Black Public Scholars

November 23, 2009

Dr. Wilmer Leon: Obama’s Social Agenda and What We Need for America

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Your Black World, Howard University 

Early on the campaign trail, presidential candidate Barack Obama said, "This country is ready for a transformative politics of the sort that John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt represented." Socially, President Obama is beginning to move in such a positive transformative direction.

After 12 years of languishing in Congress, on Wednesday, October 28, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard / James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill. By signing this bill, the president expands the federal definition of hate crimes to include those motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. It also allows federal authorities to pursue hate-crimes cases when local authorities are either unable or unwilling to do so. This law was named after Matthew Shepard, a gay man murdered in Wyoming in 1998, and James Byrd, the African-American man dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in Texas that same year.

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