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Obama’s More Perfect Union Speech

category_bug_politics.gif Personally, the part about Barack Obama’s former minister was the least important part of the senator’s speech yesterday (full text here). Having already said most of it over the preceding few days as he was harassed and harangued out of all proportion to this miniscule issue, it was also the most boring section. Boring because I don’t care about the minister.

But public (or, at least, media) attention was so unrelenting that Senator Obama was forced to explain himself. As he began, I feared he would fumble this crucial speech - until about halfway through the 40 minutes when he said:

“I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork.”

Of course, he was right. That is what the body politic wanted. Having cornered the black man into atoning for words that are not his, the media, the public, those who oppose his candidacy wanted him to pay for the right to continue the campaign on an equal footing with the woman candidate by abasing himself at the feet of their accusations. Only then would they put the campaign’s racial under- and overtones back into a drawer.

For awhile.

Until next time.


But instead of setting aside the race issue, Senator Obama called on all the people of the United States to face it head on and really mean it this time:

“But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now," he said. "We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

“The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.

"And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.”

Senator Obama should never have been required to make this speech. But without it, due to the insinuations, innuendo and those video clips of Reverend Wright, the issue would have festered for months preventing any possibility of debate on our deadly serious problems.

He delivered one of the most sophisticated speeches politics has seen in years. Also one of the most personal and most decent - one that asks all of us to become our better selves:

“Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.

“And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

“This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

“But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.”

Not quite John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…” Not quite Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…” Or his “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” But approaching them and certainly a speech that will not be forgotten for a long time. Bear with me, read a bit more and tell me you’re not inspired – whomever your candidate is:

“…in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.’ This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.

"This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

“This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

“This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.”

Senator Obama spoke yesterday with eloquence, dignity and vision about the future of the United States. Is it too much to hope that Reverend Jeremiah Wright can be put to bed now and the campaign get on with the conversation the senator is trying to start?

Here is the video of Senator Obama's entire speech (37:02 minutes):

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mage Bailey follows up on some previous culinary-related stories with Failure to Cook.]


I thought Obama's speech was excellent, intelligent and eloquent as you said. Now, I, too, am waiting for this election's focus to be on the multitude of issues it should be about. I think outwardly the candidates are amenable to that, but too many people have other agendas.

Thank you for this. I was also going to do a blog on this and may still. To me, this is very brave and according to a Reuters poll out this morning, Obama is losing ground. I would like to believe this is not because of his speech but because of media badgering of his Pastor.

The WSJ posted the full text of his speech online yesterday an hour before he gave it. What truely hit home for me, besides his speech, were the comments posted by readers following the speech.

Most of them were unfortunately a testament to what he spoke. He was right on: we do have a major problem in this country with racists, biggots, and media who go in for the kill with their hype and innuendo. Why do we tolerate this?

We are adults. We need to turn off the pundits and pollsters and do what is in our hearts and minds. As always, thank you Ronni for consistently delivering a vehicle for discussion.

This speech should move the hearts and minds of everyone who watches it. It is one of the great orations of our,or any, generation.

If I weren't already planning to vote for Obama, I would certainly do so after hearing the voice of this eloquent man. His leadership is apparent. His speech is such a contrast to the inappropriate smirks and gaffs that are the hallmark of a George Bush speech.

I fail to see how the hateful Rush Limbaugh's, and other right-wing commentators, will be able to fault it, but, rest assured, they will find a way. I hope that people who listen to those divisive haters are swayed by Barack Obama and will see the Limbaugh's for what they are; petty opportunists.

Barack took a risk by pointing out the disparity that exists between the races, but deep in the hearts of all is the knowledge of the truth of his statements.

I hope his speech shames those commentators who have been obsessing on the Reverend White's oratory and force them to talk about the real issues.

Thanks for posting one more cooking story, and yes, he was forced into saying all this and saying it again. Gee......

I supported him before the speech and even more so after it. I have seen him as a leader who can deal with the issues that are most troubling this country. It's hard to say what impact the speech will have as so many people only hear what already suits them and they twist anything that does not.

Maybe you should care about the minister because, as I tell my teenage son, "You are known by the company you keep."

Sorry, but I disagree sharply with both your post & the above opinions. It does matter what your minister says -- if your interpretation of the Bible is significantly different, you go to another church. As a Congregationist, I have gotten up & walked out when the minister began a political talk rather than focusing on religion -- the Bible & Sin.
This speech is no more than a more sophisicated "Checkers" speech & just as honest as Nixon was.

[Final sentence removed for its racially inflammatory nature. - RB]

excellent reflection on this important and remarkable speech--about race in anerica, one of our dominant issues. the other is class. we try to avoid both.

barack obama makes me proud of him as he embodies the halting progrss we've made over the last 40 years. how fortunate we are to have a cabdidate who has the courage to speak to our problems in a manner that challenges our best instincts as americans.

Thank you. The speech, and your posting, make me hopeful. Some of what I am reading and hearing in the immediate fall out from the speech is dimming my hope for our country having a more sophisticated and honest dialogue not only on race, but the "other" real issues of this campaign. But I confess I feel much better today than I did after a week or more of watching the endless loop of clips on this preacher, and all the resulting baiting by pundits--and others--to garner ratings or favor for their own candidate in the process. Some evangelical preachers, as I recall, have said some pretty horrid things about our country and (some of) the people who live here, and we've had political figures who sought their blessing and endorsements. In comparison, that made the furor over this local Chicago preacher seem overblown in my view. He didn't have a national platform until we, and the media, gave it to him. Reverend Wright became an unwitting contributor in creating the groundswell that forced Obama to step up to the plate and give the speech he delivered yesterday. I hope the campaign and the coverage of it can now...move on. Will a more perfect union result, whether Obama wins or not? I sure hope so.

Thanks for the post Ronni. All the commentary on blogs, tv, and print media is making me sad and tired. Too mean. Too picky. Too demanding of perfection from every candidate. As for me, I have made my choice and will turn off the fight and return to working on the home front. Take care.

I don't know when the last time was that I heard a politician speak so eloquently as this speech by Senator Obama. Unfortunately, the European media propagates readily the rhetoric blunders of Bush, but not the intelligent rhetoric of your other politicians. Even if one is not an Obama voter, or can not vote at all because we are a citizens of another country, Mr. Obama is a roll model we can show our children. He made a grand gesture giving that speech, and demonstrated dignity and integrity. My children and I spent an hour this evening over dinner discussing the speech. What more could I wish for?

Yes, Marilyn. that's why Jesus spent all his time with the sinners.

Talk about not getting it....

We can always count on you, Ronni, to keep us abreast of the important issues of our lives.

I was disappointed that I would be in transit at the time Senator Obama would be delivering this important speech and thought I would only see "Snippets" of it on Fox Noise; and only the bits they chose to reshow over and over again as they have shown Reverend Wright's tirade ad nauseum.

So, when I got home yesterday and couldn't find the speech anywhere, I thought I had missed seeing it in it's entirety. But, I hadn't counted on you, Ronni. This morning when I opened my computer for the first time, there it was. The entire speech. And what a speech it was!
Senator Obama is quite an orator and my husband and I were captivated by his sincerity and his grasp of the issues that divide some of us of different races, religions and politics.

Thanks for posting the entire speech.I'm sure there were others who would have missed it if it hadn't appeared on your site.

I will remain a Hillary Clinton fan through the primaries, but in the event that Senator Obama becomes the nominee of the Democratic Party, I will be proud to cast my vote for him.

As a Canadian resident, I hopte that if elected Senator Obama will be able to bridge the significant GAP that presently exists in many important areas such as race, seniors and Canada/USA relations with respect to NAFTA. I strongly believe that Reverend Jeremiah Wright as a free citizen has the right to express his own opinion in the most honest way possible. Real change will only come when the root problems in the USA or Canada are identified and discussed openly. Then, creative solutions will more readily show up for a better overall Society.

When I was a young Marine and my buddy Shelton and I got orders to report to Camp Pendleton in transit for Korea, we both got 30 day's leave to bid farewell to family, girlfriends etc., before shipping out to join "The Police Action".
I was planning on driving cross-country and leaving my car with my folks for the "duration". Shelton's family was in New Orleans and that would be just a few miles out of my way, if I took the southern route from California to New York so Shelton said he wanted to drive with me, share the driving and gas money, and then I could stay at his mom's place for a couple of days and we'd "do' Bourbon Street.
That sounded good to me, so that was the plan until a few days later when Shelton told me he'd spoken to his mom on the phone and she told that him that I couldn't stay with them because "she wouldn't have a white boy, even Shelton's best buddy in her home"
So I took the Route 66 and barelled through the midwest.

That was the first time I found myself on the wrong side of the color line and when I began to understand racial prejudice.

Barack Obama got it dead right, racial prejudice is everybody's problem in this country and even if we try to ignore it, it's not just going to go away. In fact, I believe that it's a bigger problem today than it was during the Korean war. Now we have hispanics vs. anglos and African-Americans and vice versa, Christians hating Muslims, Asians etc. etc.

I do hope with all my heart that Barack Obama is elected president of this country because he is the only one who has a chance of leading us out of the awful mess we're in but even if isn't elected he has opened a dialog that needs to be addressed.

I agree with 70 yr old grandmother.

There is a reason he is not condemning his racist pastor. We should be concerned about that.
But, pathetically, as with my generation, the boomers, he is thought of as "cool." How idiotic.

My sense is that people who have a problem with Obama for "not condemning his racist pastor" (i.e., above comment) just can't get their brains around the fact that he has the grace and intelligence to condemn the offensive words spoken while still embracing the speaker as being family to him. Correct me if you think I'm wrong, but didn't Obama rather epitomize the characteristics of a true Christian in his remarkable speech? Perhaps those who haven't yet developed such spiritual depth continue to criticize what he said more out of self-loathing than anything else!
(I posted my thoughts about Obama in my new blog on March 21.)

If Obama were to become President, would the United States become an Obama-nation?

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