President Barack Obama’s speech before a crowd of supporters Jan.11 at a University of Illinois-Chicago Forum fundraiser included some familiar material.
Before he walked on the stage to go over his own check list of accomplishments since taking office, at least three other people before him did the same.
Actor and author Hill Harper led an audience participation exercise that touted the Obama administration’s establishment of health care for millions of uninsured and underinsured American’s. His battle with cancer made that particular piece of legislation personal for him.
The night’s entertainer, singer Janelle Monae, praised her favorite Obama legislation as did members of the Obama campaign.
Then when he took to the stage, the president almost immediately picked up where Hill and Monae left off.
“I’m here not because I need your help, but because the country needs your help,” Obama said. “The change we believed in, we knew it wouldn’t come easy and we knew it wouldn’t come quickly.”
In his speech, the first campaign one in Chicago in the new year, Obama claimed to have pushed through at least some Republican roadblocks to give the country change he promised in 2008.
The bank and auto industry bailouts, passing health care legislation, repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” ending wars, taking down terrorists, making education reforms…and his check list went on.
“These changes weren’t easy. Some were risky. Almost all of them came in the face of fierce opposition,” he said. “Not all of the steps we took were politically popular at the time. But you know what kept me going is you.”
African Americans flocked to the polls in 2008 in record numbers. In communities like Chatham, over 80 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the election and more than 90 percent of the time the vote was for Obama.
But as many Blacks doled out hundreds –even thousands—of dollars to support Obama Wednesday, some back on the block say enthusiasm for the nation’s first Black president has cooled.
Dan-yea Johnson, 33, a technical education major at Chicago State University could hardly wait to go to the polls in 2008.
“I felt like he could make a change in the United States. I felt that it would be nice to see an African American in office,” the unemployed mother of three told the Chicago Citizen. She thought then, “If we give an African American a chance maybe he could make a difference and help African Americans because we’ve been suppressed for so long.”
But four years later, Johnson gives a noticeable pause when she considers re-electing Obama. She plans to do it, but…
“It’s not the excitement like four years ago,” she said. He deserves re-election “but I don’t think that he will get as many votes.”
Obama has repeatedly asked his supporters to be patient and believe in his ideals for change. Johnson, who commutes to the South Side university from suburban Markham, supports that.
“I believe he’s really working hard for African Americans to go to school,” she said, explaining that the president’s work with keeping Pell grant levels in tact was personally important for her. “He’s helping out a lot and trying to make sure that everyone is accommodated and no one is really left behind.”
Rev. Booker Vance knows that the foreclosure crisis took a toll on a lot of his congregants. The community activist and faith leader said the Obama administration should have pushed more for banks to work with homeowners, as part of the bailout.
“That’s been one of the great atrocities,” said the pastor of St. Stephens Lutheran Evangelical Church.
Still, he believes African Americans should continue to support Obama for president.
“Not because he’s necessarily been so successful, I just think that people underestimated how complicated” the presidency is,” he said. “For us to believe that in four years, or three-and-a-half years that this (nation’s economy) would turn completely around was just pipe dreams and naïve.”
By Rhonda Gillespie