“Women made the movement happen”, he said.
Robinson was posthumously presented one of the five Phoenix awards along with the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, who was instrumental in the release of the Wilmington Ten; Fred Gray, civil rights attorney for Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; civil right’s activist Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize and lead the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama (1965-1966) and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
With more black women graduating from college and opening their own businesses, the president noted the progress made but said there is more work to be done.
Obama’s speech also highlighted the achievements of black women in the fight for civil rights.
A common refrain for the president was that supporting women and girls was simply the “right thing to do”, but he noted that every American benefits when all citizens are treated equally.
Obama has had the dinner spotlight to himself during all but one of his nearly seven years in office.
He was due to speak again on Saturday, but with the campaign to succeed him in full swing, the president was certain to face some competition for attention.
Vice President Joe Biden was attending a caucus prayer breakfast before heading to his home in Delaware for the weekend.
Obama also touched on the issue of criminal justice, promising to work with CBC members and other lawmakers in the months ahead to advance legislation intended to make the system fairer and encourage the use of diversion and prevention programs.
Among those in the audience was Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I want to repeat because I’ve said it a lot, unwaveringly, all the time: Our law enforcement officers do outstanding work in an incredibly hard and risky job”.
“Well, because we can’t ignore it, because no matter how talented our young people are, sometimes they are not seen through the lens that they should be seen through”, she said. We appreciate them and we love them’.