In Obama's 2nd Inaugural Address, Advocates Hope for Real Change
Rights groups want evidence that Obama has black, Latino well-being in mind
When President Barack Obama takes center stage in Washington, D.C., Monday morning for his second inaugural address, expectations in some ways may be even higher than they were for him the first time he took the oath of office.
Four years ago, it was all about hope and the transformative change to be brought about by the election of the first African American commander-in-chief. This time around, the hope is still there, but there are also more concrete desires for tangible change from this president. That's especially true of those groups who have been historically disenfranchised, but who supported him by huge margins this last election.
In fact, disenfranchisement when it comes to the vote is definitely on the minds of many in the African American community after what they saw as overt attempts by conservative and GOP forces to depress the black vote. (Despite this, blacks turned out in record numbers and more than 95 percent cast ballots for Obama.) During his victory speech, Obama said the voting system needed to be "fixed." Many blacks are hoping the president addresses the need to federally mandate access to all elections and end state-by-state disenfranchisement rules.
Education, and the opportunities for success that come along with it, also remains a major concern for African Americans. Here, the hope is to hear Obama speak about the continuing need for the nation to provide a quality education to all children, without the distraction of armed guards as a knee-jerk reaction to tragic, yet infrequent, mass shootings, and with reforms to disciplinary policies that often lead to a virtual school-to-prison pipeline.
And members of the faith community want a more clearly defined seat at the Obama policymaking table this time around. The president’s embrace of same sex marriage and a mandate that women’s contraceptive health coverage be provided for employees of religious-based institutions angered some in that community last year.
“This president has reached out to the faith community far more than others…but, [he often] leaves us wondering, ‘Where is our seat?,’” Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant, pastor of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple AME Church, told a local ABC News affiliate.
Another issue blacks hope to hear the president speak about on Monday is immigration reform, with some blacks concerned that illegal immigration pushes wages down overall and sometimes keeps native blacks out of certain jobs altogether.
Immigration reform, of course, is central for another key constituent group, Latinos, 70 percent of whom backed Obama for reelection, and who are now also looking for the president to speak to educational reforms targeting the high school dropout rate for Hispanic youth as well as job creation.
However, onlookers Monday may not want to get their hopes too high that the president will address such specifics during his address.
“I don’t see the inaugural address as the place for [policy specifics] to happen,” Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the D.C.-based Advancement Project, told Loop 21. “He’s got to talk about keeping our country moving forward, inclusiveness and prosperity for all.”
Still, hitting such notes, she said, would signal that Obama is aligned with the Advancement Project’s priorities – free, fair and accessible elections for all; quality education that isn’t stifled by the school-to-prison pipeline; and comprehensive immigration reform.
And though the White House weeks ago signaled that Obama would take up immigration reform as a top priority, groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and other Latino advocacy groups, who gave the president flack for abandoning a promise to take up the issue in his first term, are taking a wait-and-see approach.
"We are committed to seeing immigration reform become a reality and that jobs creation is a continued part of the conversation,” said LULAC's executive director Brent Wilkes.
So while the president will likely stick to more general themes during his inaugural address, much like he did during his last inaugural address --
-- Obama’s inaugural team has undoubtedly pleased many in the civil rights and advocacy communities with other details of Monday's ceremony.
For instance, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the former chair of the NAACP and widow of civil rights icon Medgar Evers, is to deliver the invocation before Obama’s swearing-in. Obama will also put his hand over a Bible used by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday will be celebrated as a federal holiday on the same day as the ceremony.
“That is symbolic and significant,” Browne Dianis said. It again reminds Americans that, “Wow, we have a black president! That’s just incredible.”
Are you as excited about the president's inauguration as you were four years ago? Tell us in the Comments below!