Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner in New York City

May 04, 2015

The President. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. No need to do that, no, no, no. Well, it is wonderful to see so many old friends and a few new ones here today. I just want to, first of all, thank Leslie and Loida and the entire family for their incredible hospitality. Please give them a big round of applause. They have been wonderful supporters from the very start. And they couldn't be more gracious. And thank you for opening up this amazing home. And I suspect that your neighbors aren't thrilled. [Laughter]

Actor Leslie Lewis. Some of them are here.

The President. A few of them are here. [Laughter] So, neighbors, thank you. We're tying up the elevators and messing up the streets, I know. [Laughter]

I'm going to be very brief at the front because I just want to spend most of my time in dialogue. A lot of you have been to these before, and you know I like taking questions. Let me make a couple of points.

Obviously, we've made some enormous strides over the last 6½ years in repairing the economy. We've seen 5 years straight of job growth. Stock market is booming. Almost every economic indicator you can think of, we are doing better than when I came into office. Energy production, health care, graduation rates, college attendance rates, reductions in carbon emissions—you name it—we've been making some incredible strides.

But I think that what we're all aware of—and certainly what's been brought to, once again, America's attention over the last several months—is that there are still folks left behind from recovery. There are communities that are still locked out of opportunity. And part of our task over the next 2 years, next 5 years, 10, 20 years is making sure that the basic ideal upon which this country was founded is realized; that there's not a child in America who, if they're willing to work hard, can't make it.

And whether we see the news in Ferguson or New York or Baltimore, what we know is, that's still not the case. So part of what brought me here to New York today was to announce one more piece of this overall initiative we're calling "My Brother's Keepers," designed to focus on those communities and those young people, and particular, young men, who are locked out of opportunity. And the private sector and corporate community came together, initially have raised $80 million, and are going to keep on going, for us to provide mentorship programs and apprenticeship programs and to work with cities and communities all across the country that are focused on this issue.

But it does speak to the larger set of challenges that we still have. We are growing faster than most other advanced economies. Our unemployment rate has come down faster than almost anybody else's. We've got all the best cards in terms of cheap energy sources, innovation, the best university systems in the world, the most dynamic economy in the world. But if we are going to be successful over the long haul, if we're going to win what will be a very competitive 21st century, we got to have everybody on the field. We can't leave entire sectors of our economy or entire communities behind. And that means the work that remains to be done around early childhood education, making college more affordable, encouraging greater investment in research and development and science and technology, making sure that we're rebuilding the infrastructure of this country—those are all big pieces of business that have not yet happened.

Now, I intend to get as much done in the next 22 months as possible. As you've noticed, I've been pretty busy—[laughter]—and I will continue to be. And I'm hopeful that we may find some opportunities for collaboration with the Republican Congress, for example, on trade, hopefully, on infrastructure. There may be some things where there's some convergence. But if we're going to deliver on the promise that's there for all of us, then we're still going to need to realign our budgets to our values, and we're going to have to fight for priorities like immigration reform.

And those battles are going to depend, in large part, on the continuing effort in the political arena. And we've got to have strong candidates. But more importantly, we've got to have an engaged citizenry. And that's why, despite the fact, as Michelle helpfully reminds me, I don't have another race to run—[laughter]—and she's pretty happy about that—that's why I'm here this evening. And I know that's why you're here. Because this is not a project that stops after a certain term in office, and it's not a project that stops after an election. This is something that we have to sustain over the long term.

And the values and ideals that I believe in are ones that I've never expected to realize just in one term or in one Presidency. In fact, I said that in Grant Park the day I was elected.

And so I just want to say thank you to all of you because we're going to need you for the long haul. America needs you. And the Democratic Party is grateful for you.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:14 p.m. at the residence of Loida Nicolas Lewis. Audio was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Dinner in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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