Obama’s message to black parents

Bay Area News Group file photo

Our president said this today at an NAACP anniversary event, as quoted in a New York Times story:

They might think they’ve got a pretty jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can’t all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court Justice. I want them aspiring to be President of the United States of America.

What kind of effect do you expect Obama’s speech will have on black families? On all families?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • TheTruthHurts

    None. I voted for the guy, but this was largely political. The people in that event already know this stuff. What Obama needs to get across is DELAYED GRATIFICATION. The reason kids (and adults) don’t aspire to other things is because they have to work hard with no recognition for extended periods before the gratification comes.

    For the kid with nothing who wants something, that’s a hard sell.

  • Nextset

    None: If he called for the abolition of welfare and the construction of separate poorhouses for men women and children some people would start to change. His administration stands for people doing what they want and expecting the government/taxpayers to provide for their needs when their own antics fail to do so.

    The decline of our society will continue until starvation and pain convinces us to change our policy. It will take a depression and a big war to do that. See if we don’t get it.

  • Chauncey

    Non! We are a welafre nation- and diving deeper into that reality with Obama( who by the way is half black raised by white grandparents, father was African not African American, and he went to private schools).

    For us int the real trenches- we all know what is wrong. EXCUSE. Well the system is racist, we cant work, slavery, etc.

    Nextset said it is going to take a big dramatic event to change- and I agree. For blacks, we just do not get it and blame everyone for our lack of effort. Then we listen to the racial hustlers like Jesse jackson who make money off dismal attitudes.

    We are doomed. I cannot wait for the dramatic day cause I m tired of it.

  • Public School Teacher

    As a public school teacher and a black parent, I think alot about the speech President Obama delivered, particularly the parts about personal responsibility and hard work. As a teacher, it is very hard to convey this message to students. I try to lead by example, but I often feel that students feel disconnected from what I am saying. Truth be told, students need examples in their lives and someone forcing them to take their education seriously in order to be successful. Popular culture and peer influence raise our children today and it is unfortunate. Some students will listen, but overwhelmingly, they take the easy road. It is really sad, particularly since I am black and really want to help my students achieve success. I would like to hear from others, especially teachers who face the same issues in their classroom.

  • teacher

    I feel the need to comment, just to offset the negative, racist tone of the earlier posts. Do any of these people have school-age children? Do any of them have friends of color? Do any of them live in the same part of the world that I do? Really, these comments sound like what you would expect from survivalists living in the woods of Idaho. Depressing and absolutely useless.

  • Nextset

    Teacher Says: If we knew a little more about you we could understand your point of view better.

    I for one have been around Oakland since the 1950’s. The views of the different bloggers probably have a lot to do with what they have already seen in life and what their training and experiences are.

    So you have to understand If I don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I live in the cities of California not Idaho. I see the problems people are having every day I go to work. Some people are doing a lot better than others. Good education and training is the difference. Does OUSD and the other Urban schools districts (Los Angeles, for example) provide that to their proletariat students? Not even close. The proof is in the undesirability of these kids as workers anywhere (referring to Otis and Latifa, not Juan and Josefina who are working).

    I don’t think things are “good” nowadays for black folks – I don’t think they are getting “better” either. Maybe so for certain people.

    The way I see things, some people are being loved to death – theirs. You may see some of these thoughts as “negative” and that’s your misfortune. Things are about to take a turn for the worse for all Americans and our OUSD students would be well served to toughen up and discard some of the party atmosphere before they are dumped into the cold hard world. And we know from experience who gets pnuemonia when a cold is going around.

    You are a teacher – so understand that these voices you condemn – are just the first whispers breaking through your little bubble of reality that the emperor has no clothes. Better start checking the wardrobe just in case.

    Otherwise life is just fine.

    Brave New World!

  • ProStudent

    I think the question is pointless. What kind of effect will this message have on any family in the US? Did we ask how President Bush’s speech would affect Texas families?

    They are words from one small part of one speech to one group of attendees . . . how will policies affect Black families? That’s what I want to know.

  • Katy Murphy

    ProStudent: If President Bush had for some reason made a speech directed to Texans, Texas news reporters might have asked that very question.

    Sure, only those attendees heard the speech in person, but many more heard his “no excuses” message over the radio, on TV, etc. I think it’s worthwhile to ask whether the words of our first African-American president will have any effect on black families — and, if so, what it might be.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Public School Teacher,

    I’m guessing you teach older students than I (first grade) because at the primary level, many students are motivated to achieve, and that helps with promoting an atmosphere of hard work and responsibility in a classroom. (FYI, I am a black teacher and parent also.)

    But there are always a few–some years more than a few–who just don’t seem to get it. And it seems that, the higher the grade level, the greater the number of students who feel this way.

    You make excellent points about the need for students to have positive examples in their personal lives (which many don’t), and how popular culture and peers have a greater influence on students as they get older.

    That’s why I believe it is so important for us, who work in and/or control the school system, to make sure every school site establishes a climate of hard work, discipline, perseverance, and achievement. (Add whatever other qualities lead to success in students.)

    In other words, we have to provide on a school-wide and district-wide level the conditions that are lacking at home for many students. It doesn’t work if it’s just on a class by class level, because those students are still exposed to and influenced by the general negative school culture.

    I would like to hear Obama address specifically the issue of the negative school culture in many of our urban schools and what he is willing to do to help bring about change in that area. Guess I’d better write and ask him…

    In the meantime, it is up to Oakland educators and the Oakland community to press for–no, insist on–improved conditions in our public schools. And we must acknowledge that all parties, including students and their families, must be held accountable when they obstruct our goal of student success. The unfair focusing on teachers as villains and blaming us for all that is wrong with public schools has done nothing but discourage people from going into (or staying in) the teaching profession.

    I guess I can be accused of being a little optimistic about turning things around, but I must say I find the defeatist attitude of some of the posts above to be counterproductive. Everyone can pitch in on whatever minor level he or she can to make things better. To do nothing is to condone that which you criticize.

  • oak261

    Let’s Get Real: I call for a rational system of consequences when it comes to the discipline that you and others advocate. What we need to grapple with is the meaning and intent of OUSD’s apparently lax suspension rate. As mentioned a few weeks ago, OUSD suspends at 1/3 the rate of the rest of the state.

  • harlemmoon

    Obama’s words are sure to resonate with some. Thankfully, the jaded bunch on this post does not reflect the larger community. Rest assured, there are certainly families – black, yellow, white and brown – that heard his words and took to heart the notion that having goals, aspiring to loftier sights is today more real than ever it has been.
    No, one speech, from one man on one particular day won’t change the world. But Obama has clearly shown that through higher ideals and dedicated pursuits, we can, at the very least, change our thinking.

  • Nextset

    I was looking over Post #9 above and saw something that rang a bell. There is reference to a “negative school culture” in paragraph 6. That started me thinking.

    Our rotten urban (typically black) schools are not actually schools but holding pens for (largely) blacks and other minorities who are just as likely to end up as objects in society rather than members who carry their weight. These places only pretend to be schools and the primary effort of the “school” is keeping the objects happy and giving them a false sense of security as they progress down the chute to prison, poverty and premature death.

    This being said, the objects are encouraged to make their own “culture” because after all it’s all about keeping them content. It is that “culture” we speak of.

    Any good school – and I’ve been sent to them by my parents while growing up, has a culture of it’s own and it is not what the student wants. The incoming students are forced to acclimate themselves to the school’s culture not the reverse. I had to wear uniforms in primary school, learn to stand in line in silence, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, march to my classroom in silence, sit in my assigned seat – and the day hadn’t even started yet. Then I had to study what I was assigned and master it or else. I remember penmanship as being particularly annoying in 2nd grade or so. My parents made us all go to summer sessions and tutors for various things I found annoying. One word of noncompliance and we got corrected. Resistance was futile. After Catholic primary school where you either fit in or died, We went to public high school. That was very different. There was little concern from the school or the parents about the students being comfortable. Our classes were assigned, UC entrance requirements. There were penalties for any failures both at school and at home. Failure (in any assignment or class) was not tolerated but I was considered capable or I wouldn’t have been enrolled in each class I took. There were prerequisites, and a progression of classes. I had friends on my track and some who were in no way going to do UC requirements. I’ve maintained contacts with both groups. But none of us were in High School for a good time. Those not on college track had survey courses that had tests & assignments also. Flunk enough courses and you were sent to continuation school and/or not graduated. Go truant or misbehave and you were expelled or transferred out. Bad Thinking when expressed was publicly corrected along with bad grammar.

    A real school has it’s culture which the school controls and the students had better live up to or they are disposed of. The jungle “schools” Obama is speaking of are typically a day care service that feeds to the underclass. It’s nice if the kids do well but that is just optional.

    I have always gone to places where you were lined up in the first place and told that you either measure up to the school standards or some other place or program can be found to take you. We don’t think our public school kids deserve this kind of school so we have created these urban jungle playpens to stick them in.

    Out of the jungles we need to make clearings where at least some students go to real schools. Just one per district, at least.

    And we need to stop pretending the jungle culture is in any way valid. Underclass & kids do not set the tone or the culture for society. The ruling classes do (which is transmitted to those they intend to see follow them). We just don’t bother to transmit ruling class (middle class and up) values & culture when the kids are poor blacks. And nobody seems to expect us to.

    As far as Obama “speaking” here, actions speak louder than words and his words aren’t exactly saying “change or die” either. And I don’t take seriously a Commander In Chief who allowed his 10 year old daughter to wear a Peace Symbol T Shirt on a state visit. My military officer friends snorted at the thought of what would happen if any of their dependents did such a thing. His toughtfulness in general is found wanting. I wish him luck, but this is not going to end well.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    typo last paragraph, “thoughtfulness”

  • francisco reyes


  • sunny

    This charlatan has a very low opinion of Black youth and Black families if he thinks all they can relate to are cultural dead-enders like basketball players and rap performers. No one needs this weasel to tell people to aspire to things other than that. They already do! He is a most disgusting individual. I am not a parent and I was offended when I heard it. I wonder what people who are parents thought?

  • ex oakland staff

    What is your problem with the peace symbol?

  • turner

    Who is the charlatan?

    What’s wrong with being a basketballer or a rapper? They are both good careers if you can get them.

    I thought Obama gave a good speech with a good message, as a parent.


  • Nextset

    Ex Oakland Staff: My problem is the child (by wearing that shirt) making political statements on a state visit. There will be a time and place where she can wear a hammer and sickle, a peace sign, a star of david, (or my favorite) a bell curve drawing. That time is much later and that place is not on a state visit with all a state visit connotes.

    Additionally, to the extent she is allowed/used to become politicized she gives up her childhood and becomes a fair target for political satire/commentary/attention that no parent needs or wants for their 10 to 18 year old child. In short the whole episode reeks of inexperience and poor judgment on the part of both parents.

    Obviously the children of military officers on state visits know a LOT better than to do something like this. The fact that our commander in chief and/or his staff have not had “the talk” with these kids bothers me because I wonder what else the kids are not being prepared for.

    And for their own sake I’d like to think the Obama kids are using these fantastic years to keep all doors and options open – as other presidential kids have done – rather than become politicized and partisian during childhood. This is just a mistake. And this crew doesn’t need mistakes – this is a bad time for the USA and things can hit the fan quickly. Up till I saw that photo I was pleased with the way the Obama’s had controlled the family affairs. Now I’m concerned they are taking things for granted.

  • harlemmoon

    Sunny, truth is there are many who can’t see beyond the fields of sports and entertainment. Not that anything is wrong with either. Obama was merely pointing out that we should aspire to other professions as well. No harm there. Just a call to avail ourselves to other options.

    Nextset, a T-shirt does not a political statement make. This is one of the more ludicrous arguments that you’ve forwarded. Besides, what’s wrong with, of all the garish T-shirts she cold have worn, one bearing a peace sign? if I were you, I’d be more concerned about those dreaded “Mom jeans” that her dad has been ridiculed about. C’mon, Nextset, I expect better of you.

  • Nextset

    Harlemmoom: You surprise me. By now you are well versed on my views about children sounding off in public. You may not agree with me but you can’t be surprised of my position and it’s basis.

    Political activity by kids come with a price. That girl is playing on a larger stage. Her parents, by allowing this, are playing her in a way that costs. There are reasons why previous presidential minors were strongly kept out of partisan signboarding. For you to say that a T-Shirt does not a polital statement make is just childish and that is the problem here, short sighted thinking typical of young people. Maybe you are young. I don’t know.

    Of course teens have political thought, that’s not the point. Explaining Time and Place issues to children and adults thinking like children is hard because we have that “deferred gratification” problem which is a big problem with urban blacks (as in getting them killed). One would expect those kids to be brought up to know that you select your battles and your time before putting yourself out.. They are not old enough, educated enough and experienced enough to get a clue of what effects they are having on other people. They world is not made up of people who owe you although thanks to the rock-star treatment the family has received in the last 6 months or so it seems that way. The adults are players, the kids should be kids for awhile longer and cool it with the public displays of this sort. They are not any kids anymore they are the First Family and are expected to represent the larger nation on a state visit not the rad-libs within the democratic party. They don’t even get that.

    Anyway I’m just one voice here. Time will tell. I feel this is a bad sign and a mistake for the kids although it probably felt great and got them more love from their partisians. They would do well to reach beyond those partisans.

    And it will be fun to see what the kids do next for an encore. Bigger and Better next time.

  • Oakland Teacher

    While I probably would have intervened on the peace symbol shirt (too fearful of others’ opinions), it actually demos parents who are letting their kids just be kids, and not politicizing everything they do. I have 2 teenage daughters, and right now the biggest fashion trend is peace signs on everything from scarves to shirts. And not just the standard big sign on a shirt front, but the fabric is tiny little peace signs intertwined, woven, etc… I can guarantee you that on any girl between age 6-16, it is a fashion statement, not a political one. The best thing we can do for the children of politicians/celebrities is to not scrutinize everything they do and just let them be kids like their peers. They actually still have the right to do that, regardless of who their parents are.

  • Nextset

    Oakland Teacher: The problem here is that these are the President’s kids on a state visit. The issue would be different if they were not. This action politicizes the kids – and the particular stunt involved used a symbol that has extraordinary negative meaning to the armed forces and their families as well as the people who fought and died in the VietNam War. There is a price to pay for draping that image on a child who has to live a public life. “Rights” are not the point. Choices are more like it.

    I voted against Obama for many reasons not because I thought the McCain Palin ticket was so great. This kind of judgment is just a taste of what is to come. I really do wish them well, particularly the family. I am sure that this is not going to end well. I really don’t want things to progress to the point that the country is wishing we had George W back – it’s what I expect to see happen and that is bad.

    Along the way I expect his credibility and saleability to go in the toilet, and failure to keep the support and respect of the people generally is how that starts. This stunt goes to war with sections of the population in return for nothing but smirks from the rad-libs who themselves flaunted that symbol in public when others lost everything on orders of congress and the executive.

    When times are expected to get tough you keep all the support and assets you have against dire need.

  • Charles, The Original

    In the words of Leland Mississippi Alderwoman Marla Brooks, We are not going anywhere. We are not going anywhere. Stop! Stop! We are not going anywhere. Leave us alone. Leave us alone. We haven’t done anything wrong… They are doing us wrong. There is a bunch of racist evil black integrationist Niggers up in here that’s doing us wrong.

    I can’t speak for Hispanics. But if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Low graduation rates among Negroes have nothing to do with the absence of married mothers and fathers in the home. But here is the thing. Negro males and Negroes in general aren’t integrationist. And the low graduation rates among Negro children are a clear and present rejection of that philosophy. Let’s be real. The so-called educated integrationists Negroes don’t represent the interest of the masses of Negroes i.e. the children of a Negro mother and Negro father etc. They represent the interest of mongrels, the children of a white mother and a black father etc. And the educational system gives credence to that philosophy.

    The dirty little secret in the United States among the so-called educated integrationist Negroes and their collaborators has been exposed. Under the guise of indiscriminate love for everyone, they seek to annihilate the “ugly” black faces of the original Negro in the United States via education, interracial marriage/sex, and outright genocide. And it’s promoted by fostering institutional advantages to black mongrels etc. thereby encouraging the original Negro to loathe his physical appearance e.g. Michael Jackson. History shows us how the original black Egyptians were annihilated because of their failure to reject a similar educational system. It was used by internal and external enemies of Egypt to transform original black Egyptians into mongrel Egyptians.

    Using low graduation rates as the evidence, the original Negro males in the United States absolutely reject the leadership of the so-called educated integrationist Negroes and the enemy educational system they impose upon their families. But all is not lost. What a fantastic job our first “black” educated integrationist President of the United States, Barack Obama and Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates are doing with their children.

  • Nextset


    Can you tell us something about yourself? Education, occupation, age, race, anything??

    Can you re-write that post above so we can understand what you are trying to say??