Guest Blogger

Barack Obama: A More Perfect Union

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 18, 2008 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Democrats, election 2008, politics, race, race and politics, race baiting, speeches

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This guest post was submitted by Barack Obama. It is a copy of the speech he just made on race and politics. Video of the speech is at the end of the post.

"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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories tha t we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. 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 this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

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.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicia ns, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

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. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But 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.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committ ed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

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.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

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.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.


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Nice speechifying, thought provoking and well spoken.

But I would repeat what I said in an earlier post, this country is not yet ready to elect a black man as president.

There are too many people out there who will make excuses as to Why they didn't vote for Obama, but in the end it will come down to one thing, race.

Things have progressed from the past, the racism is less overt, but still, when push comes to shove, America is still pretty racist deep down.

In another few generations, I think enough progress will be made that there will come a time that it will not matter.

But now is not that time.

Great speech. Addresses the issue from all sides and goes beyond denouncing/rejecting points of view to putting them in context and examining the problems with them.

diddlygrl I've been hearing that since the beginning of Barack's campaign, but this election has defied many people's expectations. I hope to God you're wrong, because America doesn't appear too hip about electing a woman president either.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | March 18, 2008 12:47 PM

Diddlygrl,

I could not disagree with you more. Why should we be denied an amazing presidential candidate like Barack because some whites are prejudiced? That's like saying that Black people should be quiet at the back of the political bus and wait until white people decide that we can move up a few seats.

It is insulting.

The way to help heal the racial wounds that still cause such tremendous pain in America is not by caving in to them, but by challenging them.

Good speech, and while I agree that there's still racism, I don't agree that we "aren't ready" for a black president, Diddly. I think Obama's campaign has shown us that we are.

These problems are definitely complicated, and replaying a snippet of a speech for a week isn't going to do anything to solve the problem. Then again, those doing the replaying feel no need to solve these problems.

I am not saying in any way that black people should be quiet and go to the "back of the political bus". I am just stating what I see as a fact, nothing more, nothing less.

Of course, I hope I am wrong too, since Obama looks to be the democratic canidate that will have to run against McCain in the fall. No matter what, if he is he will get my vote.

However, I have seen the polls, seen and heard the talk among people, especially middle aged white males of working and middle class backgrounds. Hell, I used to try and fit into that demographic as best a flaming psycho tranny bitch could.

They and their wives still have a lot of racial baggage that they have not gotten over. They have parents and grand parents who set an example of intolerance and prejudice that they have still not worked through. Some of them might have resented their parents racism and worked to overcome it, some accpeted it as a part of their culture and birthright, the whole 'whites are superior to dark skinned people because we created "civilization"' BS that comes up now and again.

Not everyone is educated or reflects and questions the things taught to them by their elders. If they did this country would be in a lot better shape than it is.

diddlygirl,

I disagree. I come from a family where the my next door neighbor growing up was called "n-word" Willie by both of my parents. My grandparents were from the hills of Tennessee and thought blacks, "Japs" and Jews should all be run out of town.

My grandparents are gone, but my parents are still just as racist as they ever were - yet my dad even said he'd rather have Obama than Hillary. You see - misogyny comes WAAAY before racism with these folks.

It's just a fact - white males who hate blacks seem to hate women even more. It challenges their authority in a way that no black man ever could. You can't get into a pissing contest with a woman. LOL

My dad still believe he "owns" my mother. My mother still acts like she's "owned" by my father. She submits, he barks orders. It's sad, tragic and so many other things, but it's a lifelong and intimate look at what real racist white men are like. I've studied how not to become my father all my life.

So, I just don't buy it that we're not "ready" as a country. I don't think some people are ready and I think it's an easy way to shut down the debate. I thought the same way at one point, but I realize I was just falling into the racist bullshit I was brought up on.

Misogyny knows no color barrier.

The choice won't be between a woman and a black man though, it is going to be between a black man and a white man.

Unless your father is a yellow dog democrat, see who he will vote for in that choice.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree then, and hopefully we will as a nation, finally have a candid debate about the "white man's burden" of the past and present prejudices we hold as a people and a nation. If we have that discussion, then maybe enough attitudes will change.

Hope springs eternal.

I'm hopeful that America will look past Obama's race and elect the most qualified person to sit in the Oval Office.

The cynic in me that has watched too many of the Black vs white politcal races for major offices over her lifetime devolve into color line pissing matches that end up with the African-American on the losing end won't be shocked if Hillary Clinton or John McCain are taking the oath of office on January 20, 2009.

WEB DuBois said it best a century ago. Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.

And to me it's the height of ignorance to vote against your own economic and political interest because you hate someone because of their skin color or fallacious stereotypes.

I'm glad we have the transcript here, because I missed the speech while I was in class and have only been able to grab snippets on NPR. As far as speeches go, it was a good one. Too bad his speech writer didn't read Alex's post about comma usage, though. ;^) JUST KIDDING!

Seriously, though, I am impressed with the way Obama seems unwilling to abandon people when it becomes politically expedient to kick them to the curb. I was really touched by what he said about his grandmother, seeing as I have a similar relationship with my own family members who still say homophobic things (along with racist things) from time to time. To echo Obama, they are a part of who I am and I love them. I don't think I could ever cut them out of my life. And yet, we have to find a way to love each other for who we are, not in spite of it.

I think it's interesting that people keep saying "Obama's the most qualified candidate, in spite of his race," or "Hillary's the most qualified candidate, in spite of her gender." Why not just come out and say "Obama's the man BECAUSE of his race - as a person of color he understands what your experience is like." And why can't Hillary come out and say, "I'm the best candidate BECAUSE of my gender, because as a woman I can understand where you're coming from." Obama's race and Hillary's gender are assets, not liabilities. And I think many voters feel this way, whether or not the campaigns are articulating these thoughts.

If I were to rate this speech, I might give it a 9 out of 10, just because it went slightly long, and I need more commas. But good stuff . . .

P.S. One criticism I have of this speech is that although Obama mentions Native Americans in name one time in the speech, his whole discussion of the Constitution and racial inequality is myopically black-and-white. The Constitution specifies that slaves were three-fifths of a human being for the purposes of allotting Congressional representatives. "Indians" didn't even count as human beings. It says so right in the Constitution.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 18, 2008 9:49 PM

I can’t believe that any self respecting GLBT person would vote for a right-centrist Democrat like Obama or Clinton or a rightist Republican like McCain.

They jointly support the war, NAFTA, union busting, corporate deregulation and cuts in medical and financial aid for the growing numbers of poor people. They jointly stabbed us in the back with DOMA and DADT and by gutting ENDA and then scrapping it and the hate crimes bill. They join in the abuse of immigrant and imported labor or at best turn a cold shoulder to them. Both parties refuse to support laws to raise the minimum wage to trade union levels to even out the racist discrepancies in living standards. Etc.

But given that, we should do all we can to protest and reject race baiting by the Clintons. The election campaign has already produced an increase in anti-GLBT violence, including murders. If Obama wins the nomination the Republicans will pick up where Bill and Hillary left off. (They’ve already done polling to see what they can get away with.) That’ll most likely lead to racist violence as well.

Secondly, Wright seems to have a healthy contempt for racism and its extension into the Middle East which includes the oil piracy in Iraq and US support for the zionist apartheid state. He has a perfect right to his opinions. How could any one object to that?

So, where is all this oil that we are getting from Iraq?

Well beyond that, I mostly agree with you, they are all politico douchebags who are only in it for power and greed, not necessarily in that order.

The problem is trying to find the lesser of two evils, someone that may even kiss you while they bend you over. We already know what to expect from the repugs, I mean hopefully the dementos will not preach about god while they screw us.

Michael Bedwell | March 18, 2008 10:13 PM

In his speech that got more attention than any in his life; that was broadcast live, in its entirety, on some cable networks, Barack Obama spoke of wanting to

"build a coalition of"

Whites - check
Blacks - check
Hispanics - check
Asians - check
Native Americans - check
Women - check
Young - check
Old - check
Rich - check
Poor - check
Veterans - check
LGBTs - ?
LGBTs - ?
Hello?

Barack Obama chose to "talk about"

Improving race relations – check
Health care - check
Education - check
Economy - check
Jobs - check
Iraq withdrawal - check
Veterans support - check
LGBT equality - ?
Escalating hate crimes - ?
Hello?

Come on, MB. Even a hard core Hillary supporter and cynic like me was moved by that speech. Get over it. He gave a good speech and said a lot of very brave and controversial things.

But they needed said regardless. Does it suck he left out LGBT folks? Hell yes. But does it matter in this context? I really don't know.

Give credit where it's due and attack on real issues. I have some choice words for Hillary's version of LGBT support too. The reality is that neither candidate is worth a shit on our issues, so it's really a moot point.

Wow, now Jerame is getting it too. My cynical side feels vindicated.

Hopefully Bil won't blame me for turning Jerame into a cynic.

Like I said before, good speechifying, and really, if you expected him to say anything about LGBT issues, you are too focused on the fight, take a break from it for awhile.

This issue was, and is, solely about race, and somehing that needed to be said for a long time. For a politico douchebag he said the right things. I am still too cynical to think that, in the long haul, it will make a difference to the bigots out there. Barring divine intervention (something that this world has been in really short supply for say, ever. Hey, that is what we have free will for.), this will have no affect on the real haters out there. But then, just to put a little twist of hope, maybe it will sway enough of the merely confused to really have a heart to heart with themselves.

Of course, my hardcore cynical side gives it 1 in 4 odds.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 19, 2008 12:08 AM

diddlygrl -

"The problem is trying to find the lesser of two evils... I mean hopefully the dementos will not preach about god while they screw us." They will screw us and they won't use KY.

Most of the oil is going to go to markets in the EU, so the fight is over control of the oil. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the invasion that began the terribe genocide in Iraq.

The only way to end it is to call for the immediate and total withdrawal of all US military and security forces from the region and end all forms of support for anti-democratic governments in the region, especially the zionist apartheid state. When Obama or Clinton claim to be against the war they're lying. Both say they’ll keep troops there for at least the next four years and McCain, more honestly, says they’ll be there for decades. Obama, a witless wonder, wants to extend the war to Pakistan, a nation with its own nuclear arsenal, and Billery supports nuclear strikes on Iran.

The war has resulted in the murder of over a million Iraqi’s by US and English military activity. To date 3990 GI’s have died fighting for Texaco, etc., and 29,314 have been wounded, 13,138 of them seriously.

Well, the repugs have certainly been sparse on the lubricant so far, and they have not even had the courtesy to kiss us. They're too busy spouting out the same tired crap about god and patriotism, how jesus was an american, and a free marketer at that!

I will be the same with McCain, so at least with Clinton or Obama I might not have to listen to the sermon.

Unfortunately, the immediate withdrawl of american troops would result in another failed state in the region, and a bloodbath that would soon spread. The shiites would kill the sunnis, who would then call on syria and saudi arabia, who would go in to stop the slaughter, which would then bring in iran, which is just itching for an excuse to revive the persian empire, lets call it Darius 2.0.

The people who died while the us and britian were there would just be a down payment on the misery to come.

The government that is in place right now would not be able to stop the nation from falling into anarchy, and as long as we continue business as usual, it will not become a government that can control the nation. If we pulled out, it would fall immediately, as soon as the last troops boarded the plane, if not sooner.

So, we can't just pull all the troops out without creating a bigger mess than what we have there now. From a humanitarian point of view, a complete withdrwal would be disaster.

What do we do then?

It has to be a phased withdrawl, with concrete benchmarks for the government to resume control of their nation. If the present government can't do it, get someone who can. Give them a "this is no shit, we are leaving, and you better get your act together by then". As long as we support their waste and corruption, they will continue business as usual. once they figure that the mahdi army is waiting in the wings and they are one of the first people they will come after, well maybe things will start to get better.

Nothing like a deadline, with the emphasis on "dead", to get someone moving.

We do not have to be there decades, that is repug bs, they are just trying to milk as much for their own gain as they can. We might, if we did it right, get it done in 3 to 5 years, sooner if the damn iraqi government could get its shit together like, now!

I hate to say it, but right or wrong, we Are responsible, as a nation, for the mess that is iraq. I do not mean in a single personal you or me sort of way, but in a collective, 'our stupid government got us in this mess, we need to get ourselves out.' sort of way. You can also look at it as a matter of face.
We broke it, we bought it.

Bush and cheney should be impeached and charged with war crimes, damn lunatics.

Michael Bedwell | March 19, 2008 3:14 AM

Oh, Jerame, not you, too. I warned you not to go to sleep with that pod under your bed.

First, you sound more like Alex—inferring things I did not say; misinterpreting what I did say. I never said there was nothing moving about the speech; never said he did not say things that needed to be said. I never "attacked" what was in the speech, just what WASN'T...WHO wasn’t....you, Bil, your daughter, me, Alex, Michael, Beloved Community, the Monicas, all transgender people, Sara and her partner and their children, Steve, Bruce, Dustin, Irene, the Lawrence Kings, the Simmie Williams, the Gwen Araujos, and the LGBTs serving in Iraq right now in secret for fear that at least they’ll be discharged, at worst they’ll be less safe if exposed. Wasn’t there room for them in the whole paragraph he devoted to the war and soldiers and veterans?

Of course, Sen. Clinton comes up short for us in some ways, too. But, in simplest terms, she’s “off topic” of this thread. And more importantly why can’t we discuss one candidate without a “gotcha” always about the other? OBAMA is the one we have repeatedly been told ALWAYS talks about LGBT rights; the one who's DIFFERENT; the one who has set a HIGHER bar for HIMSELF. How can YOU of all people say he doesn't need to live up to it when the eyes of the world were the most focused upon him?

If it had ONLY been a discussion of race, leaving LGBTs of all colors out would have been fine with me. But once again, just as he did the night he won South Carolina, he catalogued subgroups and various issues and once again WE were left out. How is that NOT a "real issue"? How does that NOT reflect poorly on the candidate Michael Crawford et al. keep telling us REALLY cares about us?

Read it again and notice all of the repeated demographic checking beyond black and white. Notice how after “at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say” he starts talking about what he knows voters care about; starts plugging his political agenda; and, again, just as in his printed “Blueprint for Change” LGBTs are, as Ralph Ellison might have said, “the new Invisibles.” What happened to the candidate who promised to tell voters not just what they want to hear but what they need to hear?

McClurkingate was a “teaching moment”—Obama effectively described it as such himself at the time. But no one got taught except us—not to expect him to choose us over votes. Today was his greatest teaching moment opportunity of all...in fact of any candidate on either side in this election...again with the whole world watching but again he chose to leave us out. Somewhere around “those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids,” couldn’t he have worked in a couple of words about not kids not killing other kids because they’re LGBT? That schools should not just be better but safer? So many missed opportunities—so many he CHOSE to ignore. I don’t know whether to say he threw us under the bus or just hid us in the back under a blanket.

But the saddest thing is not him and what at my most kind I can only call inconsistency. The saddest thing is US. Serena wished that he’d said more about Native Americans than he did—a valid point but apparently didn’t notice that WE were the vanished Americans in Obama’s hymn to a more perfect union. No one else apparently noticed that we weren’t invited to the party either. Even I didn’t notice it the first two times I read the speech because even I have come to EXPECT to be left out.

And you say that’s okay?

IMHO - The speech was about race. While some things got tagged on to the end as "we should be talking about..." I think that's valid. My only concern isn't LGBT issues. The war in Iraq, unemployment, inflation and health care affect all Americans - not just one constituent group.

MB,

No, it's not OK to ignore LGBT issues, but I don't know that it's a big deal he didn't mention LGBT issues in THIS speech. Race relations are a lot bigger problem in America. That's not to say LGBT issues aren't huge, just that race issues affect everyone every day - LGBT issues affect a subset of America every day.

As well, the war affects everyone every day. The economy affects everyone every day. Immigration affects everyone every day. He addressed some very meaty and hefty topics that affect everyone every day.

I've heard him mention LGBT people in other speeches. Would it have been nice to get some honorable mention yesterday? Sure. Was it necessary? No.

But I think by your hyperbolic statements in trying to find a flaw with his speech are hurting Hillary more than they help. I think that speech yesterday clearly called for an end to the "silly-season" in the political arena for this race. Michael, your rhetoric, whether it was an attack or just a statement, is still in that "silly-season" mindset.

Hillary is still my gal. That isn't going to change with one speech, but Obama most definitely raised the level of the dialogue going on in this country and I'm glad he did.

He has PLENTY of other flaws, hit him on those. This speech is not where you should be aiming your fire.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 19, 2008 9:54 AM

Bedwell, your criticism of Obama’s ‘inconsistency’ on the GLBT agenda has a point. He could have connected the dots between our agenda and an antiracist agenda and apologized for being in bed with Donnie McClurkin and Mary-Mary. But he won’t because he needs bigot votes to win.

But turnabout is fair play and I have some questions about your ‘consistency’.

Last fall Senator Dianne Feinstein rammed through measures to approve gay bashers for the Justice (sic) Department and the federal appeals bench because Bush’s rightwing nominees were strong defenders of property rights and she’s very, very rich. And you say that’s okay? Why?

Billary Clinton treacherously uses the race card and the mulsim card but you dismiss it. Why? That’s a very dangerous attitude. The Republicans are going to build on the Clintons race-baiting and use it as a major campaign tactic if Obama gets nominated. That invariably sparks racist violence. When Clinton’s campaign manager Barney Frank gutted and then dropped ENDA to help her election chances by eliminating it as a prospective ‘wedge issue’ you supported him 110%. And you say that’s okay? You absurdly describe bigoted laws like DADT and DOMA as the Clintons gifts to the struggle for GLBT equality. They’re no more gifts than the horse Odysseus gave to Priam. Why don’t you condemn the fact that Clinton boasted of his signature on DOMA in radio ads on bigot religious stations to get reelected?

We all criticize Obama’s pandering to vermin like Donnie McClurkin and Mary-Mary. But when Hillary Clinton goes after the same votes by appearing on Pat Robertson’s CBN or cosponsoring the Workplace Religious Freedom (sic) Act with swine like former US Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania you ignore it. And you say that’s okay?

It just seems inconsistent to condemn Obama for being Bush Lite and then try to convince us to support Clinton, who’s Bush Stout.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 19, 2008 10:01 AM

Diddlygrl “Unfortunately, the immediate withdrawl of american troops would result in another failed state in the region, and a bloodbath that would soon spread.”

The bloodbath is NOW! Over a million dead in five years, ALL due to the depredations of US/Brit military actions. The worst of those actions is a deliberate policy of arming Sunni and Shiite jihadists and encouraging the fighting between them. It keeps Iraqis divided and unable to defend their oil industry.

The bloodbath will stop when US troops are withdrawn, not before. It will stop when Iraqi oil workers arm and disarm the religious militia’s., not before. Another five years of US occupation will kill another million Iraqis.

Bill,

I will see your 1 million, and raise it by about 5 or so, plus the complete dissolution of Iraq as a country.

I will almost guarrantee you that is what will happen if all troops were removed today.

I have not even factored in the question of the Kurds, and what Turkey will do once they declare independence. Not might, will. Turkey can not have an independent Kurdistan sitting on it's doorstep.

That whole region is one big mass of hate. The shiites hate the sunnis, they both hate the kurds, who hate them right back. Tribes of one persuasion or the other hate some other tribe for something that happened in prehistory, so on and so forth. The only reason Saddam maintained control was because they were more afraid of him than each other.

Sorry, look at history, and you will see clearly what will happen if we just pull up stakes and leave. If we do, then the bloodbath has only just begun.

diddly girl and Bill P:

I know we don't have a current Iraq thread, but we're straying a bit off topic. I could argue with BOTH of you about Iraq all day long - I think you bot have some points right and points wrong - but we're not going to solve that without a Democrat in the White House, so keep that in mind.

Whether we pull out on January 22nd, 2009 or some other point in the future, that future will be MUCH farther away if John "100 years in Iraq" McCain gets elected.

Calling either Dem Bush Lite or Bush Stout doesn't help. McCain is the threat to a return to sanity. Politicians are what we've made them. Barack and Hillary have both attempted to raise the debate to more important issues than the same old talking points. But when the establishment that we and our forefathers elected don't like it, it's hard to change overnight.

I think Hillary has farther to go than Obama in that regard, but she's pretty enlightened for what her detractors call the "establishment" candidate. Both Democrats would be a clear break from the rich, white boys-club that has been our highest office.

McCain is the ONLY choice this year that says, "we'd like more of the same, please."

Did someone speak my name? Oh, wait, it was only twice, so I can't appear.

:)

Michael Bedwell | March 19, 2008 11:14 AM

I have consistently made clear to those willing to listen that LGBT rights are not only not my only concern, they are not my MAIN concern in this election. Rather it is the long arc of Supreme Court appointments and the immediate horror of Iraq. I resent the indictment that I was “trying to find a flaw” after I wrote earlier that I HOPED he would succeed because Wright’s pulpit pathology had unnecessarily torn open a wound still trying to heal and could contribute to McCain being elected.

Obama's tagging on at the end employed, at minimum, over 900 words—as many as a typical newspaper editorial.

“Race relations are a lot bigger problem in America”? I respectfully submit a different opinion from someone who, like gay black activist Mel Boozer ... but unlike me and unlike you, Bil and you Jerame ... had been called BOTH a “nigger” AND a “faggot.” Someone that Rev. Wright should pay more attention to than his bosom buddy Louis Farrakhan—and Barack Obama more than to Rev. Wright.

“[B]ecause we stand in the center of progress toward democracy, [gays] have a terrifying responsibility to the whole society.... First, the gay community cannot work for justice for itself alone. Unless the community fights for all, it is fighting for nobody, least of all for itself. Second, gay people should not practice prejudice. It is inconsistent for gay people to be antisemitic or racist. These gay people do not understand human rights. ...

[Gay] people should recognize that we cannot fight for the rights of gays unless we are ready to fight for a new mood in the United States, unless we are ready to fight for a radicalization of this society. ...[For example] feed[ing] people...adequate Social Security...These economic concerns must go hand-in-hand and, to a degree, precede the possibility of dealing with the MOST grievous problem—which is sexual prejudice.”

Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. THE NEW ‘NIGGERS’ ARE GAYS. No person who hopes to get politically elected, even in the deep South...would dare stand in the school door to keep blacks out. Nobody would dare openly and publicly argue that blacks should not have the right to public accommodations. Nobody would dare to say any number of things about blacks that they are perfectly prepared to say about gay people. It is in that sense that gay people are the new barometer for social CHANGE.

Indeed, if you want to know whether today people believe in democracy if you want to know whether they are true democrats, if you want to know whether they are human rights activists, the question to ask is, ‘What about gay people?’ Because that is now the litmus paper by which this democracy is to be judged. The barometer for social CHANGE is measured by selecting the group that is most mistreated. To determine where society is with respect to CHANGE, one does not ask, ‘What do you think about the education of children’? Nor does one ask, ‘Do you believe the aged should have Social Security/” The question of social CHANGE should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.”

- Bayard Rustin, from an address to the chapter of Black & White Men Together in the same city and in the same month in which Barack Obama delivered his speech....except Rustin’s was twenty-two years ago...right about the time Barack Obama met Jeremiah Wright.

Emphasis mine, and I’m confidant today Rustin would have said LGBT rather than just “gay,” but, perhaps that’s just “silly” me.

Sorry Jerame. Bit, teeth, reins, the whole horse analogy thing (except for the beating and dead part of course.).

MB

It is in a way a fitting analogy to equate our struggle for equal rights wih that of blacks, with the exception of one thing; religion.

When you have the major religions that form the faith of the society as a whole preaching against homosexuality as a sin and abomination, then this goes in the minds of people from a matter of civil rights, to a matter of faith, a battle of "good" versus "evil".

Just look at the words the opposition uses; sin, abomination, against god, and other phrases that bespeak a struggle of faith versus temptation and the worldly dominion.

( I do love that word, "abomination" though. It just kind of rolls off the tongue.
"Hi there Mr. pope benedict, I am an "abomination in the eyes of the lord," nice to meet you!".).

There are, and will always be, people who will never see us as worthy of any type of consideration, since we "sin" against god, and are being willfully disobedient to his will.

Despite the highminded words in the constitution, there can never truly be a seperation of church and state, there can only be at best, an uneasy truce. As is pretty evident from past experience, asking someone to choose one over the other is a forlorn hope. Why do you think one of the first things the communists did when they took over a place is to control the churches, or to ban them outright? They knew that you can not seperate a person from their faith. Make the state their faith, and only then can they truly be controlled.

This is a religious war that we are fighting, and only by changing the doctrines in their faith which villify us, will we be able to gain.

Though I will always reserve the right to be an "abomination"!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 19, 2008 12:20 PM

It turns out that diddlygrl wants the war to go on for several years and I have nothing to say that will change that. I’m against it and want our troops withdrawn immediately but it will be the Iraqis themselves, like the Vietnamese before them, who have the final say by decisively winning on the ground.

When you say “we're not going to solve that without a Democrat in the White House” you’re just wrong. Clinton, McCain and Obama will keep it going and have said so.

The use of terms like Bush Lite and Bush Stout do indeed help because they indicate that there are no important differences between the three. You say “Both Democrats would be a clear break from the rich, white boys-club that has been our highest office” but the truth is neither falls into that category. You can’t get more ‘rich, white boys-club’ than being on the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart for six years, like Hillary Clinton. And as for Obama, thinking he’s going to be different that any of the other shysters and crooks is just wishful thinking.

In general, every issue pertinent to the election campaign is fair game because they’re all connected. The war is destroying our standard of living, moving politics to the right and having a chilling effect on free speech and protest. And it’s in that context that they think they can get away with jettisoning our agenda.

It is extraordinary to me that anyone could experience THAT speech by Obama at THIS moment in the history of OUR country and think that the most important thing to focus on is that Obama did not mention LGBTQ . For a white gay man to have that perspective is chilling. I have fought for LGBT rights, inclusion, affirmation, justice etc etc for the last 30 years - in the religious arena, the political area, at work, at school, EVERYWHERE. I have no doubt that Barack Obama will be a gay-friendly president. Right now I am concerned with the vicious racist assault being made against Obama, Jeremiah Wright, Trinity UCC, and the United Church of Christ. The speech Obama gave was brave and wise and hopeful and healing. It was inclusive in the deepest sense. It let me know in my soul that he is the RIGHT person to lead this country out of the wilderness of 8 years of being Bushwhacked. I believe Obama rose to the occasion magnificently. And he wrote the speech himself, in a couple of days, amidst all the uproar of a campaign and all the controversy. Talk about grace under pressure ! I have never been more proud to be both queer and a supporter of Brarack Obama for President.