Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama is Teflon Man

As many of you are by now aware, Sen. Obama gave (what I thought was a brilliant) speech today. This is an expert from on A.P. story that covered the address:

Obama Confronts Racial Division in US

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Barack Obama unsparingly criticized his longtime pastor's words while strongly defending the man himself Tuesday in a politically risky speech that appealed to the country to overcome racism and the black anger and white resentment it spawns.

Forming a more perfect union "requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams," said the Illinois senator running to be the first black president.

"This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected," he said.

In his most pointed speech of the campaign, Obama confronted the nation's legacy of racial division head on, tackling black grievance, white resentment and the uproar over his former pastor's incendiary statements. Drawing on his half-black, half-white roots as no other presidential hopeful could, Obama urged Americans to break "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years.'"

"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," he said in a speech at the National Constitution Center, not far from where the Declaration of Independence was adopted. (Click here for more)

Here is a video of the speech:

If you wish to read his remarks, click here.

I think it is cheap and small minded to say that this was a racial address. This talk was far too broad in its scope to be reduced to just one issue, even one as important as race relations in the United States. Obama was really speaking to the idea of empowerment for the downtrodden and dispirited citizens of the United States. Race was a huge component of the speech, but like Dr. King's historic "I have a dream speech", or his brilliant Letter from a Birmingham Jail, or JFK's Moon Speech for that matter, Sen. Obama, by touching on the rawest of nerves, was addressing the notion of possibility. He was touching upon the very idea that we can be the country we aspire to be, but in order to do so we have to recognize the ugly, naked reality of our past and present. However, we also have to take pride and understand the obvious achievements that we have made in regards to race. But in so doing, we have to take stock in the opportunity gap that exists in this country. White kids in poor schools are just as screwed as black or Hispanic kids, ect.

I also noticed that it was a smaller crowd than I am used to seeing Obama address. This seemed like a small conference room, not a basketball arena, perhaps setting a more serious tone. To me, the most profound words he uttered this morning were the following:

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.

We are not stuck. We can change our lot, or circumstance, because it is possible. That to me is the handle between the Obama and the Clinton supporter. The Clinton supporter, in my opinion, tends to be more pragmatic in the sense that they are generally occupied by the possibility of improvement within the system as it currently framed. The broader structures are not as relevant as immediate and tangible results. And that is logical if you are without a job and have no health insurance. I imagine, even if I had a fatal form of cancer, I would be more concerned with fixing a broken arm after a bicycle accident than the disease that will likely do me in.

I am not sure if Obama put out the fire on this controversy, but I do think this will blow over for anyone that does not use Sean Hannity as their primary source of information, and lets be honest, most of those folk are not going to vote for a Democrat of any color or creed. I do think that the silver lining here is that Obama got to give what I think might be the most important political speech I have heard in my 33 years of life, and that his words will turn out to be far more important and long lasting than those of his pastor.

For me, listening to Obama give this speech on my way to work this morning conjured up images of the great Michael Jordon dropping 50 points on the tragic Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks. Which really got me thinking, Hillary Clinton is the political equivalent of Patrick Ewing, who probably would have won a handful of titles if his prime did not coincide with Jordon's. Ewing, like Clinton, was great. But Obama, like Jordon, appears to be timeless.

*UPDATE* Here is a collection of opinions on Obama's speech, courtesy of the Huffington Post.


puddy said...

great fucking post man!

Bradda said...

Great speech? or greatest speech ever?

.e. said...

I have yet to watch the speech. But I know it must have been incredible because I awoke to the following text message from my die-hard Republican friend "Wow. What a beatiful speech Obama just gave!"

alzaido alzaido said...

Obama delivered an extremely powerful and elegant speech. It is fantastic that he approached this topic head on. His speech was so brilliant that it is unbelievable to think that we are still in the primary elections. Obama is distinguishing himself as a human rights leader. I bet Clinton’s and McCain’s people don’t touch this one again. Further, Obama’s opponents should be afraid to attack him because he does not fly off the handle; rather, he collects his thoughts and presents them with conviction. Attacks on Obama will only continue to backfire.

puddy said...

this is killing me - i haven't had a chance to listen to the speech yet. it better be good given all the build up.

Anonymous said...

I hate his preacher and thus him.

BD said...

That was the first speech from a politician in a long time that hasn't sounded trite, tired, and full of useless mumbo jumbo. Of course, maybe because it didn't involve a denial and/or sex scandal I'm simply confused.

Bradda said...

Brent I agree. In my lifetime I have never seen something that moved me. I'm a cynical bastard and Barack actually made me care. I was left asking my TV, "what can I do Barack?". He's the real deal in my mind. I hate to say but I have finally found a candidate that I like. Bringing his grandmother's story in was brilliant and should open some eyes. We'll see.

.e. said...

Finally had a chance to watch the speech. Great speech. I'll be kind of all over the place in my reesponse here.

The appeal to me about the speech is that it was very open and genuine. It opens the door for discussion and puts an issue on the table. It's his approach to dealing with problems and his way of looking at things that I really like. To not be afraid of discussing an issue, to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. To never negotiate out of fear but also never fearing to negotiate. These aren't just fancy words strung together. They reflect a certain attitude, one I can relate to and wish more people shared.

Bradda said...

Well said E. Barack "talks" to me more and more each speech. Why doesn't he just name Edwards his VP and lets get this general election on? If we can't beat a John McCain then the Democratic party should be dissolved.

Kup said...

Brent, Bradda, and E; I agree with each of you. The only thing I can say is that as much as I would love Edwards, who was my "guy" before he left the race, I really think the "O Man" (as the FN would say) should pick someone who was against the war from the start. Obama is the real deal, so you no at.

puddy said...

it's clear to me now... Barack Obama sees the matrix.

Anonymous said...

Obama talks a good talk, but McCain walks the walk. You will all come to realize the McCain is the best canidate for the job. He will work really hard like Bush to continue to better our country.