PHILADELPHIA, PA.—Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was up late last night putting the finishing touches on the most important speech of his presidential campaign to be delivered this Tuesday morning—an effort to talk about race in America and address the swelling controversy about his relationship to his controversial minister the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Obama “finished essentially about two in the morning,” said his top strategist, David Axelrod.
Author Gail Sheehy, who is here at the speech site--The Constitution Center-- said she will be listening to Obama’s speech to see “if Obama can explain that positive mission (of his church Trinity United Church of Christ) as opposed to letting it be defined as black separatism.”
The speech is “Important, I think, to really give some insight to him….this is something he wanted to do,” said Jim Margolis, one of Obama’s media consultants.“This is his decision. His speech. His moment.
Margolis said Obama has been working a few days on the speech. “He spent an awful lot of time on it.” There is “not a lot of artifice” in what we will hear,” he said.
We chatted outside the auditorium of The Constitution Center where Obama soon will speak. He will be introduced by former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), who will invoke the names of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.—all people he knew and worked with.
I also spoke here with Sheehy, --a Clintonologist—who is writing a Vanity Fair article on the Clinton side on this fight for the finish. Sheehy is a Clinton biographer, following Hillary Rodham Clinton since her days as First Lady.
Wright is retiring later this year as senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side. She has met Rev. Otis Moss III, his successor when they were both on the same program at the Chattaqua Institution in upstate New York.
“I was excited by his fresh approach in combining gospel with hip hop music to appeal to the post hip-hop generation,” Sheehy said of Moss.
“He’s in the same generation as Obama and has the same kind of unifying appeal to young blacks, formerly disaffected, politically disaffected people.
“The mission of the church he is continuing for Rev. Wright is to run bible stories through the lenses of the black American experience.”
The audience is made up of community leaders and elected officials invited by the Obama campaign.
The Pennsylvania primary is April 22. The Clinton team has declined to comment on the Wright matter.
At 1:15 p.m. at Philadelphia’s City Hall, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) holds a press conference.