Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON - President Obama echoed the themes of his State of the Union address he made on Tuesday night on late Friday afternoon to a group of about 75 American Indian leaders. Our leaders paid at least $15,000 each to attend a fundraiser for his reelection campaign.
The President referenced the commitment his administration has made to improve the lives of American Indians across the country. He referred to American Indians as "our first Americans."
He cited the three tribal leadership conferences he has held as a way to improve tribal relations with the federal government.
“If you stick with me, I promise you guys I'm going to be sticking to you,”
President Obama said in a personal appeal for their continued support of his reelection.
He further commented he wanted the efforts of his administration should be "a turning point" to ensure American Indians are "not simply a ward, but is able to marshal the resources to prosper."
All proceeds will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee authorized by Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee.
Complete Remarks by President Barack Obama to American Indian Leadership Council at Fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Please, please have a seat. It is wonderful to see all of you here this afternoon. Some old friends and some new friends.
As you know, I'm not here tonight just as President, but also as an adopted member of the Crow Nation. (Applause.) If my adoptive parents were here, I know what they'd say: Kids just grow up so fast. (Laughter.)
When I made that visit to Montana, I said that my job wasn't just to win an election. It was to make sure that Washington started to focus on you. And I took that commitment seriously.
My commitment is deeper than our unique nation-to-nation relationship. It's a commitment to making sure that we get that relationship right. Native Americans have to be full partners in our economy. Your children and your grandchildren have to have an equal shot at the American Dream.
And that's why for three years in a row now, we've brought tribal leaders to Washington to develop an agenda that reflects your hopes and your aspirations and the needs of your tribes. I've appointed Native Americans to senior positions in my administration and in my White House. And many of you have had a chance to work with Kim Teehee, who does an extraordinary job coordinating our Native American affairs in the White House. (Applause.) And we've worked together to tackle some of the most difficult challenges facing Native American families.
And we should be proud of what we've done so far. But it should also sharpen our resolve to do even more.
As long as Native Americans face unemployment rates that are far higher than the national average, we've got more work to do. And I wake up every day focused on how do we restore America’s promise for all our people, including our first Americans.
So in my State of the Union address this week, I laid out my blueprint for an economy that's built to last, an economy built on American manufacturing and American energy, skills for American workers and a return to American values of fair play and responsibility. And that's what we're fighting for.
And I want you guys to be full partners in that fight because I believe that one day we're going to be able to look back on these years and say this was a turning point in nation-to-nation relations; that this was turning point when the nations all across the country recognized that they were full partners, treated with dignity and respect and consultation; that this wasn't just a side note on a White House agenda, but this was part and parcel of our broader agenda to make sure that everybody has opportunity.
And it's also a moment when we build a strong middle class in Indian country. It's not simply a ward but is able to marshal the resources to create its own agenda and its own destiny and its own economic development and its own businesses. That's what we're looking for.
We want new businesses and new opportunities to take root on the reservation. We want to stop repeating the mistakes of the past and begin building a better future - one that honors old traditions and also welcomes every single Native American into the American Dream.
We've done some great work together - whether it's making sure that Indian Health was permanently extended and that we were putting additional resources to make sure that we're picking up the health of Native Americans all across the country. Whether it's an executive order that specifies our focus on education with all of your tribes, whether it's making sure that we are working hard to allow the expansion of land in trust on behalf of nations to go further, we've made some significant progress. But we've got a lot more to do.
And I'm going to need all of you to continue to consult with us, to continue to work with us, continue to partner with us. I guarantee you that the work we've done over these first three years is not the end, it's just the beginning.
And if you stick with me, I promise you guys I'm going to be sticking with you. All right, God bless you. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
posted January 28, 2012 8:10 am est
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