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President Flees Washington For Rev. Sharpton Event In Midtown

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Rev. Al Sharpton marked the 20th anniversary of his Harlem-based organization by teaming up with President Barack Obama and top White House officials to grapple with issues affecting black Americans.

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The president spoke at approximately 6 p.m. Wednesday evening at the annual conference of Sharpton's National Action Network. Cabinet members spoke earlier at the Manhattan event.

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Obama stressed that education was the civil rights issue of our time, stating it wasn't enough to "just leave no child left behind. We've got to help every child get ahead."

"Instead of labeling our schools a failure one day and then throwing up our hands and walking away, we've got to refocus on the schools that need help the most," Obama said.

The "Keepers of the Dream Awards Gala'' also featured a keynote address by entertainer Bill Cosby.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he'll work with Sharpton's group to help alleviate teen violence in black neighborhoods, especially violence involving guns.

"I am proud that addressing youth violence is a top priority for this administration -- and for today's Justice Department," said Holder, the country's first black attorney general.

While growing up in Queens, "I witnessed the consequences of violence on the streets of this city," he said, adding that it "can have devastating, long-term effects -- increasing odds for depression, substance abuse and violent behavior into adulthood."

Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said he's teaming up with Sharpton to help black homeowners facing foreclosure.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he's been traveling with Sharpton around the country to black neighborhoods with the highest school dropout rates.

Do you think the president was wrong to leave Washington with a government shutdown looming?

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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