President Barack Obama on Saturday delivered a fiery defense of his administration before the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual Phoenix Awards gala, calling on black lawmakers who have criticized him to “quit complaining,” and “put on your marching shoes” to follow him into battle for jobs and opportunity.
The speech was Obama’s response to some vocal criticism in recent weeks from some liberals and from black leaders, including members of the CBC, that he has been too conciliatory toward Republicans, and that the administration hasn’t done enough to address crippling unemployment among African-Americans, which now averages 16.7 percent.
“It gets folks discouraged. I know. I listen to some of y’all,” Obama told the audience of more than 3,000, who gathered at Washington convention center.
But Obama called on those gathered to have faith, and to help him win the crucial battles ahead on Capitol Hill.
“I need your help,” Obama said.
The president acknowledged that many people continue to suffer in the current economy. “So many people are still hurting. So many people are barely hanging on,” he said. “And so many people in this city are fighting us every step of the way.”
But he called on the lawmakers to redouble their efforts to help him pass his jobs bill, in order to address the ongoing economic crisis.
To cheers and applause, Obama called on those gathered to “take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes… shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”
Speaking to the New York Daily News, Rev. Al Sharpton said the president was right to tell caucus members to “quit complaining” and get to work.
According to the Daily News:
“He said this is what I’ve done, and it helps blacks and helps the county and now let’s get to work,” Sharpton said.
“It’s important to remind people who may be discouraged, don’t compare him to the Almighty, compare him to the alternative.”