Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's address on race

I watched Barack Obama's speech about race relations in America this morning and it is one of the most brilliant statements on the issue I have seen or read in a long time. Obama, it is said, wrote this one entirely by himself and without the help of any speech writers or pundits. (Transcript here.)

Some may note he came off as a bit soft-spoken. Actually, being understated helped underscore the points he was making -- just as it did for JFK in his address to evangelicals in Houston about how Kennedy's loyalties lay with America and not the Vatican. This is not the kind of issue where fire and brimstone helps, as Obama noted. He covered a lot of bases in his address today, addressing many of the concerns shared by blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans -- and those of mixed race like himself.

To the issue he hasn't disassociated himself from the church (the United Church of Christ) he has belonged to for over twenty years, Obama pointed out we've all heard something from our pastor or rabbi that has put us off but we haven't left our churches. That's an important point.

To use an analogy, far too many Catholics including myself are way beyond offended by the sex scandals that have rocked the Church, not to mention the complicity of quite a few archbishops as well as the Holy See in obstructing justice; but that hasn't made most of us leave the Church. We've stayed because that's where our roots are.

Why would it be, or should it be, any different with Obama -- an evangelical Christian -- just because his ex-pastor is out of step with reality?

Key among Obama's other points was that the blame game has to stop. The blame game won't solve the many economic issues Americans of all colours and creeds face. He also had the guts to say he can't solve all of America's problems, nor can any other person who might be elected to the Oval Office; all a President can do is try to change the tone of the debate. For that, he may have well locked up the nomination -- and I hope he has. Sadly Hillary Clinton wants to continue her personal vendetta war against her enemies for another eight years and Americans just don't need that right now, not when the economy is teetering. Why should the States subsidize that vendetta? Obama has made it clear he wants to rise above that.

One only hopes Americans in general do as well. They would heed well to read all his words, not just the soundbites on the evening newscasts tonight.

Besides, all Clinton could say is that she agreed the election shouldn't be about race -- even though she didn't see or read Obama's speech. Is something wrong with that picture?

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