Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Saturday that the American value of working hard to get ahead has “slipped out of reach” for many in the United States over the last three decades, but especially in communities with large black populations.

Obama to Black Leaders: America Must Become Country Where Anyone Who Works Hard Can Earn Their Way Into the Middle Class

President Barack Obama speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation s (CBCF) 43rd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (Credit: AP)

“We must make this country a place where anyone who works hard can earn their way into the middle class,” Obama said in a keynote address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner. “And until we do, we can’t let up and we can’t rest.”

Obama added that America must “offer new ladders of opportunity for anyone willing to climb them” in his speech to his most ardent supporters packed into a cavernous ballroom at Washington’s convention center.

Obama acknowledged progress made since 1963, but said there was more to be done. He spoke of work needed to reduce a black unemployment rate that is twice that of whites, increase the minimum wage and provide health care and education for all.