Obama's big speech

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on March 19, 2008

I only saw bits and pieces of it as they were replayed on various news shows -- Hoystory doesn't begin operating at 7 a.m. PDT -- but Sen. Barack Obama's big speech was full of soaring rhetoric, signifying nothing.

To be honest, there's little he could say or do to really address the underlying problems of his association with the extremist, racist bigot Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He could've claimed ignorance and then thrown Wright under the bus, but that would've smelled too noxiously of political convenience. After all, he's attended that church for twenty years.

Now, a fisking:

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.

God Damn America! Sorry, but that's the first thing that comes to mind. How can you attend that church for 20+ years being "preached" at by Wright and still believe that America is uniquely a place where you can make it through hard work and perserverance? Was Obama napping in the pews?

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.

Speaking of unifying and racial divides -- if you were so interested in unity, why did you choose to attend an Afrocentric, all-black church? There are integrated churches -- even in Chicago. If you were interested in bridging the racial divide, why attend a church that demonizes whites?

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.

This is a change from Friday's various interviews where Obama claimed to not have heard any of these "controversial" statements. Obama has rightly determined that that story won't hold water. I must confess that I've occasionally attended churches where I didn't agree with remarks made by the pastor. Usually those disagreements were theological, not political -- I don't go to church for politics. But at what point does the occasional disagreement or controversial remark reach the level that you cease attending that church? Obama's tolerance is much higher than mine -- I couldn't last 20 years.

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.

Is this the first time a Democratic presidential contender has uttered the words "radical Islam?" It might be.

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.

Which is worse: wrong or divisive? Obama seems to suggest that divisive is worse. I disagree.

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.

And he's a racist and a bigot and a hatemonger. Louis Farrakhan does all that stuff too.

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 that's apparently just the pastor.

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.

Throw grandma from the train. She's an anti-black bigot -- just like Jesse Jackson.

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.

And Mr. Unifier decided long ago not to take a stand and buck the trend.

The rest of the speech is just the standard big-government must solve all the world's problems and it will only do it if you elect Barack Obama president.

I'm not sure if Obama's taken care of this problem. We'll see if the media continues to dig into the Trinity United Church of Christ and challenges Obama's narrative.

My gut feeling is that this is going to disappear from the political watercooler talk. The media is very uncomfortable with issues of faith and race and the sooner this goes away, the better.

0 comments on “Obama's big speech”

  1. It can't go away unless he drops out of the race. The Wright videos were simply incendiary.

    The same people who attacked Bush for agreeing to speak at Bob Jones U, and attacked Romney for policies his church had already changed, and attacked McCain for accepting the endorsement of a preacher who had made anti-Catholic statements want us to give this a pass?

    The explanation is not credible. Change the situation. If Robert Byrd attended a church that preached hatred of blacks for the last 20 years, do you think he could survive? Even among the Democrats in a tightly contested Senate, he would be gone. Some things are not acceptable. Happily, overt and public acceptance of racism is one.

  2. Yes, and after these speeches, the congregants went out into the street and lynched the first white person they saw. Not to mention the fact that Jerry Falwell became a pariah in the political sphere after making numerous inflamatory comments about pretty much everyone who wasn't just like him. Oh, and after speaking at Bob Jones U, George Bush was asked to drop out of the presidential race, as that was the only way that the whole episode would just go away. David Duke, a former Klansman actually thought that people would take him seriously in his run for office in Louisiana of all places, that's just laughable. It's a good thing that no one voted for him and that people just plain ignored him. Honestly, what's got your panties in twist??? Was it the fact that Obama couldn't control his pastor or that he wasn't a paid employee of his campaign? How dare Obama allow this citizen of the U.S. to speak his mind long before he ran for president, what the hell was he thinking??? Not keeping this crochety old guy on a short leash or in the basement with a bag on his head? Doesn't Obama know he's black and because of that, everything that any black person within 20 feet of him says is his fault! He'd better get his stuff together or he's going to be run out of the presidential race by Hillary Clinton (who can't keep her husband or her staff in line) or John McCain (George Bush's personal prison bitch), then we'll get some real discipline!

  3. You guys are obviously in the dark when it comes to race relations in America. It is quite clear that your site and the comments posted are just as idiosyncratic as the its owner. White America, feels the same way about blacks and still have yet to confront the issue dead on. Sen. Obama did a brave thing, one that most politician skirt around. Get it together folks!

  4. You should have at least watched the speech. Your whole post comes off as very ignorant.

  5. I was interested to see how people were responding to this speech after I watched it.

    I was disappointed to come here and see a review that seemed intent on ignoring anything that was actually said.

    The fact that you break up the speech into paragraphs does little to hide the fact that you ignored the points those paragraphs attempted to make.

  6. The poster's limited education obviously never included rational thought, nor spelling. Well, at least the blogosphere can help ease the pain of stupidity.

  7. Dear Mr. Hoystory,

    As it was clear in Obama's speech. We had the right to choose. We can choose to underimine Obama's speech by focusing in his weaknesses or we can choose Obama's speech for his message of unity to confront problems that affect us all!
    If Obama stayed with the church 20 years we can choose to think that he is contradicting his message or we can choose to accept the you attend church not only for the pastor and maybe go to one of their services to try to understand this and see for yourself if that is a church that "demonizes whites"

    Twenty years ago Obama was not even thinking to be were he is right now and who knows! maybe that church help him to understand and believe that unity was the answer!!!

    Reverend Wright's actions came in a very important time of Obama's campaign, can you think why this is happening?

    As I said before, we can choose and your comments make me believe that you have already done so...

  8. [...] I must confess that while I’d read about Obamamania I hadn’t quite grasped its depth and the hold that it has over Obamamaniacs until I read the comments on my “Obama’s big speech” post. [...]

  9. By his example, Obama has shown us how to solve race relations in this country: make a speech. A simple speech of hope and unity, founded on acknowledging that Wright is right but also wrong. So tomorrow I ask every racist (including the few white racists in this country) to give a speech of unity and hope. Then we'll all be healed and problem will be over. No one will actually have to do anything. Talk is enough.

  10. I find some of the comments horribly wrong! Sen. Obama should not be faulted for going to church and quit it because the pastor has done wrong, be sensible. We go to church not because of anyone else, but because of Jesus. I think people need to be re-educated. Just because I have problem with the pastor I will quit the church, that is mean!!!
    Politics in America is difficult to understand, there are more pressing issues than the race.
    You have the most expensive President spending 12 billion dollars a month for war America itself created. But lets get together and bring unity instead of disunity!!

    Kind regards,



Why, one must ask, was the suit against Biden's student debt wipe “inevitable”?

Was it because the Biden admin is in flagrant violation of the law, and because *everyone* in America knows it?

Not in Waldman’s view, apparently. | @charlescwcooke


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