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President Barack Obama
Published: 25 February 2009

Feb. 27 -- Thank you all so much. I'm honored to speak with you today and I'm sorry that I cannot join you in person. I want to begin by thanking Tavis Smiley for giving me the chance to address you. And I want to applaud all of you for participating in this forum.

It represents an incredible opportunity to highlight not only the challenges facing the African American community – but also the ways in which ordinary men and women are working to meet them. You have tapped into a yearning in the community to address our toughest problems instead of leaving them for another day, or year, or generation.

I have seen that same hunger as I've traveled across our country among Americans united not by the color of their skin but by a shared determination to build a more perfect union; to not only revive this economy but to transform our country. That is what the American people demanded at the polls in November. And that is the work my administration has already begun.

I am proud to say that we have done more in these past 30 days to bring about progressive change than we have in the past many years.

We are closing the health care gap with a long-delayed expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program to an additional four million children. My recovery plan also provides health care coverage for millions who have lost their insurance along with their jobs. And the budget I proposed on Thursday contains an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on quality, affordable health care for every single American.

We are closing the achievement gap with the largest investment in education in our nation's history. We will renovate schools, train new teachers, and make higher education more affordable for nearly seven million students with a $2,500 tax credit for every year of college.

And we are closing the gap between the nation we are and the nation we can be – by implementing policies that will speed our recovery and build a foundation for lasting prosperity and opportunity. We are modernizing roads and transit systems, renovating hospitals and schools, and making groundbreaking investments in basic research and clean energy. We have also provided the most progressive tax cuts in history; 95 percent of working people will benefit. We will create or save 3.5 million jobs and lift more than two million people out of poverty.

These are policies that will make a big difference in the African American community. You know that tough times for America often mean tougher times for African Americans. This recession has been no exception. The unemployment rate among black Americans is a full five points higher than the rate among Americans as a whole.

At the same time, we know that government cannot and will not succeed alone. It will take all of us stepping up and doing our part. It will take the commitment of parents and teachers and community leaders. It will take a renewed faith in our common purpose and common values.

That begins with gatherings like this and concerned citizens like all of you. That is the story of progress in America: ordinary folks who would not rest – who would not give up – so long as there were children to teach and jobs to create, gaps to be closed and wrongs to righted. That is how we will make America "as good as its promise."

We need everyone to take responsibility for the future of our families, our communities, and our country. So I thank you for being part of a noble effort at this defining moment. Thank you, Good luck, and God bless America.

To access full videos of the State of the Black Union, visit www.c-span.org.

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