Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama’s ‘A More Perfect Union’ speech.

In response to criticism of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and his close relationship to Rev. Wright, Barack Obama made a brilliant and eloquent speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“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”, said Omaba.

“He made comments that are simply inexcusable,” said Omaba “but I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community,” he went on to say.

Omaba also said, his own white grandmother, whom he loves, had made racist remarks.

Omaba tried to elevate the discussion beyond his association with Reverend Wright and the comments made by the Reverend and instead address the state of race relations in America. He discussed and justified the anger felt by many Blacks in America, but also acknowledged the anger that Whites feel when they have been victims of the reverse discrimination of affirmative action. “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,” said Obama.

There were several points made it this speech that hit a responsive chord with me:

· Obama said the comments by Rev. Wright were inexcusable. That was a good place to start.

· He still likes the man, and he also loves his own
grandmother who had racist tendencies.
I can relate to that. Many of us may be related to or have friendships with a person who is bigoted. If you are in the presence of someone who makes a bigoted, racist, prejudicial, or ignorant comment, do you often set quietly? If you do. then by your failure to speak up, you are tacitly implying your agreement. I have done it. One may do it because you simply don’t want to have an argument, because you don’t want to be distracted from the objective at hand, because you care for the person and are willing to overlook their flaws, or for any number of reasons.

· Obama said, “I’m sure many of you have heard remarks
from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.”
Yes! I am unchurched at the present time, but over the years I have set and cringed many times at things I have heard from the pulpit, and yet I have gone back the very next Sunday. How many people have heard their ministers insult their intelligence by preaching that the world is only 6000 years old? How many people have heard their ministers say that the destruction visited upon New Orleans by Katrina was God’s judgment for the wickedness of the city, or other such stupidity? I am sure many good people have set and heard their minister make stupid, ignorant or bigoted statements, yet stayed in the church.

· Acknowledgment of the legitimacy of white resentment.
I am not sure if Obama earned a pass with this speech or not, but he came close.

When Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi spoke at the retiring Senator Strom Thurman’s 100th birthday party celebration and said complementary things about Senator Thurmond, he was severely criticized and was forced to relinquish his leadership in the Senate. I gave Senator Lott a pass and thought he got a raw deal. If I was willing to give Senator lot a pass, then does not Obama deserve the same?

If Obama’s relationship with Reverend Wright had been a more casual relationship, I would conclude he earned a pass, but the 20 years of sitting in the pews and never leaving the church or publicly criticizing the man and the very close relationship causes me only to be almost persuaded.

I can’t judge Obama’s heart. I don’t know if the speech he gave was a sincere gut-wrenching pouring out of his heart, or if Obama is just another slick politician who masterfully walked a political tightrope to extricate himself from a terribly embarrassing situation. In any event, the speech was well crafted. I certainly do not agree with most of the populist analysis of what ails America that Obama laid out in that speech, but his honest discussion of race may go down in history as a turning point. It may be a speech that brackets an era.

If you missed the speech, you ought to watch it. This speech may soon be forgotten, or it could be one of those speeches that stand the test of time and is ranked with the “I have a Dream” speech, the “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” speech, or the “Ask not what your Country can do for you” speech.

Here is the Speech.

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