US President Barack Obama said on Saturday that until the US becomes a place where anyone who is willing to work hard can earn a way into the middle class “we can’t let up and we can’t rest.”
“We can’t rest until we offer new ladders of opportunity for anyone willing to climb them,” Obama said in a keynote address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner.
“Over the last 30 years, upward mobility in this country — the idea that if you work hard, you can get ahead — has slipped out of reach for too many Americans. And that’s especially true in communities with large African-American populations,” he said.
Obama hewed to the theme of the dinner, the “Spirit of 1963,” including the civil rights movement and the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice led 50 years ago by Martin Luther King Jr and the advances it brought about for black Americans. Topping the list of achievements is Obama’s election in 2008 as America’s first black president.
Without mentioning his place in history, Obama acknowledged progress made since 1963, but said there was more to be done. He spoke of work needed to reduce a black unemployment rate that is twice that of whites, increase the minimum wage and provide health care and education for all.
Obama also lamented the failure earlier this year to get gun legislation through the Senate and said “that means we’ve got to get back up and go back at it” to work harder than those he said want to make it easier for people to get firearms.
Obama made passing tough gun laws a top priority after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December last year.
However, Congress rejected his proposals to restrict sales of certain types of guns and require greater background checks. Gun-rights groups opposed the measures, saying they would infringe on constitutional rights.
“We fought a good fight earlier this year, but we came up short, and that means we’ve got to get back up and go back at it,” Obama said.
“As long as there are those who fight to make it as easy as possible for dangerous people to get their hands on guns, then we’ve got to work as hard as possible for the sake of our children ... to do more work to make it harder,” he said to applause.