Entering his second term during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, President Obama is viewed by many as symbol of the equality that King and his colleagues struggled for during the Civil Rights Movement. However, as the nation’s president, Obama’s duties call for him to serve the interests of the majority in many cases, leaving black leaders upset at the lack of targeted support for African-Americans. Rev. Greggory L. Brown, an Oakland pastor spoke to The New York Times about the initial expectations of America’s first black president during his first term.
“I was so excited when he was giving that first inauguration speech,” Brown said. “The hope for Obama’s presidency was that there would be more help for places like Oakland and other urban areas that need support, safety and jobs. He made people feel like anything is possible.”
More than 90 percent of African-Americans voted in support of Obama during the 2012 presidential election, regardless of disappointments in his first term. Beyond his leadership, Obama remains a pillar of strength for blacks as they continue to expand their political and social influence in ways that were only imagined during the Civil Rights Movement. Obama may never act on behalf of African-Americans alone, but black leaders have preached patience and acceptance of the president’s other responsibilities.
“We believe that it is the responsibility of those that offer leadership to push the envelope forward. We cannot sit and ask the president to write an agenda to himself from us. It ought to come from us to him or the Congress from us to [them],” civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton said during a weekend press conference.
Obama was sworn in on the Bibles of King and Abraham Lincoln, a symbolic gesture that the civil rights leader’s family hopes will invigorate the president to addressing issues of racial equality.
“We hope it can be a source of strength for the President as he begins his second term,” the King family said in a statement. “We join Americans across the country in embracing this opportunity. To celebrate how far we have come, honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through service, and rededicate ourselves to the work ahead.”