Had it not been for all the myriad little things I have needed to do these past few days, I might have found the time to sit down and read Senator Obama’s much heralded speech on race and so write the post I want to write about why, in my mind, the speech dodges the real issue and raises serious questions about the charismatic presidential candidate’s leadership abilities.
In the world of instant communication, sometimes, when you have (what you believe to be) a great thought, the likelihood is that someone else has it as well. So, if you delay in posting on this topic, someone else will. And in this case, someone else did. In a piece on National Review on Friday, Stephen Sprueill pretty much echoed my thoughts when he wrote:
What bothers me is that we don’t have any evidence â€” either an old letter or a statement from the campaign â€” that Obama ever confronted his friend and tried to change his mind. Such confrontations can grate on friendships, if they happen frequently enough, and especially if they concern trivial matters. But here we have a situation where a friend of Obama’s was spreading poisonous beliefs to a congregation that included Obama’s own daughters. Obama was in a unique position to lead by asking his friend to reconsider some of his hateful and paranoid ideas.
Given those hateful and paranoid ideas, I had a brief thought which I wanted to whip off before I set out for an event I’m coordinating this evening. This weekend, reading a post on Instapundit about the speech and a “conversation on race,” I realized that if we need to have that conversation, we begin with the greatest speech on race in American history, indeed, one of the greatest speeches in all American history, so I did a brief post linking Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
If we have a conversation on race, we should have an idea of the goals of that conversation. And Dr. King verbalized them:
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
. . . .
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Contrast that hopeful vision with the Reverend Wright’s angry rhetoric and you see the true greatness of Dr. King. Dr. King, born 14 years before Wright, saw the same kind of prejudice which, in Senator Obama’s view, justified his pastor’s rage. Yet, Dr. King did not give into despair.
Given the slights he — and all black Americans — suffered in the years leading up to the Civil Rights’ movement, it astounds me that more blacks were not more angry. That Dr. King saw hatred and discrimination around him and did not give into despair is a mark of his greatness. He saw beyond injustice in America to see the real beauty of the American dream and its national ideal. That was his greatness. When he saw around some of the worst of human behavior, he appealed to the best in us.
And because of him, things have improved markedly in the past forty years. We still have a ways to go, but we’ve made great progress, amazing progress. That Wright could still damn America after seeing that progress shows a man with a very narrow vision of the nation which gave him the freedom to spew such venom.
That Senator Obama can provide no record (or recollection) of having challenged his friend’s his dark vision suggests a man unable to challenge others who would work to divide our nation — or destroy it.