In this week’s address, the President highlighted the problems in our criminal justice system. Our country faces a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. There are 2.2 million people behind bars in America today, compared to 500,000 just 30 years ago. This topic isn’t new – the President has talked about the unfairness of much of the criminal justice system since his time in the Senate. And while we’ve taken steps to address this issue, members of both parties agree that we can do more. Over the next few weeks, the President will travel the country and meet with Americans who are working to fix the criminal justice system, from law enforcement officials working to lower the crime and incarceration rates, to former prisoners who are earning their second chance. And he promised to continue to work with Congress to pass meaningful criminal justice reform that makes the system cost-effective, fairer, and smarter, while enhancing the ability of law enforcement to keep our communities safe.
THE PRESIDENT: “Justice has never been easy to achieve, but it’s always been worth fighting for.”
In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dynamic leadership of the Civil Rights movement and steadfast commitment to achieving racial justice through nonviolent action. King accepted the award on December 10, 1964 in Oslo, Norway on behalf of the Civil Rights movement and pledged the prize money to the movement’s continued development. At the age of thirty-five, King became the the youngest man, and only the second African American, to receive the prestigious award.
(Martin Luther King Jr. held his acceptance speech in the auditorium of the University of Oslo on 10 December 1964.)
Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.[…]
I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
The stage has been set and these are the candidates:
From left to right:
– Jim Webb, former Democratic Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy under Republican president Ronald Reagan
– Bernie Sanders, independent Senator from Vermont
– Hillary Clinton, former Democratic Senator from New York, former Secretary of State under Democratic president Barack Obama.
– Martin O’Malley, former Democratic Governor of Maryland
– Lincoln Chafee, former Republican Senator from Rhode Island, former independent Governor of Rhode Island.
One thing is clear: running against the policies of President Obama is not likely to be a path to success in the Democratic Party primaries. From Pew Polls:
Democrats have remained very loyal to President Barack Obama.
In our September poll, Obama’s overall job rating is 46%, but Democrats are overwhelmingly supportive of the president. Fully 83% of Democrats approve of the way Obama is handling his job, compared with 43% of independents and just 9% of Republicans.
Democratic voters want the next president to continue Obama’s policies.
In our most recent survey, 61% of possible Democratic primary voters said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who offers programs similar to the Obama administration.
In this week’s address, the President spoke to the merits of the high-standards trade agreement reached this past week. The Trans-Pacific Partnership helps level the playing field for American workers and businesses, so we can export more Made-in-America products all over the world, supporting higher-paying American jobs here at home. The President acknowledged that past trade agreements have not always lived up to expectations, but emphasized that this is a good deal, with the strongest commitments on labor and environment of any trade agreement in history. It reflects America’s values and gives our workers the fair shot at success they deserve. The President encouraged everyone to read the agreement, which will be available online well before he signs it, and looked forward to working with lawmakers from both parties as they consider and approve this deal.
Today, in a video message to the “Our Ocean” conference participants in Chile, President Obama will announce that the Administration is taking the next steps to create two new marine sanctuaries – one in the tidal waters of Maryland, and one in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan waters. He will also announce new steps to tackle illegal fishing. During the closing of the conference, the State Department will announce additional steps and commitments from the United States and other governments and partners from around the world to protect our oceans.
Across the country, Americans depend on the ocean for food, jobs, and recreation. However, our ocean and marine ecosystems are increasingly threatened. Climate change is causing sea levels and ocean temperatures to rise. Changing temperatures harm coral reefs and force certain species to migrate. In addition, carbon pollution is being absorbed by the oceans, causing them to acidify, which damages coastal shellfish beds and reefs, altering entire marine ecosystems. Currently, the rate of acidification of our oceans is increasing 10 to 100 times faster than any time in the past 55 million years.
This week, Chile is hosting the second “Our Ocean” conference to bring the nations of the world together to address these challenges. The U.S. State Department hosted the first version of the conference in 2014 pledging to promote sustainable fisheries, reduce marine pollution, and stem ocean acidification.
In this week’s address, the President emphasized that we need to do everything we can to strengthen economic growth and job creation. This week, despite the fact that more than half of Republicans in Congress voted to shut down the government for the second time in two years, Congress managed to pass a last-minute bill to keep the government open for another ten weeks. That means that in December, we could face yet another Republican threat to shut down the government. The President emphasized that Congress needs to stop kicking the can down the road and do its job. He stressed that Republicans and Democrats need to work together to pass a budget that fully funds the government and reverses the harmful sequestration cuts, and vowed that he would not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent him this past week.
From the White House, President Obama spoke of another mass shooting, this time at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon.
[As] I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now. […]
And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.
He calls out the NRA lies:
And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out: We need more guns, they’ll argue. Fewer gun safety laws.
Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true. We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.
There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
And the cowards in Congress:
We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.
So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up. And that will require a change of politics on this issue. And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.
founded by W.E.B. Du Bois as the official publication of the NAACP, is a journal of civil rights, history, politics, and culture and seeks to educate and challenge its readers about issues that continue to plague African Americans and other communities of color. For nearly 100 years, The Crisis has been the magazine of opinion and thought leaders, decision makers, peacemakers and justice seekers. It has chronicled, informed, educated, entertained and, in many instances, set the economic, political and social agenda for our nation and its multi-ethnic citizens.
She reminded us of the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose seat in the Senate she now occupies, connecting the Civil Rights movement to electoral politics. April 9, 1964 floor speech in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
“This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.”
Senator Warren spoke about racial justice, economic justice, and voting rights and pointed out that economic justice alone is not enough to make black Americans feel safe in their own country.
Economic justice is not – and has never been – sufficient to ensure racial justice. Owning a home won’t stop someone from burning a cross on the front lawn. Admission to a school won’t prevent a beating on the sidewalk outside. But when Dr. King led hundreds of thousands of people to march on Washington, he talked about an end to violence, access to voting AND economic opportunity. As Dr. King once wrote, “the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice.”
The tools of oppression were woven together, and the civil rights struggle was fought against that oppression wherever it was found – against violence, against the denial of voting rights, and against economic injustice..[…]
In the same way that the tools of oppression were woven together, a package of civil rights laws came together to protect black people from violence, to ensure access to the ballot box, and to build economic opportunity. Or to say it another way, these laws made three powerful declarations: Black lives matter. Black citizens matter. Black families matter.
Fifty years later, we have made real progress toward creating the conditions of freedom-but we have not made ENOUGH progress. […]
Fifty years after John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.
And what about voting rights? Two years ago, five conservative justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates ever wider for measures designed to suppress minority voting. Today, the specific tools of oppression have changed-voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and mass disfranchisement through a criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates black citizens. The tools have changed, but black voters are still deliberately cut out of the political process. […]
Violence. Voting. And what about economic injustice? Research shows that the legal changes in the civil rights era created new employment and housing opportunities. In the 1960s and the 1970s, African-American men and women began to close the wage gap with white workers, giving millions of black families hope that they might build real wealth.
But then, Republicans’ trickle-down economic theory arrived. Just as this country was taking the first steps toward economic justice, the Republicans pushed a theory that meant helping the richest people and the most powerful corporations get richer and more powerful. I’ll just do one statistic on this: From 1980 to 2012, GDP continued to rise, but how much of the income growth went to the 90% of America – everyone outside the top 10% – black, white, Latino? None. Zero. Nothing. 100% of all the new income produced in this country over the past 30 years has gone to the top ten percent.
She concluded her remarks:
The first civil rights battles were hard fought. But they established that Black Lives Matter. That Black Citizens Matter. That Black Families Matter. Half a century later, we have made real progress, but we have not made ENOUGH progress. As Senator Kennedy said in his first floor speech, “This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.” So it comes to us to continue the fight, to make, as John Lewis said, the “necessary trouble” until we can truly say that in America, every citizen enjoys the conditions of freedom.
Racial justice, economic justice, fair and honest elections that include all citizens … goals that align with Democratic Party principles.
Winning elections is how we gain the political power to effect change. Elections matter: in 2016, they will matter more than ever before.
The audience included some of the justices of the Supreme Court but not the ones (Catholics Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) who won’t submit to lecturing by THIS pope in case he would dare to talk about things like corporate greed, climate change, the poors, and the death penalty. And he did!
I don’t agree with everything this pope says but I welcome his words that encourage people to join with those of us who care about people, justice, and our endangered planet.