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Sweet: Obama speaking now about "racial stalemate." Cannot "disown" Wright any more than he could "disown my white grandmother."

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obamaphiladelphiamarch182008 004 (photo by Lynn Sweet)
PHILADELPHIA, PA.--Speaking right now, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he did hear Rev. Jeremiah Wright make controversial remarks while he sat in church. But he is also a man, Obama said, who helped him find his Christian faith and leads a church trying to do "God's work" on earth--the South Side of Chicago.

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown 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 her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.'

Earlier in the speech Obama said, "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 the 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," Obama said.

He just said, "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."

Obama's speech so far...


“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 of 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 and in some cases pain 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 the 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.

16 Comments

I thought he laid it all out in that speech. He didn't hold anything back. Hopefully, this will launch a much needed honest national dialogue about racial divisiveness. His perspective is so uniquely qualified due to his geneaology.

God is soveriegn and HE will provide a Ram in the bush.... He is an on time God. This is disappointing ( the attacks )but nothing to be alarmed by, Our God did not bring Rev this far to leave him, but rather continue to lead him. The old folks having a saying " ... While you trying to dig a hole for someone else, watch how the land levels out underneath your feet!" I am going to continue to trust in God, and depend upon His word, HE has NEVER failed me (us) yet !! ! ! For those who do not live on the surface of life this is the best thing that could have happened. For these people, whose intellect abounds; will research this further until they uncover the truth. Amen.

Its interesting how this whole issue has come full circle since Barack first ran for Congress against Bobby Rush. In those days, the black community repudiated Mr. Obama for a number of reasons, and he was soundly beaten by Mr. Rush. I believe Mr. Obama is fully aware of Pastor Wright's philosophy, attitudes, and positions, and has been for years. Further, Mr. Obama used Pastor Wright to obtain credibility in the black community. As Pastor Wright once said, the chickens are coming home to roost. But for Jack Ryan's "moral turpitude" problem during the senatorial race, and the ridiculous decision by the Illinois Republican party to import Alan Keyes, we may have been spared the illusion that is Mr. Obama. His change agent message is compelling, but empty. How has he "changed" Illinois or Chicago political corruption? He had an opportunity to support change in the run up to the election for County Board President. And who did he endorse? Todd Stroger. Yep, thats change we can all embrace.

It is unfair that Obama has to justify his allegiance to either his church or the world. I have thought back to the very first time I voted and I clearly do no remember the issue of religion being brought up at all in President's Carter, Regan, Bush Sr., Clinton or Bush Jr. Now, because Obama is considered black (no matter his heritage) and is a believer of faith, some "People" have the audacity to suggest that disassociate himself from his Church! Shame on all the hypocrites of the world! Maybe if Bush Jr. had some religion, so many of our soldiers wouldn't be dead now.

Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

It is foolish for Obama to make such an assumption on the record, especially when he is trying to justify himself out of a mess.

It has been a long time since I have listened to a sermon, but from what I remember, the congregations that I was a part of always expected the ministers to preach about things that we agreed with. The few times that that didn't happen, the ministers were asked to resign from their positions at the church.

This speech has made me more of an Obama believer. White America must accept and understand the anger of Black Americans; Whites across the country not just those we feel they have something the gain...such as a vote but the everyday white man/woman must embrace equality for ALL and change their views of blacks. Being White doesn’t make you better it simply makes you white. But at the same time Blacks must use the justified anger to better themselves and their communities, at any cost! We as blacks must also be true to ourselves and know that NOT every problem, every negative situation in our lives is the fault of white people. This kind of mind-set will keep you from being and achieving the BEST results in life, ALWAYS! Blacks must again embrace family unity, self-respect, self discipline and higher education...violence, strife and blame are NOT the answers.

As always with Barack Obama a speech straight from the heart, he is completely right with many of his comments "The Truth often we do not want to talk about"

Barack Obama comes over more and more as a future President, he does not need a script to read from, I'm sure he writes a major part of his speeches, he does not depend on a script writer and finally he does hold everyone in Respect, that has been his genuine attitude since the early days working on the streets of Chicago. Don't let people try to tell you that he does not have experience.

Some are now saying this speech should have come earlier, perhaps so, but we now have his words of Thoughts and Truth, on as most important subject.

lots of BS. compare his friday denial and todays admision.

O said Wright had never made racial statements against whites in his presence, but that his grandmother had made racial statements that made him cringe. So, he would not throw Wright (although no blood relation to him) under the bus, but had no compunction about doing so to his dead white grandmother. What about her memory? What about O's girls who were presumably subjected to Wright's hate-filled sermons? All this make sense out of O's wife's statements about America being a really "mean" country?

His grandmother is not dead, and he told the story in more detail in his book, you dumbass.

I feel the black community doesn't understand the fact that not all whites are even close to being former slave owners. My ancestors were so dirt poor, they didn't even own their own home. No, I'm not angry,I just didn't get the breaks some people did. I'm poor, I'm white, I never owned a slave, but I picked cotton for a living, many times.
Stop blaming white people for your problems, we didn't own slaves, you were never a slave. The past is over, go foward look ahead to your future. If slavery didn't happen, you wouldn't live in this great country of ours. The opportunities are there,take advantage of them if you can. And just because we are poor, there is no need to blame anyone, it's just a fact of life. Live your life.

BLAME GRANDMA ! Like a little kid. I won't refute Wright because my grandmother made me cringe too. GIMME A BREAK ! Oh, and grandma is not around to defend herself. How convienient. And now he did hear the hateful speeches. Remember, yesterday he had said he didn't hear them. This guy is a phony.

Barack, middle-name rhymes with McCain, Obama didn't need a script because he uses a teleprompter.

Obama now admits he heard Wright say unacceptable things. So we know he lied to us before.
But Obama refuses to disavow a man who hates white people so much that he mocks the missing and almost certainly murdered Holloway girl, a teenager. Obama refuses to disavow a man who hates America so much that he poisons his apparently very gullible congregation with false and lurid lies about White America inventing AIDS to kill Africans. Wright remains Obama's close friend.
To defend the racist America hater Wright, Obama consciously destroys the reputation of his own grandmother,suggesting she is a racist morally and substantively equal to Wright. This is the woman who raised and educated him from his ninth year onwards. She is now an elderly widow, alone in the world, unable to defend herself against what well may be fabricated charges of racial prejudice. What a low,vile, ungrateful creature is this Obama.

Amusing...obama finally introduces the grandmother who raised him into the picture. Up until now all we saw and heard about was his black grandmother whom he didn't meet until he was in the senate.

Since when does a man have to account for the words uttered by another man? And since when does a man have to explain his loyalty to his religion or church to anybody? Americans and the rest of the world are going on as if Mr Obama is Rev. Wright’s spokes person. Americans should stop sweating the small stuff and focus their energy on things that really matter. Racism to me is like that much talked-about global warming thing, something that we can’t do anything about but have to learn to live with. I’m halfway across the world in South Africa and we are due for our own elections but cannot hold any presidential candidate accountable for other people’s hate speeches. Suck it up and move on people, life is too short.

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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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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 18, 2008 9:58 AM.

Sweet: Obama finished writing speech at 2 a.m. Gail Sheehy says Obama challenge is to explain the "positive mission" of his church. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet: Obama Philadelpia speech on race and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Transcript. is the next entry in this blog.

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