President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participate in a community service project at Leckie Elementary school in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy
Pete Souza: The President reacts after getting beat in Rock Paper Scissors while participating in a service project at a local school on MLK day.
Various TODers have done such a good job remembering 2014’s highlights that I feel no need to add to that. So allow me to pen a tribute.
And the tribute is to all of you.
I’ve had many homes online since the long ago days of the 90s. (And you’d be shocked at some of the places I called “home”. I’ll leave that to your imaginations.)
I thought DailyKos would be my political home in the darkness of the Bush regime. But after Barack Obama’s election, it was soon apparent that rage was all Markos trafficked in. Rage at Mr. Bush for destroying the country. Rage at Pres. Obama for not magically making everything right. And as I’ve written before, rage gets tiring, and rage fixes nothing. Rage is the cheap drug which keeps you sated for a bit. But you have to increase the dosage every time to get the same high, until your mind is addled and clear thought is banished.
I first found BWD, and her site was wonderful. But it was shortlived, as people as lofty as Glenn Greenwald called her a Leni Riefenstahl for daring to defend a just-elected president who had barely gotten his feet in the door. I don’t blame her for saying “fuck it” and sticking to Twitter.
Many of us found our way here by the same path, from DKos and BWD’s blog. It took me a while to start posting. I observed for a while. But you magnificent bastards pulled me in, and suddenly I realized that I had found like minds. It’s thrilling when one finds a group of people who have the same general outlook on life. Not just about politics, but on how to live one’s life, in kindness, consideration, and empathy. It was something I’d been looking for for a long time, never finding it. It was, quite simply, revelatory.
And as I spent more time here, the more I came to consider this an extended family. From Mama Chips to little sister Nerdy to crazy uncle amk to wise uncle Bob, I could share my troubles, my joys, my frustrations. We all could. We knew when someone was sick, or soul-hurt, or ecstatic. Donna’s grandbabies, Chips’ Danny, Carolyn’s husband’s medical issues: we knew them all, sorrowed, commiserated, or grew joyful, shared in the highs and lows. And there just aren’t that many places where one can say that online. Definitely not on a blog ostensibly dedicated to politics.
But that’s the thing; sure this is “The Obama Diary”, but it’s become more than just about this president or his policies. The blog embodies his humanity, his empathy, his genuine concern. We have become a family in large part because a man like Barack Obama attracts a certain type of person. He speaks to the quintessentially human, to the genuinely kind. And because we support him, for the most part we take after him. But if we weren’t already on that path, we wouldn’t be here.
January 1 starts a new year, and new battles. But, for now, sit, quietly, and wonder at the different points which brought us here. This little community, where injustice is condemned, where good is sought. This little community which is only as strong as its weakest member, and cherishes that member. This little family.
I thank you all. I’d be lost without this place. Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2015.
President Barack Obama waves as he is introduced at Copernicus Community Center in Chicago to speak on immigration reform
The President’s remarks on Ferguson
I need to begin by saying a few words about what’s happened over the past day, not just in Ferguson, Missouri, our neighbor to the south, but all across America.
As many of you know, a verdict came down – or a grand jury made a decision yesterday that upset a lot of people. And as I said last night, the frustrations that we’ve seen are not just about a particular incident. They have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly. That may not be true everywhere, and it’s certainly not true for the vast majority of law enforcement officials, but that’s an impression that folks have and it’s not just made up. It’s rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time.
Now, as I said last night, there are productive ways of responding and expressing those frustrations, and there are destructive ways of responding. Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk – that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts, and people should be prosecuted if they engage in criminal acts.
But what we also saw – although it didn’t get as much attention in the media – was people gathering in overwhelmingly peaceful protest – here in Chicago, in New York, in Los Angeles, other cities.
We’ve seen young people who were organizing, and people beginning to have real conversations about how do we change the situation so that there’s more trust between law enforcement and some of these communities. And those are necessary conversations to have.
We’re here to talk about immigration, but part of what makes America this remarkable place is being American doesn’t mean you have to look a certain way or have a certain last name or come from a certain place; it has to do with a commitment to ideals, a belief in certain values. And if any part of the American community doesn’t feel welcomed or treated fairly, that’s something that puts all of us at risk and we all have to be concerned about it.
So my message to those people who are constructively moving forward, trying to organize, mobilize, and ask hard, important questions about how we improve the situation – I want all those folks to know that their President is going to work with them. Separate and apart from the particular circumstances in Ferguson, which I am careful not to speak to because it’s not my job as President to comment on ongoing investigations and specific cases, but the frustrations people have generally – those are rooted in some hard truths that have to be addressed.
And so those who are prepared to work constructively, your President will work with you. And a lot of folks, I believe, in law enforcement and a lot of folks in city halls and governor’s offices across the country want to work with you as well.
So as part of that, I’ve instructed Attorney General Eric Holder not just to investigate what happened in Ferguson, but also identify specific steps we can take together to set up a series of regional meetings focused on building trust in our communities. And next week, we’ll bring together state and local officials, and law enforcement, and community leaders and faith leaders to start identifying very specific steps that we can take to make sure that law enforcement is fair and is being applied equally to every person in this country.
And we know certain things work. We know that if we train police properly, that that improves policing and makes people feel that the system is fair. We know that when we have a police force that is representative of the communities it’s serving that makes a difference. And we know that when there’s clear accountability and transparency when something happens that makes a difference.
So there are specific things we can do, and the key now is for us to lift up the best practices and work, city by city, state by state, county by county, all across this country, because the problem is not just a Ferguson problem, it is an American problem. And we’ve got to make sure that we are actually bringing about change.
The bottom line is, nothing of significance, nothing of benefit results from destructive acts. I’ve never seen a civil rights law, or a health care bill, or an immigration bill result because a car got burned. It happened because people vote. It happened because people mobilize. It happened because people organize. It happens because people look at what are the best policies to solve the problem. That’s how you actually move something forward.
So don’t take the short-term, easy route and just engage in destructive behavior. Take the long-term, hard but lasting route of working with me and governors and state officials to bring about some real change.
And to those who think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for that. I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.
But for the overwhelming majority of people who just feel frustrated and pain because they get a sense that maybe some communities aren’t treated fairly, or some individuals aren’t seen as worthy as others, I understand that. And I want to work with you and I want to move forward with you.
President Barack Obama uses a ratchet wrench as he helps build a playground while participating in a service project at the Inspired Teaching School, a high-performing public charter school in northeast Washington, DC, to commemorate the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance
President Barack Obama is introduced by Vice President Joe Biden as he arrives at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pa., The visit was to announce $600M in grants as part of the administration’s Opportunity for All program to train the work force for careers in fields with a growing demand.
Washington Post: Obama Announces $600M In Grant Programs To Prepare Workforce For Jobs
President Obama on Wednesday announced a pair of grant programs designed to bring academic institutions and businesses closer together to help prepare the American workforce for jobs that may otherwise go unfilled. The grant programs total $600 million, money already in the federal budget. The decision to designate the money for these grants arose from a review of federal jobs programs by Vice President Biden, who joined Obama at a community college here outside Pittsburgh to make the announcement. The grant programs Obama announced fall into two categories. The first, to which $500 million is being dedicated, is a competitive process that seeks the best programs linking community colleges with businesses.
The idea is to expand the programs nationally, in part by linking them with industry associations. The other is also competitive and provides $100 million in grants to expand apprentice programs across the country. The United States has far fewer apprentice positions than do European nations, which look to on-the-job training as vital to maintaining capable workforces. Because the money has already been allocated, the grant programs allow the president to bypass a divided Congress, as Obama has made clear he intends to do when he thinks it necessary.
The web is a weird place. It’s at the same time intimate and very distancing. You can have the most intimate conversation with someone, and then never see that person again. It’s not uncommon for web communities to all of a sudden lose long-standing members. Sometimes we find out what happened to them. But often they just vanish, without a trace, and you’re left wondering.
At The Obama Diary we have created a real community. We care for each other. When one of us hurts, we all feel the pain. I can’t describe how gratified I was by the concern and well-wishes expressed by all of you during my wife’s recovery from surgery, and her subsequent search for a new job. And when Dudette vanished for a few weeks, a few of us sprang into action and tracked her down, not to invade her privacy, but to make sure she was well. This is what humans do: we create communities, and those communities bind us together in bonds even stronger than those of family.
Today our own GoBrooklyn gave us some distressing news. It was, quite frankly, life altering for her.
Lawyer, teacher, philanthropist, and author Barack Obama doesn’t need another career. But he’s entering politics to get back to his true passion – community organization
When Barack Obama returned to Chicago in 1991 after three brilliant years at Harvard Law School, he didn’t like what he saw. The former community activist, then 30, had come fresh from a term as president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, a position he was the first African-American to hold. Now he was ready to continue his battle to organize Chicago’s black neighborhoods. But the state of the city muted his exuberance.
“Upon my return to Chicago,” he would write in the epilogue to his recently published memoir, Dreams From My Father, “I would find the signs of decay accelerated throughout the South Side — the neighborhoods shabbier, the children edgier and less restrained, more middle-class families heading out to the suburbs, the jails bursting with glowering youth, my brothers without prospects…..”
Reading to young kids during 1995 IL State Senate campaign – Photo: Marc PoKempner
Today, after three years of law practice and civic activism, Obama has decided to dive into electoral politics. He is running for the Illinois Senate ….. Obama got all sorts of advice. Some of it perplexed him; most of it annoyed him. One African-American elected official suggested that Obama change his name, which he’d inherited from his late Kenyan father. Another told him to put a picture of his light-bronze, boyish face on all his campaign materials, “so people don’t see your name and think you’re some big dark guy.”
“Now all of this may be good political advice,” Obama said, “but it’s all so superficial …. Even those who are on the same page as me on the issues never seem to want to talk about them. Politics is regarded as little more than a career.”
Barack Obama in 1995 in his office at the University of Chicago Law School. On the wall is a portrait of the late Mayor Harold Washington. Photo: Marc PoKempner
Obama doesn’t need another career. As a civil rights lawyer, teacher, philanthropist, and author, he already has no trouble working 12-hour days. He says he is drawn to politics, despite its superficialities, as a means to advance his real passion and calling: community organization.
….. While no political opposition to Obama has arisen yet, many have expressed doubts about the practicality of his ambitions …. “Three major doubts have been raised,” he said. The first is whether in today’s political environment – with its emphasis on media and money – a grass-roots movement can even be created. Will people still answer the call of participatory politics?….
…. In 1992 Obama took time off to direct Project Vote, the most successful grass-roots voter-registration campaign in recent city history. Credited with helping elect Carol Moseley-Braun to the U.S. Senate, the registration drive, aimed primarily at African-Americans, added an estimated 125,000 voters to the voter rolls – even more than were registered during Harold Washington’s mayoral campaigns. “It’s a power thing,” said the brochures and radio commercials.
Campaigning for the Illinois State Senate in 1995, a race he easily won – Photo: Marc PoKempner
Obama’s work on the south side has won him the friendship and respect of many activists. One of them, Johnnie Owens, left the citywide advocacy group Friends of the Parks to join Obama at the Developing Communities Project. He later replaced Obama as its executive director.
“What I liked about Barack immediately is that he brought a certain level of sophistication and intelligence to community work,” Owens says. “He had a reasonable, focused approach that I hadn’t seen much of. A lot of organizers you meet these days are these self-anointed leaders with this strange, way-out approach and unrealistic, eccentric way of pursuing things from the very beginning. Not Barack. He’s not about calling attention to himself. He’s concerned with the work. It’s as if it’s his mission in life, his calling, to work for social justice.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m one of the most cynical people you want to see, always looking for somebody’s angle or personal interest,” Owens added.
“I’ve lived in Chicago all my life. I’ve known some of the most ruthless and biggest bullshitters out there, but I see nothing but integrity in this guy.”….