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The real problem with Obama’s 2008 race speech

Enter this one into the “delayed brainstorm” category.

Just over four years ago, when then-candidate Barack Obama decided to do damage control as the mean-spirited sermons of his pastor (of twenty years) became public, by delivering a speech on race, widely acclaimed by his supporters, but derided by many others — and now forgotten by almost everyone.

I had read the speech on-line and thought it was little more than cliches wrapped in bromides; I printed it out so I could offer a more thorough critique.  I never got around to reading that print-out nor writing that critique.

The other day, I suddenly realized what bothered me about the speech:  he had never mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged the racial prejudices of his day with an appeal to America’s long-standing creed and its core ideals.  Dr. King changed America — and for the better.  Today, I again found the speech online and did a search for Dr. King.

It turns out I was only partially right.  Mr. Obama did mention Dr. King, but only once — and not to talk about what Dr. King had said — or accomplished, but, well, read it for yourself:

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.

He only references Dr. King to tell a story about one of his own campaign workers, how that worker tells “her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign.”

He mentions one of the truly great men in American history only to talk about himself.

My apologies for taking so long to realize it — and blog about it.

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20 Comments

  1. I think the reason Dr. King was so sucessful was that he wasn’t divisive. He appealed to people’s commonality (i.e. their content of character, which transcends race, rather than what was dividing people). That is a problem I have with current “civil rights activists.”

    Additionally, it seemed like Dr. King actually believed in what he was saying and advocating for, while I don’t think the same can be said for contemporary “civil rights activists.” I mean, if all their pet issues become resolved, they will actually have to work for a living.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — October 29, 2012 @ 8:21 pm - October 29, 2012

  2. Those are both excellent observations, Rattlesnake. It’s no wonder that Obama would have made the speech all about himself, of course. That’s all he ever does.

    Comment by Kurt — October 30, 2012 @ 12:04 am - October 30, 2012

  3. Indeed, Kurt, indeed, it’s all he ever done.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 30, 2012 @ 12:14 am - October 30, 2012

  4. Great catch.

    Dr. king was a Republican and he was a far greater man. I’m nit surprised he wouldn’t recognize him.

    Comment by Sara — October 30, 2012 @ 9:51 pm - October 30, 2012

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