Thies: Marion Barry’s Critique of Obama’s Speech


Marion Barry liked President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, except for one thing: Obama didn’t mention voting rights or statehood for the District of Columbia.

Last week, Obama decided to affix the District’s “Taxation Without Representation” protest license plate to his fleet of presidential limos and other motorcade vehicles. An administration official indicated that the president is willing to "fight" for the District, though offered no specifics as to what, if anything, Obama will do to end the disenfranchisement suffered by its 600,000 residents.

If Barry and other District leaders want more specifics from Obama, they need look no further than Feb. 12, when the president is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address.

State of the Union speeches are ideal for establishing an agenda and introducing issues high on the list of presidential priorities.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Obama will mention the District.

Local leaders could do a lot to encourage the White House to speak out. The first step is finding a different spokesperson for the District other than Barry or any of the politicians currently being scrutinized by the president’s top law enforcement official in D.C., U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton might be the best option the District has at its disposal.

It is time for Norton to shine. She should hold a public event, request a meeting with the president, pen an editorial for the Washington Post, hit the airwaves nonstop and passionately demand that Obama lay out in the State of the Union address his plan for the District.

If the president gives voting rights or statehood more than just a passing mention, advocates for the District will have a roadmap to follow.

If the president is silent, advocates for the District will know that all they are getting from Obama is a license plate on a limo.

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