U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 46th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner on Saturday in Washington, D.C. Pool photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama told the Congressional Black Caucus gala it would be "an insult to my legacy" if African-Americans don't vote for Hillary Clinton and reject Donald Trump.
Obama, addressing the gala for the last time as president Saturday night, said it's a referendum on everything he has accomplished the last seven years. He drew frequent applause for this declaration:
"If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake," he said. "All the progress we've made is at stake in this election. My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration -- that's on the ballot right now!"
He criticized Clinton's opponent, Trump, the Republican nominee.
"You may have heard Hillary's opponent in this election say that there's never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow and -- but we've got a museum for him to visit. So he can tune in. We will educate him.
"He says we got nothing left to lose, so we might as well support somebody who has fought against civil rights, and fought against equality, and who has shown no regard for working people for most of his life. Well, we do have challenges, but we're not stupid. We know the progress we've made, despite the forces of opposition, despite the forces of discrimination, despite the politics of backlash. And we intend to keep fighting against those forces."
Obama began his speech with humor in addressing the "birther" controversy.
"There's an extra spring in my step tonight. I don't know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over. I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change -- none of those things weighed on my mind -- like the validity of my birth certificate. And to think that with just 124 days to go, under the wire, we got that resolved. I mean, that's a boost for me in the home stretch. In other breaking news, the world is round, not flat Lord."
Obama was talking about Trump's admission Friday that the president was born in the United States. Trump has raised questions about Obama's birthplace and demanded that the president present his birth certificate as proof of his origin.
Trump did not issue an apology.
Obama, during his speech, noted the struggles of black people and efforts to suppress votes.
"In 2016, there are those who are still trying to deny people the right to vote, we've got to push back twice as hard. Right now, in multiple states, Republicans are actively and openly trying to prevent people from voting. Adding new barriers to registration. Cutting early voting. Closing polling places in predominantly minority communities. Refusing to send out absentee ballots. Kicking people off the rolls, often incorrectly.
"This should be a national scandal. We were supposed to have already won that fight. We're the only advanced democracy in the world that is actively discouraging people from voting. It's a shame."
He applauded efforts to get people to vote.
"And I am reminded of all those folks who had to count bubbles in a bar of soap, beaten trying to register voters in Mississippi, risked everything so that they could pull that lever. So if I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn't matter who we elect -- read up on your history. It matters. We've got to get people to vote."
Obama said it was a historic event when America elected its first black president and he and his family have worked to serve as role models for the nation
"When we began this journey coming on 10 years now, we said this was not about us. It wasn't about me. It wasn't about Michelle. It wasn't just to be a black president, or the president of black America. We understood the power of the symbol. We know what it means for a generation of children, of all races, to see folks like us in the White House.
"And as Michelle says, we've tried to be role models, not just for our own girls, but for all children, because we know they watch everything we do as adults. They look to us as an example. So we've taken that responsibility seriously. And I've been so blessed to have a wife and a partner on this journey who makes it look so easy. And is so strong answer so honest and so beautiful and so smart. But we're all -- we're just thankful because you guys have lifted us up every step of the way."
He said recently visited with his family work on the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
"And it made us proud," he said. "Not because we had arrived, but because what a road we had to travel. What a miracle that despite such hardship, we've been able to do so much. And I know everybody in this room understands that how progress is not inevitable. Its sustainment depends on us. It's not just a matter of having a black president or first lady. It's a matter of engaging all of our citizens in the work of our democracy."
Clinton spoke before the president, praising Obama's work in office.
"Even when hateful nonsense is thrown their way, Barack, Michelle, their two beautiful daughters have represented our country with class, grace and integrity," said the Democratic Pary nominee, who served as Obama's secretary of state."
She added, "Mr. President, not only do we know you are an American, you are a great American."
Clinton accepted the group's "Trailblazer Award" on Saturday night for becoming the first female presidential candidate for a major political party.
"We can't let Barack Obama's legacy fall into the hands of someone who doesn't understand that, whose dangerous divisive vision for our country will drag us backwards."
She didn't mention Trump's name.