I just watched a video of President Obama’s remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 46th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on September 18, 2016. It’s his last as President of the United States, and well worth watching the 25-26 minutes video that wordpress won’t let me embed because I’m not paying for this blog space. So go here to see it.
In case you’re like me and would prefer reading the transcript you can find it here.
Here are some of my favorite parts, parts that show both our President’s humor and his passion:
There’s an extra spring in my step tonight. I don’t know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over. I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change — none of those things weighed on my mind–like the validity of my birth certificate. And to think that with just 124 days to go, under the wire, we got that resolved. I mean, that’s a boost for me in the home stretch. In other breaking news, the world is round, not flat. Lord.
You may have heard Hillary’s opponent in this election say that there’s never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow and — but we’ve got a museum for him to visit. So he can tune in. We will educate him.
He says we got nothing left to lose, so we might as well support somebody who has fought against civil rights, and fought against equality, and who has shown no regard for working people for most of his life. Well, we do have challenges, but we’re not stupid. (Applause.) We know the progress we’ve made, despite the forces of opposition, despite the forces of discrimination, despite the politics of backlash. And we intend to keep fighting against those forces.
. . . So if I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn’t matter who we elect — read up on your history. It matters. We’ve got to get people to vote.
. . . Get people registered to vote. If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake. All the progress we’ve made is at stake in this election. My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. (Applause.) Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration — that’s on the ballot right now!
A few days ago, Michelle and my mother-in-law and the girls and I, we snuck over and got an early look at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. We looked at the shackles that had been used to bring folks over. We saw the shacks that slaves had been trying to make a way out of no way. And then, with each successive level, we saw the unimaginable courage and the struggles, and the sacrifices, and the humor, and the innovation, and the hope that led to such extraordinary progress, even in our own lifetimes.
And it made us proud. Not because we had arrived, but because what a road we had to travel. What a miracle that despite such hardship, we’ve been able to do so much. And I know everybody in this room understands that how progress is not inevitable. Its sustainment depends on us. It’s not just a matter of having a black President or First Lady. It’s a matter of engaging all of our citizens in the work of our democracy.
It was that slave who said, you know what, despite the risk of a lash, I’m going to learn how to read. It’s Harriet Tubman saying, despite the risk to my life, I’m going to free my people. It’s Fannie Lou Hamer saying, despite the ostracism, the blowback, I’m going to sit down here in this convention hall and I’m going to tell people what it’s like to live the life I’ve lived. I’m going to testify to why change needs to come. It’s a young John Lewis saying, I’m going to march despite those horses I see in front of me.
All those ordinary people, all those folks whose names aren’t in the history book, they never got a video providing a tribute to them — that’s why we’re here. That’s how progress is sustained. And then it’s a matter of electing people to office who understand that story, who feel it in their hearts, in their guts, and understand that government can’t solve all our problems but it can be a force for good.
To experience this incredible new monument, this museum is to be reminded we’re just a small part of a long chain, generation after generation, striving against the odds. What an inspiration they are. And what an inspiration all of you are — especially the young people who are here.
That’s why I am still fired up. That’s why I’m still ready to go. And if you are, too, if you’re ready to continue this journey that we started, then join me. Register folks to vote. Get them to the polls. Keep marching. Keep fighting. Keep organizing. If we rise to this moment, if we understand this isn’t the endpoint, this is the beginning, we’re just getting going, we’re just getting moving — then I have never been more optimistic that our best days are still ahead.
I don’t know about you, but I am sure going to miss this President.