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March 18, 2008

Obama's Race Speech
Posted by Michael Cohen

I've been spending the past hour or so properly trying to digest Barack Obama's speech today on race and religion in America. In a possible sign that my career as a political pundit may be short-lived, I'm at a bit of a loss on what to say.

I've just spent the past year reading and writing more about campaign speechwriting than any sane person should and the one thing about this speech that jumps out at me is the courage and complexity of the man's arguments. One would fully expect that after the incendiary comments of Rev. Jeremiah Wright Obama would throw this man under a bus - but he didn't. He actually tried to explain the racial and religious context of how these assertions materialized.

Whatever you might think of Obama, you can't say he has taken the easy way out with a speech like this - he's taken the time to confront some very unpleasant truths about race in America. And he has done it in a nuanced manner that is pretty much unprecedented for campaign rhetoric.

I've pasted the text below the fold - please take some time to read it and post comments.

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. 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 – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – 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, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, 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.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. 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, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me.  And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. 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.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. 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.

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 is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, 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.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

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.


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I think that being at a loss for what to say is just the right reaction. At least, it was my reaction. I really respect the courage of this -- not just to not throw his friend and mentor under a bus but to deal with big ideas in public when he knows this will be nit picked over and over and that you'll have to write a "whacky, whacky Kristol" post about it sometime soon (but after Kristol's damage has been done).
I'm a Clinton supporter. I've been aggressive about that. But I've decided not to nitpick this speech. I really think Hillary Clinton should be president. But I just as firmly believe that Barack Obama is a courageous man.

Let the primary continue. I get to vote for our side without reservations for once!

I am not at a loss for words: this has to be among the greatest campaign speeches ever given by a contender for the Presidency in the history of the USA. Period.

All this talk about courage just begs the question: in contrast to whom is this speech courageous?

Anyone who knows anything knows the last few weeks were the Clinton team attempting not really to make it about race - as many believe - but about trapping Obama in a hard political choice. I thought he was going to be unmasked, driven into a ditch dug with his own rhetoric.

This strategy has absolutely backfired.

Obama not only has done the most eloquent statement on race in the USA by a sitting US Senator. He has done something unprecedented; here is a Black man telling to White America: I feel your pain.

Instead of a banal response of "race don't matter" and Clintonesque throwing-under-the-bus of now inconvenient allies.

The guy has embraced the race issue, contextualized it, nuanced it. He defended Hillary!!! This is absolute and complete political dominance.

This is a Clinton moment, brought to you by the opposing camp.

Mike: you are aphasic because the Clintons, for all their incredible smarts, have completely underestimated Mr. Obama. Hell, I have.

They have been utterly outmaneuvered. In a field they created a few weeks ago. It worked in Ohio, and probably in Texas. But to think that they would be able to drive this stake any further was a real mistake.

Knowing who supports the Clinton - having for long been in that camp - I also feel your pain.

The main feature that is attractive of Hillary Clinton, is electability.

Thats all we like about her. Maybe gender issues, maybe some CFR stuff, but on the main, electability.

That means we are willing to see her not talk about certain things. That means that even if we know she is not a racist, homophobic etc we are willing to see her not speak in our language in order to get her (and the Party) elected.

Obama's speech, however, spoke to us at a very basic level. He said all the things we hold self-evident. All the things we wish were public discourse. And he said it.

It might yet cost him the Presidency.

But I will feel dirty in November if I have to vote for yet another microtrend-watching Clinton. And I wouldn't have said this until Obama's speech on Race.

(Hell, I voted for Hillary in the NY primary!)

Now, I understand exactly what Obama means when he says that he has the audacity of hope. He has given a clear example.

I have two serious concerns with this speech and they make me reconsider my potential support for Obama (I will not vote clinton, but have never been in love with Obama.) they are:

1) Considering how much he gets attacked for being a Muslim, this speech seemed like the perfect time for him to address that issue as well. He was giving a major speech about race and religion, but yet he didn't even mention the issues that Muslims in the USA have. That would not bother me from someone like Clinton or McCain because they would have no particular reason to care about Muslims. But Obama is consistently slandered (if you can call it that) with false accusations of being Muslim. I am actually shocked that he did not confront that problem during this speech. At least to defend Islam, or to talk about the relationship between those attacks and other types of intolerance that he did talk about... that was a very sad omission. and one that almost seemed purposeful, consider how much controversy has been made of it.

2) the quote:
"They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."

This was a really sickening introduction of the Palestinian/Israel conflict into this discussion. First, he is obviously just forcing a defense of the Jewish critics of him in an unrelated way into this speech. And in this way, it was an indirect reference to the Muslim controversy. But also, IT IS JUST WRONG. I don't think Obama is so stupid to actually believe this. On its face it is a stupid statement. Not in the least because Islamic movements have not even been a factor in the conflict until the last 10 years, but the conflict is 80 years old. I mean, seriously, what a joke.. He obviously knows better. But what's sad is that he is to cowardly to stand up to pro-Israel pressure.

Sen. Obama left, or rather was forced to leave, one major hostage to fortune with this speech. This is Rev. Wright himself.

Wright will be tracked down by the media and asked for comment. He will be asked, for example, if Obama's interpretation of his belief that the American government is conspiring to pump drugs into the African American community is the product of the anger produced by the experiences of his youth in a segregated America is correct. He will be asked similar questions about other things he has said.

Obama risked a lot in defending this guy. In his place, I wouldn't have done that without a plan to handle what comes next.

This speech was not only brilliant, it's about time someone is willing to stand against this issue of race. people like rush limbauh are the most racist people and the worst kind because they don't even realize they are or playing the same political games hilary, macain are playing and bush has played for too long now. anyone in earshot of this speech who refuse to grasp and internalize His truth and sincerity plus; the crying out, and need for an end to all the devicive tactics, the race based hate, have chosen to refuse the healing that this nation needs. This is the last thing we need right now!!!!!!!!! asside from those people who have decided not to try to work together to make this the nation what it once was and go beyond that mark. the media has decided to help in the process of diverting our the attention from the nations needs to magnify a miniscule matter. I am ashamed of the way this matter is being handled by too many. there are things about both hilary as well as macain that we know we don't need in the white house n e more. how is it that Barack is the only one under fire right now, when the deeds of the others are far worse issues yet being swept under the rug. it's a shame that this country would deny itself the best possible person for the job ( BARACK OBAMA to clarify) because of something he may have heard. it's rediculous that we would look for excuses not to support instead of deeply educating yourself about the whole situation come to an educated decision then get off it, move forward. this is why the democratic party was in question and untrusted for so long and the rush limbaughs of the world are loving it. why do we all have to practice separatizm? hasn't that been what OBAMA has been trying to end from the start. no other candidate has been able to bring so many people together in such a short pd of time. This among other things says to me that this is this mans birthright, and who am I to stop the healing for this nation and who it's supposed to come thru? I still have faith that Sen. OBAMA is going to be the next president of the US. Most people are not so shallow that they will not dig deeper than the surface that the media only wants us to see ( tina faye, snl as well as too many others.) lost respect for them as well as gov. rendel, dan onoratto, and ravenstall. I hope they all have really great opposition when their election comes up. I voted for them before but no longer. I'm especially surprized that ravenstall is supporting clinton. however come off it and lets get back to the issues and I'm sure if we listen to His plan of action we will rally behind him and put him in he White House where he belongs fighting for this country and working with us to let the healing begin.

damn if he does, damn if he does not. He can't sastify and please all of his "in-laws".

Thanks to Obama's speech, more and more racists / bigots appear with hate messages.

This is Clintons' trap; they set it up with help from Fox News, etc. O'Reilly & Hannity to bring down a good potential president candidate so Clintons (white-american) can be back to WH.

I know Michelle made comments about being proud of American, but I have never been more proud of nan African American male and I have a Dr., a Ph. D. candidate and a registered architect in my family. I was almost in tears by the time he finished his speedh. He spoke of things that no one talks about in a mixed-race situation. We are together but so very separate.

I say, let racism and distrust on both side come to the surface so we can begin a dialogue and discuss our thoughts and ideas intelligently, openly and honestly.

I wish I could pull some old Chicago politics and vote for him three times (smile).

Some larger context for the controversy here:

Obama did what he had to do, to try to heal the factions that are in the publics mind. Perhaps later he can address the Muslims and other religious groups deal with. I'm not Muslim, but I'm not Christian, Hindi or a Scientologist either.
Not many people talk about my religious group except in negative slurs or as some freakish group that's out to destroy children. But then there are a lot of groups that get treated that way.
Obama addressed the mainstream bigotry and religious issues - as a president he'd have more ability to address radical issues than now. For now he needs to be honest - he has, more open than any other candidate that I've seen in years.
I think those that have been "passed over" in their own minds should realize that he needs to step carefully while in this election.
I will still choose Obama - before, after the speech and always.
He has given me Hope for the Future...and only with him do I see this country standing up and uniting together as a people to reclaim it as our own again.
Rule by the people, not rule of the people!

Despite of the fact that he threw in a few things that were out of context with what he was saying in a given paragraph, this was a very good speech. He said what needed to be said. Yes, he's speaking to get elected that's part of campaigning, but he spoke for the people, not just one special interest, or against the other party. I feel like this speech was written for everyone. Good job Obama.

The media (and Google's web browser) really needs to do a better job bringing to light the parts of this speech that mattered. I hadn't noticed any of the important parts until I read it here.

Conflicts in the Middle East _are_ rooted primarily in the actions of Israel. Who can disagree with that fact? When Senator Obama claims that this view is distorted, he is clearly just saying what the Israel Lobby wants to hear from the whole world - even though everybody knows it is a lie. That a such an intelligent man could make such a glaring error is highly improbable.

I contend he is going so far overboard in his "support" for Israel that he really means the opposite. Only if your words are laced with subterrainian sarcasm could you make a straight-faced claim that Israel plays no part in Middle East conflict

Conflicts in the Middle East _are_ rooted primarily in the actions of Israel. Who can disagree with that fact? When Senator Obama claims that this view is distorted, he is clearly just saying what the Israel Lobby wants to hear from the whole world - even though everybody knows it is a lie. That a such an intelligent man could make such a glaring error is highly improbable.

I contend he is going so far overboard in his "support" for Israel that he really means the opposite. Only if your words are laced with subterrainian sarcasm could you make a straight-faced claim that Israel plays no part in Middle East conflict

I agree with those who comment on what the media are making this issue into and though my comments may be a bit belated I believe that if you are reading it it is because that speech though made over a week ago still resonates clearly in your mind.
Senator Obama dared to raise an issue everyone has been dying to talk about, which we all wish our politicians addressed but about which we have come to accept they never will.
Let’s for a moment talk about the qualifications of a president. As I read on some other site we have come to accept certain people as electable; they fit into the image we have come to have of a president. But what is that image? Is it that of a person who makes countless promises and does not deliver on them? Or is that of a person who misleads congress and takes his country to war, a war that should never have started in the first place? It is time to look at our expectations of a president because maybe we, not the presidents are to blame for what has gone wrong in this country. Senator Obama dared raise a thorny issue. In so doing he identified with the ordinary man in the street although he himself had had a more fortunate beginning to his life and the paradox is that he sounded convincing. Standing there delivering the speech he had everything to lose and very little to gain but he went for it, he talked about the issues that matter. I have seen GWB on CNN tell the best experts on world economy "our economy is strong" when all economic indices suggested the opposite. And the ridiculously he won the next election. Just what then do we expect of our presidents? To lie to us? To speak authoritatively about matters they haven’t got a clue?
I challenge all who read this post think about what you look for in a presidential candidate. Do you look for someone who perfectly fits the image of a president we have all come to accept is normal but which in our hearts of hearts we loath or do you look for a real person? We have become so accustomed to lies that the truth sounds bizarre. And although we know that Sen Obama's race speech delivered on all fronts and answered some very serious questions we have been asking ourselves for years and although we should be leaping for joy that someone who aspires to become president of the most powerful nation on earth is daring to tell the truth here we are with some wondering if he is a worthy candidate. I wonder what we look for in a president. My suggestion is that it is time to get real. Maybe future candidates will learn a big lesson if we send Obama to the white house on the back of his honesty

I loved his speech it was very touching and most of the things that he talked about in his speech is so true.Obama got my vote all the way he is the best person for office in this day and age we would love some one like him to rule our country.

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