Obama’s Straight Talk

When I first watched the YouTube videos of Barack Obama’s fiery pastor, Jeremiah Wright, last week, it furthered a conviction … Continued

When I first watched the YouTube videos of Barack Obama’s fiery pastor, Jeremiah Wright, last week, it furthered a conviction I already had: religion in public life gets divisive.

In this election cycle presidential candidates have tried to build cohesive support among voters, and their only option when it came to their core beliefs was to acknowledge their religious faith but move away from the specifics. I saw Hillary do this in Iowa and I listened to Mitt Romney’s speech on faith in December. In both, the seasoned politicians acknowledged that their faith was important to them but didn’t say why.

In this tightly packaged, heavily-scripted and heavily-scrutinized world of politics, it didn’t seem like there was room to be forthcoming about things like say, secret garments and impassioned prayer. But then Obama gave his speech yesterday, which dealt with both religion and race, and I was proven wrong. Totally wrong.

As opposed to Romney’s much-anticipated speech on faith, Obama tackled concerns about his less-than-mainstream background with vigor. In December, Romney hugged tightly to historical precedent and barely spoke of the importance of his lifelong commitment to the Latter-day Saints and primarily insisted that his religion would not affect his governance. Romney tried to appeal to religious conservatives by taking a swing at secularism.

“In recent years,” Romney said, “the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

Fine, but then Romney doesn’t get into any of the specifics of what that faith that is so important to him is made up of. He mentioned the word Mormon once.

In stark contrast, Obama’s speech yesterday was aimed at dealing with his preacher who had made divisive comments about race. This response seemed like a two-headed beast, trying to speak to an audience of what would be millions about two of the most controversial of topics.

But Obama did the unexpected by being very specific and very detailed about who Jeremiah Wright was to him, and what he wasn’t, and then used Wright’s opinions on race to talk about the larger meaning of race and faith in America. Instead of showing fear of these topics, Obama embraced them, mentioned his pastor’s name over and over and talked about racism and belief in a way that seemed to make everyone want chime in with their own stories of bigotry and prejudice.

So maybe I was wrong. Obama offered a new model yesterday in communicating charged topics, be they race or religion or gender or anything else that make people freak out. He transcended the fear that surrounded his topic by being detailed and forthright and sincere about what he believes–and his audience responded. Maybe the divisiveness of religion when put on a public stage isn’t religion itself but all the fear that people have of the opacity that surrounds it.

Written by

  • Josh

    The speech moved me.The speech was more than just his oratory skill.The words were powerful and real. He stood up and said no to triviality and hatred in politics. He is tougher than nails, and I do not see how anyone can claim that he isn’t tough or has a glass jaw? He responded with the power of Ghandi. Not in anger but with truth. By giving more of himself, not less. Not by calculation, but with his core being.He is the next president of the United States of this America. -Lincoln returned to reunite our nation.

  • MAH

    I will disappoint if the American people do not elect Obama as the next president. His speaks from his mind, he is real – no question about that.

  • MAH

    I will disappoint if the American people do not elect Obama as the next president. His speaks from his mind, he is real – no question about that.

  • Tommy O

    As an atheist and Obama supporter, how refreshing and encouraging that Senator Obama did not include his speech with the trite, empty phrase “God Bless America”.

  • Cleareye

    Oh yea, Obama’s “major” speech. Give me a break! It took him twenty years to be aware of Wright’s racist and hateful speeches?! If that’s true, then Obama is either an idiot or a liar. But obviously, Obama can make those “great” speeches, he’s not an idiot. He is a crooked liar through and through! Do we really need this kind of scumbag to “lead” America???!!!

  • Mike Castillo

    Although I do not agree with the way Barack’s pastor delivered his message, after reading these articles below (and perhaps following up on others) it will be easier to see his point of view. A designer drug, Crack, delivered to the inner city, cheap, and the cops will look the other way for a few years.

  • Anonymous

    The key issue of concern is being side-stepped, buried, ignored. The key issue is not Rev. Wright: it is Black Libertion Theology (BLT). If Obama embraces this way of thinking and dubious theology…what he has heard in church for the last 20-years…he does not belong being President of the United States.

  • Mary

    Please do not stain Lincoln’s name by associating him with OBama. Stop dreaming and vote responsibly.

  • Bryan

    Wake up folks! The key issue is not Rev. Wright, but the Black Liberation Theology he espouses. If Sen. Obama embraces this dubious “theology” and way of thinking, he is far too racist to even be considered for President of the United States.

  • Cleareye

    Vote for Obama??? Look at Obama’s dealings with Wright and Rezko, and his non-action as chair of the Iran committee and all his “present” voting record. Are you telling me that out of 300 million plus people in the whole United States, we don’t have a better person to be our president???!!!

  • John

    The next President of the United States? Who will swear him in? Wright?That should be interesting.

  • Aaron Stiner

    Obama does not embrace the Black Liberation Theology. End of discussion.

  • Afsie

    The address was very moving, directed at me but addressed all our fears. He points to a new America, the America I fell in love with in the books and magazines I read in the dusty village of Mano Dasse in Africa over thirty years ago.

  • Jonathan Koomey

    At least two commenters above pasted in very similar sentences: “The key issue is not Rev. Wright, but the Black Liberation Theology he espouses. If Sen. Obama embraces this dubious “theology” and way of thinking, he is far too racist to even be considered for President of the United States.”Obama does NOT embrace this “theology” as any fair minded person who listened to the speech and followed the campaign will acknowledge. The premise of your argument is false, therefore your conclusion is false. And John McCain said that he knows Obama doesn’t believe the positions advocated by his former pastor. It’s time to move past this fabricated controversy and start talking about real issues

  • ganesha

    I watched Sen. Obama’s speech. It was good.The parts that grated, for me, were the political shots at Ferraro and Clinton—they didn’t fit the rest of the tone he was trying to take. In fact, his glass ceiling comment was very dismissive of women who will never get anywhere near a glass ceiling except to clean it.I also noticed that NOT ONCE did Sen. Obama admit to using language or having attitudes regarding race not shared in polite society. Not once did he admit that even he has done or said stupid, insensitive, even racist stuff.Instead, he used his grandmother—a woman who loved him, fed him, clothed him, did his laundry, made sure he got to school, and may have even helped him fill out the paperwork for his scholarship to a prestigious private high school.Unlike the Rev. Wright, who has an entire congregation vigorously defending him, Sen. Obama’s grandmother does not. Sen. Obama sayd he loves her, but then exposes her to public humiliation for his own political gain.This is not a historical perspective or study of racist attitudes—this was his grandmother, who is still alive and very press shy.At least I hope he called her ahead of time.

  • Jack

    How refreshing that a politician speaks to us like we’re adults. Staunch Republicans underestimate how important this is to the average voter. The US has endured 8 years with a guy who cannot speak and dumbs down everything to “good vs. evil”… Obama will win not because of policy, but because Americans will want to have his face representing (and restoring the name of) our country.

  • dsw

    This whole media-fueled controversy simply proves how segregated our American society remains. This is the fact: Jeremiah Wright, his style and his message, is part of the black MAINSTREAM. Elements of liberation theology are common in many strains of Black Christianity. In fact, MLK, the man we are taught by all to revere, is considered one of the progenitors of what later came to be known as liberation theology! Jeremiah Wright’s (and MLK’s, and Jesse Jackson’s, and hundreds and hundreds of others) preaching may at times come across as extreme, but it is well within a long, long tradition. The great thing about Obama is, he, belonging to a younger generation, can actually move beyond that old prophetic style. He can relate to it, understands it, etc, but does not need to use it, and recognizes the alienating aspects of it. He offers the country a natural course of evolution, not dependent on ‘denouncing’ anybody, but simply shedding what is no longer needed.And if anybody is wondering why the younger Obama supporters are not fazed by this so-called controversy, I ask you to spend a day listening to a healthy sampling of hip hop from the last fifteen years. Jeremiah Wright is nothing compared to the music and culture that millenials–white, black, asian, and hispanic–have been consuming on a daily basis for the better part of a generation.

  • Walt Doering

    To Ganesha,Read the text of Obama’s speech. Then tell us if Obama took political shots at Ferraro and Clinton. If those statements are political shots, then our country in really in dire need of having citizens develop their reading and language skills.

  • bill

    male, 61 yrs, Vietnam veteran and historically a republican, 4 children (2 international adoptions). after reading Barack Obama’s books last summer at the prompting of my U of M daughter, i immediately purchased a couple of Obama08 bumper stickers. My first thought was, “can he be real?” No, I don’t believe Mr. Obama is a democrat, a republican, nor an independent – he speaks a common language; he is the closest thing to unbiased that I have ever seen; he bridges the gaps that separate people and their differences; he is a uniter; (now don’t think i’m a fanatic, but….) I am convinced he is this country’s chance to get back on the road to achieve what we’ve all proclaimed to be i’ve never been more impressed. As Mr. Obama has said (paraphrased), “…I know I am not THE solution, but I believe I with the help of all of you I can be a step toward correcting our path of finding and achieving what it is we all want. I can not do this by myself. We must work together, as a united people, as in UNITED States of America.” Forgive me, I can’t even paraphrase Mr. Obama with the credit due such an orator, a visionary of his magnatude. America, please do not pass up this opportunity; there is far too much at stake to continue on the path we chose too many years past now: a path of refusing to admit our own prejudices; a path expecting too little from our leaders as well as ourselves when it comes to morality; a path containing too little, if any, expectation of actual accomplishment of political promises. Who knows, this could be our last chance to correct our path; do we want someone who has a history of too many illicit activities and has had the audacity to look us in the eye and deny them? I know I don’t; I pray to the God I know to be true and good that you don’t either. Those people have had their chance and failed. Lou Dobbs said yesterday, why didn’t he (Obama) give this speech (race & his ex-pastor) long ago? Never have I ever seen so much second guessing, so much perfect hindsight; give it up, people; we all make decisions and we all make them differently – Lou, why didn’t you comb your hair to the other side or lose 50 pounds? Because you chose not to for whatever reason; give it a rest. Try being positive for a change. Barack has been compared to several great leaders of our past; we need him to be the great leader that he is of our present and our future.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for a good article about a really historic speech. Now we’ll find out if America is good enough to recognize the incredible man we’ve been given.

  • Martha Davidson

    I am sooo sick of the Rev. Wright snippets!!! IF you are old enough, TRY to remember the absolute worst things YOU’VE said. Now imagine them in video snippets played over and over and over again. Would expect your friends of 20 years to disavow, and disown you? Be honest. Now imagine that you have a friend running for office, and your images are played over and over , and over again. Is that a fair ,or further than a country mile, assessment of your character?The media does not delve any further into Rev. Wrights character, accomplishments, or church, other than these snippets. Wake up people!Do you really think that Rev. Wright could carry a congregation of 8,000 over 30 years, if he was only as the media has portrayed him?Here is an opportunity for you to investigate for your selves. Just maybe you could gain some understanding of something out of your comfort zone. All you have to do is go to the Church web site. You could start a dialogue, and give THEM some insight out their comfort zone as well.This repeated rolling over of these sound bites is nothing short of brainwashing, and the media knows it. Controled by the media, America it seems , wishes to remain racist and bigoted to the bitter end. The world IS watching, and to use the words of Rev Wright ” the chickens will come home to roost in Americas front yard”.

  • Ni

    This whole controversy has been fueled by the media who are looking to boost their ratings. Obama is a once-in-a-generation candidate when it comes to his honesty and transparency. There is not a single, bigoted bone in his body.He gave a very honest, insightful speech on race yesterday. I hope people use it as an opportunity to understand how we can improve America, rather than to score cheap political points.

  • Ni

    This whole controversy has been fueled by the media who are looking to boost their ratings. Obama is a once-in-a-generation candidate when it comes to his honesty and transparency. There is not a single, bigoted bone in his body.He gave a very honest, insightful speech on race yesterday. I hope people use it as an opportunity to understand how we can improve America, rather than to score cheap political points.

  • Ni

    This whole controversy has been fueled by the media who are looking to boost their ratings. Obama is a once-in-a-generation candidate when it comes to his honesty and transparency. There is not a single, bigoted bone in his body.He gave a very honest, insightful speech on race yesterday. I hope people use it as an opportunity to understand how we can improve America, rather than to score cheap political points.

  • Ni

    This whole controversy has been fueled by the media who are looking to boost their ratings. Obama is a once-in-a-generation candidate when it comes to his honesty and transparency. There is not a single, bigoted bone in his body.He gave a very honest, insightful speech on race yesterday. I hope people use it as an opportunity to understand how we can improve America, rather than to score cheap political points.

  • Ni

    This whole controversy has been fueled by the media who are looking to boost their ratings. Obama is a once-in-a-generation candidate when it comes to his honesty and transparency. There is not a single, bigoted bone in his body.He gave a very honest, insightful speech on race yesterday. I hope people use it as an opportunity to understand how we can improve America, rather than to score cheap political points.

  • Interesting

    Obama talk the talk!

  • rightly

    Sen. Obama has perpetuated the myth of racism in America by believing in the American culture. The prejudice that separates people are beliefs that have been taught since infancy and found to be supportive of a self-identity,

  • peter30

    The Audacity of Hate; Barack Obama’s Trinity United Church of Christ’s Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A Wright with his Racist Sermons & his Racist Supporters. Imagine if Hillary Clinton’s church proclaimed on its website that it is “unashamedly white.” The media would pounce, and Clinton’s presidential candidacy would be over. Yet that is exactly what Barack Obama’s church says on its web site — except in reverse.”Wright on Israel: “The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 years now. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.For the same reason why I would not vote for any candidate that attended The David Duke Church of Christ is the same reason why I cannot vote for anyone who sat for twenty (20) years in the Trinity united Church of Christ.

  • Watcher

    Many of the anti-Obama posts on this blog are distinctive for their bile, venom and mispellings. I’m terrified, but it may be true: America might not deserve Barack Obama.

  • King James

    ClearEye: Of course we have better people to run the country; they’re just not running for that post.

  • King James

    ClearEye: Of course we have better people to run the country; they’re just not running for that post.

  • JD

    Clear Eye, Anon, Mary, John, and Bryan obviously did not actually hear or read the speech. But they sure are adept at repeating the GOP talking points they hear on Rush or read at LGF or some other repub. site. This was very comparable to Lincoln’s second inaugural address. But they are scared that their game of guilt by associating (with Wright) might not work. Obama turned the table on them. Can you imagine any Bush republican giving such a thoughtful and considered address on race? Listen to what Bush said today about Iraq. Alice in Wonderland! Obama made the most important speech of the 21st century. But the GOPers only see the black church – evil – it said unflattering things!Barrack is brilliant. He can think and write! After Bush, and with the prosepct of McCain, who doesn’t even know who is who in Iraq, having a president who can think and speak and inspire sounds pretty good!As for the harping by concern trolls on Wright, sorry but your GOP tactic has failed. Better get a new swift boat to ride, ‘cos that one just sank.Obama is treating us like we are adults. Thanks!

  • Jon M.

    DSW says: “This whole media-fueled controversy simply proves how segregated our American society remains. This is the fact: Jeremiah Wright, his style and his message, is part of the black MAINSTREAM.” Then the BLACK MAINSTREAM is RACIST. I think it’s high time America explored the racist lies and scapegoating that goes on in the black church.

  • James

    Jon M… I assume you’re a black man to speak so intimately about the mainstream black community?

  • A. Kafir

    Obama’s speech was an insight into his duplicitous nature. He did not answer the simple question of how he can support a bigot and hater like Wright (America invented HIV to kill and subjugate blacks) for 23 years, and how could he say that he did not know that wright was saying all these things only 4 days earlier. Instead he tried to hide behind what he does best … oratory on an entirely different topic!!! Say hello to president McCain. ****************************While that non-sequitur surely distracted the scores of Obama sycophants in the media, conservative 527 groups will be lining up to run commercials juxtaposing Obama declaring that Reverend Wright “has been like family to me” with Wright offering one of his trademark greatest hits like “God Damn America.” Obama could have tried to defuse those attacks, but instead chose once again to try to hide the ball.Obama’s relationship with Wright warranted a serious treatment. The voting public deserved as much. It says something about the candidate and his willingness to take on the tough issues that he declined to take on the challenge.

  • Heartmindsoul

    Re: “Black Value System” by RETCOMBVET – It’s been suggested to take the word ‘black’ out of the stated ‘Black Value System’ and replace it with ‘white’. I suggest doing something much easier, simply take out the word ‘black’ and don’t replace it with anything. What are you left with? A list of values that any thinking person with a heart, mind, soul and might I add, experience and clear vision, knows will lift people, any people from adversity, oppression, loneliness, and despair. Contrary to what’s heard on the news, I’m a white, older, some would even say ‘old woman Obama supporter’, who’s been through a lot – a weary warrior, if you will, but I haven’t forgotten how to recognize truth when I hear it. Senator and candidate Obama may not be the perfect person or the perfect candidate, but wake up America! These old white ears hear a whole lot more truth from his mouth than what comes from the other presidential candidates. Hillary occasionally speaks truth when someone else shames her into doing it or when it’s politically expedient. McCain lost his ability to speak the truth when it became necessary to become G.W.’s closest buddy to win the GOP nomination. America, listen with your heart, mind, and soul, not with your wounds and scars. It is time for hope and it is time for the past to be left behind, though with knowledge, not niavete. Let’s give a brilliant inspirational speaker and leader his chance to try for a better future for us, our children, and our grandchildren.

  • Heartmindsoul

    Re: “Black Value System” by RETCOMBVET – It’s been suggested to take the word ‘black’ out of the stated ‘Black Value System’ and replace it with ‘white’. I suggest doing something much easier, simply take out the word ‘black’ and don’t replace it with anything. What are you left with? A list of values that any thinking person with a heart, mind, soul and might I add, experience and clear vision, knows will lift people, any people from adversity, oppression, loneliness, and despair. Contrary to what’s heard on the news, I’m a white, older, some would even say ‘old woman Obama supporter’, who’s been through a lot – a weary warrior, if you will, but I haven’t forgotten how to recognize truth when I hear it. Senator and candidate Obama may not be the perfect person or the perfect candidate, but wake up America! These old white ears hear a whole lot more truth from his mouth than what comes from the other presidential candidates. Hillary occasionally speaks truth when someone else shames her into doing it or when it’s politically expedient. McCain lost his ability to speak the truth when it became necessary to become G.W.’s closest buddy to win the GOP nomination. America, listen with your heart, mind, and soul, not with your wounds and scars. It is time for hope and it is time for the past to be left behind, though with knowledge, not niavete. Let’s give a brilliant inspirational speaker and leader his chance to try for a better future for us, our children, and our grandchildren.

  • amy

    There can be no Doubt that Obama and his wife are both Racist & American haters. After watching videos of their preacher I have lost all respect for Obama and anyone the attended that Church or still supports Obama. If any white had belonged or attended even one sermon of a church that spews that kind of hate they would be vilified by everyone, and rightly so. Michell was being honest when she said for the first time in her life she was proud of American. Because for all of her life she has hated American and most of its White Citizens! Obama belonged to that church for 20 years yet he does not share those views? That is beyond belief! How can he expect any one intelligence enough to vote, even a left wing loony to be that stupid? We have to get away from this double standard where it is ok for blacks to do things way over the line esp. ones that would be be President! It is very scary to think that someone that supported that preacher and went to that hate filled church for 20 years may be President! After watching those videos I can very easy see where Obama may well be a Muslin with a secret agenda for this Nation when elected! One thing for sure it is hard to see how anyone that listen to the venom spewed out from that so called preacher for 20 years can be a Christen! If Obama gets elected after this he will have did a better con job on the American public than any President in History even better than the Moron in the WH now.

  • Chasovnya

    Straight talk? That’s rich.

  • tarry

    There are millions of American citizens that feel outrage. They bought into Obama story that he was a different kind of politician now to find out that he is an American hating, Black racist that worshiped at the feed of an Demented preacher that hates every race but Blacks makes them used and abused by Obama!

  • E favorite

    Tarry says: “They bought into Obama story that he was a different kind of politician….”Were you one of those people, or were you always opposed to Obama? If you’ve always been opposed to him, please don’t try to speak for others with different opinions.Thanks

  • DV Sikka

    Obama lost an excellent opportunity to show that he is capable of being the President of United States. Now he is doing damage control with band aids. This is rubbish. How long he has taken to respond to the biggest challenge to his candidacy. He waited for his strategists and speach writers to produce this speach. The main issue in this campaign is who will take the 3am call. Can he do that. NO. He cannot respond to an emergency. He may be a good orator but he certainly is not a Capable Leader.

  • John S. Maine

    Barrack Obama is now seen for what he realy is a divider not a uniter. Its ok for him to chastise people of different races and degrade the heritage of his own grandmother, He realy blew it on his speech and comments days after like “a typical white person”. Barrack may have never had my vote but he know has lost my respect!

  • Right + Wrong=Wright

    I agree with most of what Pastor Wright said. Or, at least, I can’t prove him wrong. I can’t prove that our government didn’t deliberately push crack on the black community. I can’t prove that the government didn’t deliberately infuse the AIDS virus in the black community. I know that Hillary Clinton has never been black, but she has struggled. I’m sure as a woman in a typcally male dominated field she definately struggled. I do agree that some of the US Foreign Policy decisions aided the hatred that caused 911. I don’t think the entire country should be damned for it.I don’t agree that this type of language or rhetoric should be used in a church sermon. As an ordained minister, I would never speak that way to my parishoners. That kind of sermon is meant to anger people.I also don’t think it’s right to confuse religion with politics. I, also, don’t think it’s right to confuse Wright’s words with Obama’s. Regardless of their spiritual relationship, it’s obvious that Obama disagrees with him for all the right reasons.