Below are reactions to Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech:
The New York Times' editorial, entitled "Mr. Obama's Profile In Courage":
Inaugural addresses by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt come to mind, as does John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on religion, with its enduring vision of the separation between church and state. Senator Barack Obama, who has not faced such tests of character this year, faced one on Tuesday. It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better.
I read the various posts here on "The Corner," mostly pretty ho-hum or critical about Obama's speech. Then I figured I'd better read the text (I tried to find a video of it, but couldn't). I've just finished. Has any other major American politician ever made a speech on race that comes even close to this one? As far as I'm concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant--rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America. It is so far above the standard we're used to from our pols.... But you know me. Starry-eyed Obama groupie.
A smart colleague notes that this speech is the polar opposite of this year's other big speech on faith, in which Mitt Romney went to Texas to talk about Mormonism, but made just one reference to his Mormon faith.
Obama mentions Wright by name 14 times.
I think I have to dissent from David's view that Obama didn't bring his A-game to the speech this morning. I was only able to listen/watch out of the corner of my eye because I was on deadline for something else. But my sense was that the tempo and tenor was suited to the occasion. The kind of stirring delivery he's made a trademark of in his victory celebrations would not have been appropriate for the moment.
With racial sentiments swirling in the 2008 campaign--notably, Geraldine Ferraro's claim that Barack Obama is not much more than an affirmative action case and the controversy over his former pastor's over-the-top remarks-- Senator Obama on Tuesday morning responded to these recent fusses with a speech unlike any delivered by a major political figure in modern American history. While explaining--not excusing--Reverend Jeremiah Wright's remarks (which Obama had already criticized), he called on all Americans to recognize that even though the United States has experienced progress on the racial reconciliation front in recent decades (Exhibit A: Barack Obama), racial anger exists among both whites and blacks, and he said that this anger and its causes must be fully acknowledged before further progress can be achieved. Obama did this without displaying a trace of anger himself.
It was a moment that Obama made great through the seriousness, intelligence, eloquence, and courage of what he said. I don't recall another speech about race with as little pandering or posturing or shying from awkward points, and as much honest attempt to explain and connect, as this one.
He did it.
No other presidential candidate in the last forty years has managed to speak so much truth so eloquently at such a crucial juncture in his campaign as Barack Obama did today. And he did it by speaking about race, the most persistent source of hatred among us since America began.
It turns out that a candidate for president with a white mother and a black father has a capacity that no one else has ever had before: he can articulate an equal understanding of black racism and white racism --and that makes it possible for him to condemn both of them with equal passion.
But I do want to say that this searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime. It is a speech we have all been waiting for for a generation. Its ability to embrace both the legitimate fears and resentments of whites and the understandable anger and dashed hopes of many blacks was, in my view, unique in recent American history.
Obama's much-anticipated speech on race today hit the appropriate tone not just for addressing the Jeremiah Wright flap, but for framing the relevance of his candidacy in general. It was best in the way it framed the discomfort and resentment in the discussion of race in America that has lead to a "racial stalemate" for so many years, and made race "a part of our union that we have not yet made perfect."
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