. In the future, we plan to develop more programs that address the challenges that face the state educational system.

President Obama is right about it not just being the government’s role; it is America’s role. Corporations, organizations, nonprofits, communities, families and individuals should be deeply concerned about education for everyone so that we can see the dream wished for become a reality.

In closing, I’ll quote President Obama one last time. “And if Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg, and Newt Gingrich can agree that we need to solve it [Eeducation], then all of us can agree on that.”


Written by: Mike C.