The Corner

President Obama’s (Un)Memorial Speech

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was obviously a momentous occasion. What a shame, then, to see it marred by speeches that made it sound more like a campaign event.

Some of the things said were patently absurd, like Bill Clinton’s claiming it was tougher to vote than to buy an assault rifle. But watching President Obama’s speech was almost painful. He took what could have been a great moment and turned it into a dirge on class warfare and the terrible civil-rights violation caused by “corporate profits soar[ing].”

Obama seems unable to ever distance himself from politics, just like most of the other speakers at the event. There is a constant drive in his administration to use every opportunity to further the progressive ideology that shapes everything he does.

It was nice to hear the president acknowledge that it would dishonor “the courage and sacrifice of those who paid the price to march” if one dismissed “the magnitude” of progress in the civil-rights arena or suggested “as some sometimes do, that little has changed.” 

But that almost seemed like a throwaway line. Just like Bill Clinton, Obama could not resist immediately trying to scare black voters with false claims that efforts to improve the integrity of the election process are intended to keep them out of the polls. His assertion about the erection of “new barriers to the vote” is simply untrue, but it fits within the unfortunate racial politics some politicians are using to further their election goals. 

His statement about the need to ensure “that the scales of justice work equally for all in the criminal justice system” was an implicit reference to the Zimmerman case, and to the false claims constantly made by liberal advocacy groups that the reason such a large percentage of black Americans are in jail is because our criminal justice system is discriminatory. 

Sorry, but there is simply no evidence to support that claim. And the Zimmerman prosecution evidenced no unequal racial treatment, unless one considers that Zimmerman was seemingly overcharged by the prosecutors in that case because of the race of Trayvon Martin. 

On the criminal-justice issue, more adult black males are in jail because they unfortunately commit crimes at much higher rates than whites, Asians, and Hispanics. Racism in the criminal-justice system has nothing to do with this, although the disintegration of the black family with the ascension of the welfare state certainly does, a topic the president spent almost no time discussing. 

What was amazing was to hear the president speaking about the absence of economic opportunity in the minority community. He quotes Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement that “for what does it profit a man to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?” Obama complained about high black and Hispanic unemployment, stagnating wages, substandard schools, and diminished prospects. Yet he took no responsibility for engineering irresponsible economic policies that are the biggest factor in that loss of economic opportunity.

Black and Hispanic unemployment has soured during his administration. Obama also blamed the “twin forces of technology and global competition” for subtracting “those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class.” 

Really? How about the huge drop in labor-force participation during the Obama non-recovery. Obama’s policies indicate that he believes the American Dream is dead for the working class, so they might as well give up. Too many have believed his pessimism, and relied on welfare and disability payments instead of climbing the ladder from the bottom up.

Obama complains about substandard schools at the same time that his Justice Department has just sued Louisiana to stop its school voucher program that gets poor students out of failing schools. Ninety percent of those students are black, yet if Obama is successful in court, he will be directly responsible for making sure those students get a substandard education. He did the same thing in Washington, D.C., opposing a school voucher program that helped poor black students by giving their parents the same ability he has to send his children to better schools.

Class-warfare rhetoric was sprinkled throughout the speech, including his claim that we are today in a situation where “a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie.” That is quite a claim coming from the man chiefly responsible for that shrinking economic pie that has been caused by his unprecedented expansion of burdensome federal regulations restricting the private sector, an out-of-control federal budget, and a skyrocketing federal deficit, all of which are combining to destroy the viability of our economy and choke our economic growth.

I was only four years old when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in Washington, D.C. But I have watched his stirring, uplifting speech on many occasions. I have visited the Lincoln Memorial many times since I moved here, often when I needed inspiration at dark times in my professional life, just like Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The grand words of Abraham Lincoln carved in stone there and its majestic history including King’s speech make it the most inspiring memorial in the nation’s Capital.

By comparison, Obama’s speech was a pedantic, totally predictable doctrinaire presentation that will make all his liberal allies perfectly happy. But it will not inspire a nation to come together to do the right thing the way Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech did 50 years ago. 

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