Senator Barack Obama’s words are bold, brilliant and fascinating. The speech adressed and acknowledged the intrinsic racism and inequality in society, but adressed ways to overcome that divisiveness, too. This was not merely a campaign speech, but a news item. The media have immediately after the speech begun to dice it up and publish the pieces according to the respective media’s own agenda. Therefore, and because, frankly, I was impressed, I was glad the Zoo has shared with you the full text in writing, to see for yourself and make up your own minds. Unsurprisingly, the major English papers are offering their view on the speech this morning, too. To make the picture a little more complete, here’s what they say:
For Mr Obama it appears that the words of Mr Wright are a bigger liability than was Kennedy’s Catholicism. But Mr Obama has shown considerable talent on the campaign trail thus far. If he fails to keep defining himself aggressively, his pastor’s paranoid and angry comments will let opponents do it for him.
In a breathtaking speech, delivered before a backdrop of American flags, Barack Obama attempted yesterday to lance the boil of the ugly racial row that threatens to destroy his campaign for the presidency.
Barack Obama has taken the biggest gamble of his White House campaign by confronting the issue of race in America and refusing to disown his controversial black pastor for his “profoundly distorted” sermons.
We knew that Barack Obama could deliver a moving address. And no doubt Hillary Clinton and her supporters will be saying, accurately, that a great speech doesn’t necessarily make a great president. And while the media elites and the foreign audience will give rave reviews and hail Obama as the new political messiah, the cold hard judgement of the speech will be delivered in opinion polls and, eventually, at the actual polls by ordinary Americans who aren’t aficionados of highfalutin rhetoric.
Today we heard a clever speech by a clever politician. It was not, as some suggested, a “Martin Luther King” moment. Instead it was a textbook illustration of how to turn a weakness (The Rev Wright) into a strength (national unity/racial reconciliation)
And, just because I think it was a speech by a good politician does not mean he had bad motives.
I have to assume that many white Americans have been attracted to [Barack Obama] in no small part because he seemed to offer a narrative that wouldn’t take us into these discomfiting, cobwebbed corners of the American psyche. He seemed, as someone’s one-liner had it, “just the right amount of black”; like he probably belonged to a genteel inter-racial Episcopal church.
Well, tough – he didn’t. And here he basically told us why. He did so with about as much honesty as we have any right to expect from a person seeking the presidency. I’m sure it helps us, as a society, to hear it all put out there with intelligence and subtlety. I’m less sure about whether it will help him.
I personally wonder, too, whether Senator Obama has salvaged or sunk his campaign here. But if this bold move somehow failed, he bows out with a grace that Hillary Clinton cannot hope to ever achieve again after her petty, nagging campaigning. On his own terms and standards. America will have refused to hand the Presidency to yet another brilliantly intelligent man after preferring George W. Bush over Al Gore. Vice President Gore moved on to a world-wide respected leadership on the most pressing issue this world faces. Barack Obama will move on, too. But America will get stuck with either John McCain or Hillary Clinton. To borrow a line from Barack Obama’s speech: “Not this time!”