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).
We still haven’t fixed segregated schools (applause) and this has continued to create the accomplishment gap between black and white students. There is still a great difference in wealth between blacks and whites. Anger may not get expressed in public but it does get expressed in barber shops, around the kitchen table, occasionally it finds voice on Sunday morning in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people find anger in Rev. Wright’s sermons reminds us of the truism that Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in America.”
There is anger among whites who have lost jobs, anxious about their futures and in an era of stagnant wages opportunity is seen as a zero-sum game. When they are told to bus their children across town…resentment builds over time. Anger over welfare helped to forge the Reagan coalition. “Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism (applause).” White anger is grounded in legitimate concerns. I’ve never been so naïve to think that we can get beyond race in this race. I have asserted a firm conviction: rooted in my faith in the American people and in God…that we can move beyond these wounds to a more perfect union.
Rev. Wright’s fault is that he spoke as if no progress had been made in this country. He was not mindful that one of his own flock has become a candidate for the presidency. The path to a more perfect union for whites does not just exist in the minds of black people, not just with words but with deeds, for enforcing our civil rights laws, more justice. By investing in education for black, white and brown children will help all America prosper. In the end what is called for is nothing more, nothing less than all the world’s great religions demand: do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper.
We have choice in this country: "we can accept division, we can tackle race as we did in the O.J. trail as spectacle," as we did over Katrina…we can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter or suspect that all white men will flock to John McCain, but if we do we will be talking about some other distraction in the next election…and nothing will change. That is one option. Or at this moment in this election, at this moment, say not this time we can talk about crumbling schools for black and brown kids and embracing them as our kids. We’ve been stuck in a racial stalemate for years…This union may never be perfect but generation after generation can show that it can be perfected.
He retold the story about one of his volunteers toward the end of the speech. But he ends it with these words:
But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia,that is where the perfection begins.
Afterthoughts about the speech abounded on TV and radio. Pat Buchanan spoke on MSNBC and freely gave his opinion on this issue today. Before the speech he noted that nothing Sen. Obama said will suffice to cool or heal these waters. “He has a wonderful persona, and you don’t detect hatred of him of anybody.” “That’s what so a contradiction.” “He is going to have to separate himself from Rev. Wright, clearly.” “This fella chose his pastor—Jack Kennedy did not choose his father.”
Afterwards, Pat said it was an excellent speech. He thinks that whites will not accept the onus that it (racism) is their fault. He remains deeply unconvinced that this is the end of race in the election. On radio, Rush today said that Obama’s time would have been better spent listening to him rather than to Rev. Wright because his program has sought to inspire and to motivate and to address and fix problems in this society.
Obama's speech was a bombshell; it was not safe rather it was a bold walk on hot water. The truth-fairy quotient will be called into question for those looking for a reason to call Obama a “liar," "bigot" and “racist” in suit’s clothing.