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Barack Obama's Speech on Race

Barack Obama Speaks on Black and Wright Issues

Barack Obama has just delivered a speech addressing the spiraling recurrence of questions and debate surrounding remarks made by Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright. The inflammatory statement made by Obama's spiritual adviser led to poll results released yesterday showing that 56 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for Obama given the remarks. Acknowledging that the subject of race has also become unavoidably prominent, Obama boldly and powerfully addressed the effect of both on his candidacy saying,

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.

He then unflinchingly tackled the issue of race, acknowledging that "anger" and "resentment" have built over time on all sides of racial divides. He said by addressing the issue honestly, therein lies the only path to growth.

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.

Did these words move you? Is this the path to change? Do you think that a bold and inclusive statement like this speech will satisfy those who disagree with Obama's relationship to Wright, or who may be considering the issue of race? Did he succeed in both silencing the Wright controversy, and addressing the broader issue of race in this country? Is this the appropriate time to make this statement?

Did he sound presidential to you?

To read the most personal explanation of both his relationship to Wright and his race,


I can no more disown him [Wright] 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.

Yes We Can?


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