Letter to Rev. Al Sharpton from President Barack Obama—
April 16, 2010
Reverend Al Sharpton
National Action Network
106 W. 145th Street
Harlem, New York 10039
Dear Reverend Sharpton:
Congratulations to you and the National Action Network for another year of fighting for the rights of those who have no voice, and lifting up causes that would otherwise go unnoticed. I regret that I am unable to join you at what is sure to be a wonderful 2010 National Action Network convention.
This has been one of the most challenging times in our nation, but because of the work and investments we made through the Recovery Act and other policies during our first year, the economy is beginning to show signs of strength.
However, we are acutely aware of the unacceptably high unemployment rate – particularly for African Americans – and we understand the critical need to create jobs and develop pathways to opportunity. That is why we have provided $1 billion in capital for small and minority businesses in underserved communities and authorized innovative programs to develop more than 100,000 jobs for TANF recipients in 21 states. We are also investing in a skills agenda by increasing the amount of Pell Grant awards and improving support for community colleges so that workers have the tools needed to take advantage of future opportunities.
Our success enacting health insurance reform, coupled with the First Lady’s initiative on childhood obesity, will serve to reduce the alarming health disparities among African Americans. New benefits include free preventive care and increased access to medical attention through community health centers. In addition, no patient can be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition, or lose their health care when they are sick and need it most. More than 32 million uninsured Americans will have access to health care, and millions of them are African American.
Another important agenda for this Administration is building a world-class education system that supports the aspirations of all Americans from cradle to career. Your leadership and work with those on both sides of the aisle have drawn much needed attention to this critical issue. In schools across the nation, dropout rates are too high, expectations are too low, and too few African Americans have the opportunities needed to prepare for college and careers. We are calling for more rigorous and relevant standards and accountability in our schools, and investing billions to advance reform, turnaround our most troubled schools, and reduce dropout rates. We will do more to raise the bar and improve outcomes for our youngest children before they reach kindergarten, while also investing $1 billion in black colleges and universities over the next 10 years to chart a course for a better life and brighter future.
Since its founding, the National Action Network has stood up for those without help and without hope. While many are talking about the need for transformational action, this organization is working to see it carried out. Today’s forum “Measuring the Movement” offers an opportunity to advance more solutions to the challenges we face as a nation.
We know that too many communities of color were living on the margins even before the recession hit. My Administration is dedicated to turning these great challenges into greater opportunities that significantly improve the lives of many throughout the country.
Again congratulations on today’s event, and best wishes in your pursuit of economic security, social justice, and peace for all Americans.