He emphasized the continuing need to close racial and ethnic disparities while also talking about personal responsibility.
President Obama on Thursday night called for a "new mind-set" and urged Americans to rise once more to meet the challenges ahead as he paid tribute to the civil rights leaders who paved the way for his historic presidency. The occasion was the 100th-anniversary celebration of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in New York.
Mr. Obama noted that the "steepest barriers to opportunity today" include the "structural inequalities" that are the legacy of discrimination, which still disproportionately affects African-Americans in education, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. He also emphasized the need for personal responsibility to continue the fight on which the NAACP was founded.
"We need a new mind-set, a new set of attitudes – because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way that we have internalized a sense of limitation, how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves," he said.
In a nod to the NAACP's mission, Obama emphasized the need to close racial and ethnic disparities. He also praised civil rights leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King Jr. who "understood" the need to overturn unjust laws and enact legislation that would lift "the stain of slavery and segregation." But he also extolled the efforts of the ordinary people who "made the civil rights movement their own," and he again urged Americans to "encourage excellence in our children."