President Obama on the State of Black America

President Obama delivers his first State of the Union Address in the well of the House just a year after taking office. The address will cover domestic and foreign policy during a time of recession and two wars. Terry Edmonds, head speechwriter for then President Bill Clinton, says the message will convey "optimism, looking forward even if we do have challenges, we have the resources and the will to overcome."

Edmonds says One of the most used phrases by Presidents during the speech, "The state of our Union is strong."

In December, President Obama evoked Charles Dickens in describing the state of Black America that continues to have disproportionate numbers in education, employment, health care and beyond. From an exclusive Oval Office interview with American Urban Radio Networks:

AURN: And lastly, you'll be coming up with your State of the Union, your first State of the Union in January. And I know you're going to speak to all America. But, in your opinion, what is the state of black America? THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think this continues to be the best of times and the worst of times. I mean, I think it's the best of times in the sense that never has there been more opportunity for African Americans who have received a good education and are in a position then to walk through the doors that are opened. And, obviously, you and me sitting here in the Oval Office is a testament to that.

I think it's the worst of times in the sense that unemployment and the lack of opportunity, particularly in some cities, has never been worse. I mean, you look at a city like Detroit where you used to have an enormous African American middle class built on the auto industry -- that city is in hard, hard times right now.

Now, just going back to the point you raised earlier about our responsiveness to the African American community, imagine what Detroit would look like if we hadn't stepped in to make sure that GM stayed open, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Having said that, if you've got double digit unemployment in cities like that, we're going to have to make some special efforts, and it starts with early childhood education; it starts with education generally. That's why I'm putting such a big emphasis on that. But it also means that every federal agency has to make sure that the assistance that's being made available to the general population is targeting those hard to reach places, so that they are also benefiting from our overall efforts to lift up the economy.

I'm optimistic about the long term future of the African American community, but it's going to take work. It was never going to be done just because we elected me. It's going to be a collaborative effort between people in the community who recognize that we're going to have to rely on government to do some things, but a lot of these things we're going to have to do ourselves.