Page last updated at 00:18 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 01:18 UK

Obama urges 'new black mindset'

Barack Obama: "The pain of discrimination is still felt in America"

US President Barack Obama has told America's oldest civil rights organisation that African Americans should take charge of their own lives.

He told the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) there were "no excuses" for minority children not to succeed.

Mr Obama's comments came in a speech at a dinner marking the 100th anniversary of the NAACP.

It is his first speech focusing on race since he became US president.

The BBC's Jon Donnison in Washington says the tone of the speech was passionate, even preacher-like.

"Make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America," Mr Obama told the NAACP members gathered for the anniversary dinner in New York.

He said discrimination was still felt by minorities in the US, including African Americans, Latinos, Muslim Americans and gay people.

But he told the NAACP members they had to take responsibility for their lives and their communities.

No one has written your destiny for you - your destiny is in your hands
Barack Obama

"Government programmes alone won't get our children to the promised land - we need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes," he said.

The president said African American communities had "internalised a set of limitations" and "come to expect so little from the world and from ourselves".

But he said African American children should instead aspire to be scientists, engineers, Supreme Court judges and presidents.

"We have to say to our children: 'Yes, if you're African-American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighbourhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not.'

"But that's not a reason to get bad grades, that's not a reason to cut class, that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school," he said.

"No one has written your destiny for you - your destiny is in your hands. You cannot forget that, that's what we have to teach our children."

Mr Obama also said he wanted to see a return to strong parenting and adults taking responsibility for the discipline of all children in their community.

He drew on his own experiences of growing up with a single mother, praising her for giving him "the chance to make the most of life".

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