Barack, Hillary and 2008: Obama says women, minority White House hopefuls face higher bar. At MLK Jr. memorial. So is Oprah.

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The 2008 presidential race is lurching center stage, Sen. Barack Obama--already polling second to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton--said women and minorities have a higher hurdle to cross when it comes to winning the White House.

"You know, my sense is, whether it's the African- American candidate running, a woman candidate running, if it's a nontraditional candidate, there's an additional threshold you have to meet," Obama said.

Is the nation racist and sexist? This question comes as Obama and Oprah Winfrey are but two of the luminaries at today’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

Spoke Obama, "For all the progress we have made, there are times when the land of our dreams recedes from us – when we are lost, wandering spirits, content with our suspicions and our angers, our long-held grudges and petty disputes, our frantic diversions and tribal allegiances."

Obama speech below.

The Sunday Washington Post, in a cover story on its commentary section focuses on Sens. Clinton and Obama and the White House ceiling. Could they get past sex and race prejudice in the U.S? That prompted Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America"Monday morning interview with Obama to ask him if gender and race will matter.

Obama told Sawyer, ":You know, my sense is, whether it's the African- American candidate running, a woman candidate running, if it's a nontraditional candidate, there's an additional threshold you have to meet. I think you have to show people competence in a way that if you're a white male you may not have to show initially. But once you do, I think people are willing to judge you on the merits. They're willing to judge you as an individual. The key is getting known and getting people comfortable. And at that point, then I think they're willing to look at the individual as opposed to look at their sex or their race."

Sawyer asked, " We have seen new polls this morning about you and Senator Hillary Clinton. Here's my question: Do you think that residual resistance is greater for race or for gender? Is the nation secretly, I guess, more racist or more sexist?"

Obama replied, "You know, I really think it comes down to the individual. And the people end up having the sense, will this person look at for the interests of all people? And if they're able to show that and demonstrate that, then I think ultimately it won't make a difference. "

Remarks of U.S. Senator Barack Obama

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial groundbreaking ceremony

November 13, 2006

I want to thank first of all the king family, we would not be here without them, I want to thank Mr. Johnson and the foundation for allowing me to share this day with all of you. I wish to recognize as well my colleagues in the United States Senate who have helped make today possible. Senators Paul Sarbanes and John Warner, who wrote the bill for this memorial. Senators Thad Cochran and Robert Byrd who appropriated the money to help build it. Thank you all.

I have two daughters, ages five and eight. And when I see the plans for this memorial, I think about what it will like when I first bring them here upon the memorial’s completion. I imagine us walking down to this tidal basin, between one memorial dedicated to the man who helped give birth to a nation, and another dedicated to the man who preserved it. I picture us walking beneath the shadows cast by the Mountain of Despair, and gazing up at the Stone of Hope, and reading the quotes on the wall together as the water falls like rain.

And at some point, I know that one of my daughters will ask, perhaps my youngest, will ask, “Daddy, why is this monument here? What did this man do??

How might I answer them? Unlike the others commemorated in this place, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a president of the United States – at no time in his life did he hold public office. He was not a hero of foreign wars. He never had much money, and he while he lived he was reviled at least as much as he was celebrated. By his own accounts, he was a man frequently racked with doubt, a man not without flaws, a man who, like Moses before him, more than once questioned why he had been chosen for so arduous a task – the task of leading a people to freedom, the task of healing the festering wounds of a nation’s original sin.

And yet lead a nation he did. Through words he gave voice to the voiceless. Through deeds he gave courage to the faint of heart. By dint of vision, and determination, and most of all faith in the redeeming power of love, he endured the humiliation of arrest, the loneliness of a prison cell, the constant threats to his life, until he finally inspired a nation to transform itself, and begin to live up to the meaning of its creed.

Like Moses before him, he would never live to see the Promised Land. But from the mountain top, he pointed the way for us – a land no longer torn asunder with racial hatred and ethnic strife, a land that measured itself by how it treats the least of these, a land in which strength is defined not simply by the capacity to wage war but by the determination to forge peace – a land in which all of God’s children might come together in a spirit of brotherhood.

We have not yet arrived at this longed for place. For all the progress we have made, there are times when the land of our dreams recedes from us – when we are lost, wandering spirits, content with our suspicions and our angers, our long-held grudges and petty disputes, our frantic diversions and tribal allegiances.

And yet, by erecting this monument, we are reminded that this different, better place beckons us, and that we will find it not across distant hills or within some hidden valley, but rather we will find it somewhere in our hearts.

In the Book of Micah, Chapter 6, verse 8, the prophet says that God has already told us what is good.

“What doth the Lord require of thee, the verse tells us, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God??

The man we honor today did what God required. In the end, that is what I will tell my daughters – I will leave it to their teachers and their history books to tell them the rest. As Dr. King asked to be remembered, I will tell them that this man gave his life serving others. I will tell them that this man tried to love somebody. I will tell them that because he did these things, they live today with the freedom God intended, their citizenship unquestioned, their dreams unbounded. And I will tell them that they too can love. That they too can serve. And that each generation is beckoned anew, to fight for what is right, and strive for what is just, and to find within itself the spirit, the sense of purpose, that can remake a nation and transform a world. Thank you very much.



People are ignoring Gore way too much. He is the ONLY Democrat who could thwart a potential Hillary Express. No problem with cash, no problem with name recognition, experience etc. And let's not forget the minor detail that he's won a presidential campaign before but got SHAFTED!! More importantly for Dem primary voters, he was right on Iraq, unlike Hillary, and also unlike Hillary hasn't kowtowed to right wingers one iota...

Old Barry is talking out of both sides of his mouth. Yes, this country has a long was to go as far as equality. At the same time, much of the Barrack "hub bub" has to do with his minority status. Tell me what exactly he's done or what he stands for...He has paraded his minority status (saying nothing about his white mother) to further his career and place on the Democratic ticket.

to MinorRipper: GOOD POINT ! I'm NOT a big Al Gore fan. But at least he stands for something. Doesn't speak out of both sides of her mouth like Hillary. Her Iraq vote could backfire on her. Why? Because her husband was president only about 10 months earlier. So she had knowledge of any intelligence on Iraq. Afterall, didn't the Clinton's always work as a team. Didn't they always say, "when you get one, you get both" (LOL)....

to Wendell L: Also GOOD POINT ! Hey, wasn't it his WHITE mother who raised him after the parents split?. Also, I wonder how these animal-rights activists, PETA, etc. feel after contributing to his campaign? Now that his wife is always seen in mink coats (LOL)..

My thinking, 30 years ago--YES, a minority was held to a higher bar. But not now. Just look at Todd Stroger. Come on, he's got no abilities, whatsoever. He's there because HE'S BLACK. He's there because the Black Community voted for him because HE'S BLACK. And Mayor Rich and John Daley wanted him there. They need a puppet in place. The machine wanted him there. Look at Congressman Alcee Hastings. There going to give him Chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee. A guy who was IMPEACHED from being a judge for taking more bribes then Carter has peanuts. And impeached by his FELLOW DEMOCRATS. Last time they had congress. And Nancy Pelosi was one of the activists wanting Hastings impeached and led the vote doing it. So where is the higher bar? Look at Jesse Jackson. His 'hymietown' anti-semitic remarks. He's still on top. Even after having a baby out-of-wedlock. Even after two of his two sons got a Budweiser Distribtorship as the deal to not boycott Bud. Look at the financial mess over the accounting books (Operation PUSH). He even layed-off PUSH employees yet still has his extravagent jetset life. Think of the furor everytime a corporate CEO does that? So where is his higher bar? Look at Rev. James Meeks. He puts on a play in his church depicting anybody whose gay is automatically going to hell. There was no outcry from gay-rights groups. When Rev. Jerry Falwell spoke out v. gays, the gay-rights groups went crazy, didn't they? Oh yeah, Meeks spoke out v. abortion, also. So why no criticism from NOW and Pro-Choice groups? They sure do if its a Falwell or somebody like that. Also, remember Meeks is a state senator, also. So do you think any of his constituents in his district and the state are either gay or women who had abortions? Yet, not one word. But watch them go crazy (conservative or moderate) if its a white politician or preacher. So where is this higher bar? And there are many, many, more examples. Sorry, but those days of having to be at a higher standard are long over.

Senator Obama is right, ! a higher standard, like um dealing with Tony Rezko!
What a hypocrite!

Obama is a racist for saying this higher bar stuff.

Does Obama mean that getting in a sweetheart land deal with Tony Rezko is a higher bar? He is no better than Blagojevich or George Ryan.

Obama is nothing special. He is just like the majority of professional politicians and its too bad that he might get nominated-only-to-lose in the general election as he gets scrutinized more closely. For example, his self-described "boneheaded" decisions relating to his very long relationship with the Chicago "slum-lord", his info-mercial-like droning of "yes we can", when he can't point to a specific legislative legacy of his very own, that underscores how different he is from hundreds of legislators or thousands of great orators in his community or the country at large. He has been the beneficiary of a soon-to-be-gone, aura of something different, when he just soooo much like all the other politicians that have sleazy associations, questionable judgement and ethics, and purport to be all for "change". He will change nothing, he will be exposed, maybe too late, but exposed none the less, for the foney-baloney he truly is. Journalists, do your duty! Investigate his finances, and fact check his proclamations of this and that. And do the same with all the other candidates! I fear we will get another version of the disaster America has had for 7 years with Bush, Inc. All the candidates have troublesome judgement and backgrounds, inclduing the one with the shortest and seemingly invisible background-Obama.

Sent in Absent T ballot for BARACK OBAMA two weeks ago!

HE makes me feel HOPE is in the present tense.


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Lynn Sweet

<Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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