WASHINGTON — Barack Obama's message Monday night to the NAACP: He won't apologize for calling on black men to take more responsibility as fathers.
"Now, I know there are some who've been saying I've been too tough talking about responsibility," Obama told the civil rights organization's 99th annual convention in Cincinnati. "NAACP, I'm here to report, I'm not going to stop talking about it."
The crowd burst into loud applause.
"We've got to demand more responsibility from Washington," he said. "We've got to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But you know what? We also have to demand more from ourselves."
"If we're serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives," Obama said. "There's nothing wrong with saying that. And by the way when we are taking care of our own stuff then a lot of other folks are going to be interested in joining up and working with us to take care of America's stuff. We can lead by example as we did during the civil rights movement. Because the problems that plague our communities, they're not unique to us, we just have it a little worse."
Obama also repeated his call to raise boys "to realize that responsibility does not end at conception, that what makes them a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one."
Obama's remarks followed an uproar last week after the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who did not know his comments were being recorded by Fox News Channel, griped that Obama had been "talking down" to African-Americans and said in vulgar terms that he wanted to emasculate Obama.
Obama's responsibility message in a Father's Day speech he delivered last month at a church in Chicago may have left some blacks frustrated with what they suspect may be part of a general election appeal to white voters.
But Obama and his campaign have maintained the remarks were consistent with a message Obama has hammered on for years, having been raised by his mother and grandparents after his father left and returned to Africa.
Meanwhile, black voters, who traditionally vote for Democrats anyhow, have turned out in record numbers to support Obama in the primaries and Obama's campaign also is expecting high black turnout this fall.
Republican John McCain is to address the convention on Wednesday.
Obama's remarks were not critical only of the black community. He said if elected president he will fight prejudice, discrimination and economic inequalities, through policy and law and by "changing hearts and changing minds" and that he hoped next year, as the group celebrates its 100th anniversary, he would be standing before them as the first black president of the United States.