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Obama’s speech essential reading or viewing

Nick Fickling

I have read, and re-read, the remarkable speech Barack Obama gave on March 18 in Philadelphia on the subject of race in America; offering a historical and contemporary analysis from both the black and the white perspective.

It was politically necessary for Obama to respond to the media hoopla concerning the extreme, racially charged rhetoric of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former minister. Many Americans needed more than an explanation; they needed reassurance about Obama’s sincerity, motivation and method of handling the Rev. Wright matter. As it turns out, there was rather more to Obama the man than that. The speech not only gave us Obama’s explanation about his pastor and race but the meat behind his call for change in America. If you do not understand what Obama means by change and how he differentiates his campaign from that of Hilary Clinton, then listen to this speech.

I have chosen a couple of extracts to show that this speech was about more than race, it was about coming together to address issues we face equally:

– “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.”

– “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.”

That is just 130 words out of a 4,837-word speech, in which not a word is superfluous. They are my extracts and I daresay other pundits would choose differently. What is clear to me is that Obama’s speech is essential reading if one is to know the man, and to know America. This is important. You need to hear it. Your teenage children need to hear it. Please read the speech in full and make your own judgments, or better still see or hear Obama deliver it on YouTube:

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWe7wTVbLUU)

That way you will see that the most impressive aspect of the speech was the way it was calmly and assuredly delivered, without rancor, bitterness or bias. It was not the usual political speech, designed to stir up supporters and attack political opponents. Instead it was impressive in the way it placed everything in perspective and focused attention on the real issues in society today. It was a speech that resonated with those who seek real change in the culture of America and in the style of leadership we have become so cynical about. It was not a speech “by Obama for Obama,” but one that was for all Americans.

Even if the Wright hadn’t provided the impetus, it was important for Obama to deliver this message to the nation. The media labels him as the first black presidential nominee. I would argue that is wrong, for he is just as much a white man who happens to have brown skin. As a person with a white mother, a black father and Asian siblings, who better to understand the melting pot that is America?

To me, however, the most important lesson from this speech is how, with the right education and upbringing, the child of a single mother can aspire to the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth and can display that essential quality of presidential leadership, a vision for change and progress.

Nick Fickling is retired from the British military and lives in the Vail Valley. E-mail him at fickling@vail.net or editor@vailtrail.com.


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