We warned you there would be drama with Obama. Before he could walk on hot water today; Barack Obama had to cool down those waters. Clearly, he thinks it’s so over the top that a “major speech” (transcript) was needed to reassure the country and bring it together. The speech was scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. ET, but did not begin until 11:00 a.m. ET.
He announced his candidacy in Springfield, at the old courthouse where Abraham Lincoln served. I asked then would Obama have to free slaves? It is ironic that today he channeled and invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln to clear this huge hurdle in his campaign. I recorded audio (32 min) and it is available here.
High points (paraphrase and quotes) from today’s speech: Slavery divided this country. The answer to the slavery question was already embedded in our constitution, the ideal of equal citizenship under the law—perfected over time. Words on a parchment were not enough to deliver men from bondage. Americans protested and struggled through civil war and civil disobedience to bring about change: "I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together…"
He offered much biographical data throughout the speech: I am the son of a black African from Kenya, and a white mother from Kansas. I have gone to one of the best schools in America.
I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave-owners—an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents.
In no other country on earth is my story even possible. It has been seared into my genetic makeup…Out of many we are truly one. We won commanding victories in nearly all-white states. This is not to say that race has not been an issue. Some commentators have deemed me “too black” or “not black enough.” The pollsters have scoured the polls for the racial divide. It has been purposed that my candidacy is one of affirmative action. Then there is my Pastor Rev. Wright: I have already condemned the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such pain. Did I know he spoke controversial statements, yes, did I sit in the pews when he spoke such statements, yes.
Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems–two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Why not separate myself from Rev. Wright completely? If all I had known of him was the snippets running endlessly on TV, then I too would have run.
He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, led a church for over thirty years…that serves the community…by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care, scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
The American people are hungry for my message of unity. My church embodies the PhDs. and the welfare mom, it is full of bawdy humor and dancing and shouting, it contains the kindness and cruelty, shocking ignorance, the full gamut of the black experience in America. I’ve never seen him treat anyone with disrespect, including white people. I can no more disown him than my own family, than my own grandmother. I’ve heard my [white] grandmother use racial epithets and cringe when black men passed her on the street. But this is all a part of me. We can dismiss Rev. Wright as a crank, as a demagogue. If we simplify, stereotype and amplify the negative we would be doing the same as Rev. Wright. This country has never really worked through this. If we walk away, retreat, we will never be able to come together to solve health care or find good jobs for every American (applause).