Eugene Cho

obama’s historical speech on race

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian; Whether you are black, white, yellow, red, or any other color; Whether you are for Obama, Clinton, McCain, Ron Paul, or a move to Canada…grab your favorite drink and listen/read this speech.  It’s not my intent to irk anyone who may perceive that I am subliminally pushing for one party or candidate over another.  

No – that is not my intention. I am simply calling people to listen to what I perceive to be one of the most substantive and profound speeches on the issue of race, racism, [and faith]. 

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.

Again, no matter which party or person you are supporting, I genuinely believe that we need to must take the opportunity to listen to both Obama and Hilary Clinton and their stories for they both represent voices – even in this great country – that have rarely been heard on this level. 

And for those who have inquired of my thoughts about Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s snippets in his sermons, I think Obama addresses them firmly and graciously.

  • What did you think about the speech?
  • How does the speech address your concerns – if any – about Obama’s relationship w/ Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Below is a video of Obama’s speech.  If you want to view a very high quality video, you can see in on MSNBC video.

Here’s the full transcript of his speech:

“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 our 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 if 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 who’s 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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27 Responses

  1. Patrick says:

    A truly amazing speech. I think I was I was in near tears listening to it today.

  2. SC says:


    The speech was powerful. I am not a fan of Obama but appreciated much of what he shared. But his relationship with Rev. Wright still concerns me. While I know that we were listening to just snippets of his sermons, this is a church and a pastor that gave an honorary award to Louis Farrakhan. That is not a snippet. There’s a decision behind that. Now his pastor can do that but why would Obama be there for 20 years?

  3. Dan Hauge says:

    Cool–you posted the whole enchilada. I agree that no matter who anyone supports for President, this speech is a significant step in addressing race issues in the wider political discourse. And everyone, please read (or watch) the whole thing, not just the snippets that you’ll get on the news. It is so rare that a prominently visible politician actually trusts the intelligence of the audience–Obama presents context, complexity, nuance, and a huge amount of graciousness. The speech may not be revolutionary when compared with the best and most detailed anti-racism work out there, but when compared with our usual level of national political discourse, it is an historic step.

  4. Ben says:

    Hey, not a stretch at all whatsoever to say God spoke thru him this nite.

  5. djang says:

    this is why i find myself with a sense of optimism for american politics. in the middle of all the hoopla, all the hype and the next hot button political scandal, you find a political leader who is not afraid to address real issues for real americans-not b/c it is the popular issue that needs to be reformed, but b/c it really really really sucks. what made the speech so powerful, for me, was the transparency from obama-you could feel his genuine concern for the racial hatred and divide hiding under the smiles of a lot of people. good stuff.

  6. Greg says:

    Whoa, thank you for posting this

  7. g says:

    Brilliant. Intelligent. Honest. Critical, but also hopeful and optimistic.

    This is the kind of candidate that I would be proud to have as the next POTUS!

  8. bolim says:


    Unfortunately people neglect that it wasn’t merely a speech on race, it was also a speech on faith, particularly the faith of many black Christians. Roland Martin of CNN picked up on that in his analysis.

  9. david says:

    amazing speech- i couldn’t agree more. but i fear for the repercussions. as much as i admire his courage and conviction to speak honestly and intelligently about the complexity of race relations in the US, i (sadly) do not have enough faith in the american people that they will give obama the benefit of the doubt on wright. and i fear that his balanced, thoughtful speech will be overshadowed by the media’s incessant, shallow, polarizing coverage of what for them is just another opportunity to divide america because it sells freaking advertising.

    so i’m drawn to obama’s optimism and hope (and amazing integrity when he could have taken the easy path), but i fear this may go badly for him. but mostly, i hope i’m wrong about america. please america, prove me wrong and show the world we can see beyond the “racial stalemate” we’ve been stuck in for too long!

  10. Jezla says:

    I didn’t think it was a particularly profound speech. He gave a nice summary of racial tension in America, but didn’t really offer any solutions for overcoming it in a meaningful way. He acted as if it is ok for the older generation to harbor anger over racism in the past, and that we should take that point of view into consideration when we here people say things like this Wright guy. What about Christian forgiveness?

  11. jadanzzy says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Dr. Wright said nothing wrong. What he did was continue a biblically prophetic tradition. “God damn America for acting like she is God and she is supreme.” What is wrong with this statement? Parse it all you want, but at the end of the day, this is a prophetic statement.

    Yes this is a matter of race, but more specifically it’s a matter of one particular race’s co-opting subversive faith for idolatrous patriotism.

    Regarding the political response Barack’s speech, it’s the conservatives and the religious right that’s in a tizzy. The speech did its job. I understand Barack had to denounce Dr. Wright’s words. It was a political move. The media is saying whether this speech will affect the working middle-class. Surely media’s gonna abuse a few soundbites out of context. That is what America, the media, and the religious right, is good at. RIpping things out of context, and the working middle-class is less likely to see the speech in its entirety.

  12. steve says:

    Hi Jezla

    I really hear anything in the speech that would imply Obama thinks anger is OK. Understanding the root cause of anger doesn’t dismiss it, but forms a basis for discussion to move forward. Obama is offering us a path to overcome racial tension in America, and that path is changing in a radical way how we discuss race and how we conduct politics. Obama’s wants to change how we think. And I think it encompasses the Christian message of forgiveness, but also repentance.

    If we are looking for a politician to “solve” the issue of race in America, we will never overcome it, because the change has to come in our hearts and minds. Politics can either help in the process, or be opposed to it. For too long in this country racial politics, both black and white, has been used to divide us. This Obama acknowledged. Obama wants to change that. And that is a refreshing.


  13. steve says:

    oops…that first sentence should read “I really didn’t hear…”

  14. ryanbd says:

    He nailed it as far as I’m concerned. I think historically, the willingness to say things in public that I’ve never heard a national politician of his stature say, will mark it as this generation’s greatest public speech so far. It’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. He didn’t get into specific policies because he needed to address the Rev. Wright controversy. But he did begin to point at some things, namely inequity in public schools and the justice system. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that someone of his stature actually expressed the feelings of so many that are rarely expressed publicly. The other thing I loved about it was that it was a politically risky speech that put his beliefs ahead of his campaign and, as a potential president, he talked to me like I have a brain and can think for myself.

  15. Obama’s speech on race

    He pulled quite an impressive speech on race issues.
    I’m not supporting anyone in this election and I don’t want this blog to be too political, but this is still worth to watch (or read, depending on what you choose to do).
    If you want to v…

  16. sue lee says:

    Initially I was impressed with his eloquence when hearing it live on TV.. but then he is always eloquent. However, after reading his speech in written form (without the TV), I was not too impressed with the following implications:

    1. It’s OK to continue attending a church, where a pastor espouses hatred and seeping anger, as long as we can understand their hurt within the context of their past life history and life experiences.

    2. It’s OK to continue one’s ties and relationship with a person who uses the pulpit to espouse this hatred and anger to another impressionable generation of young African Americans – as long as it is seen as part of one’s culture, heritage, history etc. and… as long as one cherry picks and disavows pieces of the Pastor’s sermons and messages.

    3. As proof that racism and hatred exists in various people groups in this world (including white people, not just Rev Wrigtht), it’s ok to crucify one’s own grandmother on national tv to illustrate the existence of racism, the dichotomy of one’s own existence and racial tension, and to bask in one’s own glorified state of honesty, integrity and truthfulness. (Let’s ignore the fact that biblically we are called to honor our parents, and in a sense, given his grandmother raised him, he should also apply this commandment to her… and perhaps telling such a story about his grandmother in the same sentence and Rev Wright, truly dishonors her. Truth does not mean it is mutually the same as integrity and honor. One can tell the absolute hurtful and shameful truths about other people and it can be considered gossip, hatred, or any other selfish reason beyond truth. One needs to look at the motives of telling such shocking hurtful truth about one’s own family. For Obama – it was for political expedience).

    4. Never taking responsibility for one’s own anger, and hatred, and lack of forgiveness (even as a Christian – or leader in one’s community) and simply using the anger to fuel the achievement of excellence in the community are acceptable in a Christian leader, as long as it can be justified from a historical point of view, or lack of personal growth point of view (and as long as one personally distances oneself from radical statements… this type of attitude is OK in the Christian).

    5. It’s OK to make a false statement that Trinity United church is a representation of ALL and MOST African American churches today, showing both the good and the bad of hurt, anger, racism, and festering anger, and most of all segregation. Note his words, ” Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – ……..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.”

    Wow… one would assume by those words that ALL average African American churches espouse such anti-american, anti-white hatred and anger to fuel their congregation members into the full action of Christian love towards their world.

    Unfortunately, not all African American Christians feel the same way about using black liberation theology in their Christian walk… namely as a means and excuse of not taking full responsibility for one’s own life and actions.

    Personally I think Obama has been politically shrewd, and has done what is politically expedient in his career by joining the church, and to some degree, absorbing much of the pro-African sermons as part of his black heritage. Now that it is politically disadvantageous in partaking in using Rev. Wright’s connections, he is distancing himself, and throwing out the red herring Racsim speech to further show what a wonderful candidate/person he is (even at the expense of his own grandmother).

    There is no excuse for associating with someone who espouses foolish talk. Proverbs talks about how to deal with fools… and in my opinion Rev Wright was a fool in the biblical sense of the word, if he used his pulpit and and his lack of forgiveness and anger to fuel his sermons and his congregation. And Mr. Obama continued to associate himself with Rev Wright, even up till today. Not the wisest choice in my opinion.

    To justify a fool’s actions (and lack of forgiveness, and the harboring of bitterness in one’s soul) as because they simply grew up in the wrong generation… is the same as implicitly condoning it.

    Honestly… talking about racism and dealing with it in a pro-active sense is a noble cause indeed. But Obama is not above the fray in using the race card during his campaign (i.e. note the spins his campaign did on Ferraro (a non racist), and Bill Clinton’s remarks). This is about his nomination to president of the USA, not about true nobility.

    Touting a noble conversational piece (also a red herring) to justify one’s relationship with a racial dividing, anger harbouring “Christian” leader as a potential presidential nominee should make one pause and think really hard.

    Obama’s relationship with Wright can not be justified by a noble speech on racism in America today. Sometimes red herrings are lovely to look at, but lets not have the attention span of a 2 year old, and forget why Obama is being motivated to give a speech on racism in the 1st place.

  17. Patrick says:


    Wow. You nearly copied those entire thoughts from FOX NEWS last night. Congratulations!

    And this is the 2nd or 3rd time you keep insulting “younger” folks who are impressionable. I don’t know who you’re talking about but please don’t patronize us. You insult us and you insult yourself.

  18. ryanbd says:

    Sue and others who complain about Obama supposedly throwing his grandmother under the bus – part of what makes Obama appealing to us impressionable younger folks is that he cuts through and says what we all know is true. It’s like contrasting his response to using druges to Bill Clinton – Obama on inhaling: “Of course I did, that was the point.” Again, does anyone really believe that somehow a politician trying drugs but not inhaling is somehow above one who tried druges and did inhale? His straightforwardness is refreshing.

    I would guess that anyone Obama’s age and older (or younger folks at that) have stories of their grandparents saying things about other ethnic groups that made us cringe. I don’t get how this is throwing her “under the bus” – nobody is going to go after his grandmother as some stand-out racist hater. When I hear this, I hear people who are already negative on Obama and are looking for every opportunity to criticize him. I’m not sure he could have said anything yesterday to change the minds of those who oppose him. The politically shrewd thing to do would have been to totally distance himself from Rev. Wright but he didn’t – why not give him points for condemning, in the strongest terms, the harsh things that Wright said? And then talked about why, because of their relationship, he couldn’t “disown him”. I thought it was a powerful model of Christian relationship.

    As far as the Clinton campaign goes, I like her and think she’s brilliant. But they have been very adept at playing the “race card” to scare voters (BTW, what is a “race card” anyways? Is that in anybody’s pinochle deck?). It’s a joke to say that Bill Clinton was not trying to minimize Obama’s campaign by comparing Obama to that other famous black presidential candidate, Jesse Jackson. What in the world did Jesse Jackson have to do with it? The reporter’s question was about the Clintons have to have two to beat the one, Obama. And he references Jesse Jackson? Sorry, Eugene, if this it getting too polemical, but you can’t pretend that those against Obama have not been trying to figure out ways to inject race into the campaign in ways that are supposed to hurt him.

  19. ryanbd says:

    so I just looked back at Eugene’s original questions…

    I’m fine with Obama’s relationship to Rev. Wright. I understand why Wright’s comments made people upset. But I also understand that the anger, bitterness and distrust of the American Government behind those statements is real. We can pretend that those feelings and the feelings of whites are not real, but…
    I heard one reporter today reference Brother Jeremiah in the Old Testament being thrown into a pit for criticising his government (Israel – who he in truth loved). I’m NOT saying Rev. Wright is Jeremiah, but it is an interesting comparison – some of Jeremiah’s words to his government sound awfully familiar to Rev. Wright’s:

    19 Give heed to me, O Lord,
    and listen to what my adversaries say!
    20 Is evil a recompense for good?
    Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
    Remember how I stood before you
    to speak good for them,
    to turn away your wrath from them.
    21 Therefore give their children over to famine;
    hurl them out to the power of the sword,
    let their wives become childless and widowed.
    May their men meet death by pestilence,
    their youths be slain by the sword in battle.
    22 May a cry be heard from their houses,
    when you bring the marauder suddenly upon them!
    For they have dug a pit to catch me,
    and laid snares for my feet.

  20. JB says:

    Did you all see what Mike Huckabee, of all people, said today:

    “It’s interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what Louis Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you’d say “Well, I didn’t mean to say it quite like that.”

    And one other thing I think we’ve gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say “That’s a terrible statement!”…I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this, but I’m just tellin’ you — we’ve gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told “you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus…” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”

    Indeed, I’ve heard things our of the right-wing clergy that I find just as offensive, but somehow it’s ok to cozy up to those guys. Is the greater discomfort with Wright’s statements because he is on the left, or because he is black? I wonder….

  21. beattieblog says:

    That’s awesome – first he makes the funniest political commercial ever with Chuck Norris, and now this. You’ve gotta like this man, Huckabee.

  22. Patrick says:

    Wow. I want Huckabee for Vice-President.

  23. bolim says:

    Franky Schaeffer writes a provocative piece – “Obama’s Minister Committed “Treason” But When My Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero.” Some excerpts:

    “Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father’s footsteps) rail against America’s sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the “murder of the unborn,” has become “Sodom” by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, “under the judgment of God.” They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama’s minister’s shouted “controversial” comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.”

    “The hypocrisy of the right denouncing Obama, because of his minister’s words, is staggering. They are the same people who argue for the right to “bear arms” as “insurance” to limit government power. They are the same people that (in the early 1980s roared and cheered when I called down damnation on America as “fallen away from God” at their national meetings where I was keynote speaker, including the annual meeting of the ultraconservative Southern Baptist convention, and the religious broadcasters that I addressed.”

    “Today we have a marriage of convenience between the right wing fundamentalists who hate Obama, and the “progressive” Clintons who are playing the race card through their own smear machine.”

  24. uenomurakami says:

    Most interesting discussion. I think Reverend Wright’s comments weren’t so hateful since they are mostly true. If the United States didn’t involve itself in the affairs of other nations, in a blatantly illegal and backdoor way, would we even be talking about Osama Bin Laden and terrorism? I think not. Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Chile 1970s, Iran, Iraq, the list goes on. We’ve sowed our seeds and now they are coming right back at us.

    I find it interesting that when we are talking around our dinner table or in our barber shop things get said that are far more rabble rousing than what the Rev Wright said. If you want there to be change it starts at home. Kids know what their parents say. They don’t really care about a sound bite on CNN by a religious they never see, or will never meet.

    If this was a political maneuver then Barack is playing from a different playbook. I don’t think this is how you become President of an overly conservative nation.

    I love the commentary here. Very intelligent and thought provoking. Sister Sue you bring it pretty hard, even though I disagree with your commentary and analysis. You bring hard like an iron fist.


  25. RK says:

    Wow Sue,

    You sound very angry, and I’m sorry for that. I truly hope that you find your own peace with God.

    I believe that God desires to liberate us from sin, from hate, anger and judgement because He is God and we are sinners (every single one of us), who struggle with hate, anger, judgement and control/power. Through Jesus we receive Grace and Forgiveness. I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive and receive grace.


  26. […] Obama’s speech: YouTube and printed form. […]

  27. […] Obama’s historical speech on race (video and text) — one of the great speeches of our time. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
of our times.

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