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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Quite a Sunday Sermon

posted by on January 20 at 10:40 AM

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke at black churches on this day before Martin Luther King Day (which also happens to be the Sunday before the South Carolina primary, where black voters will play a huge role). Clinton reportedly gave a low-key but heartfelt talk at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Obama went to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the home church of Dr. King, and delivered a really great speech, which is notable for a number of reasons, one being that he told his black audience that the black community has not always lived out King’s vision when it comes to gays and lesbians. (Paging Rev. Hutcherson…)

Others are posting Obama’s speech in full, and I’m going to join. It’s definitely worth taking a Sunday moment to read. If the text of Clinton’s speech becomes available, I’ll post that too.

Here’s Barack Obama this morning at Ebenezer Baptist:

The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through.

But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram’s horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

There are many lessons to take from this passage, just as there are many lessons to take from this day, just as there are many memories that fill the space of this church. As I was thinking about which ones we need to remember at this hour, my mind went back to the very beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era.

Because before Memphis and the mountaintop; before the bridge in Selma and the march on Washington; before Birmingham and the beatings; the fire hoses and the loss of those four little girls; before there was King the icon and his magnificent dream, there was King the young preacher and a people who found themselves suffering under the yoke of oppression.

And on the eve of the bus boycotts in Montgomery, at a time when many were still doubtful about the possibilities of change, a time when those in the black community mistrusted themselves, and at times mistrusted each other, King inspired with words not of anger, but of an urgency that still speaks to us today:

“Unity is the great need of the hour” is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.

What Dr. King understood is that if just one person chose to walk instead of ride the bus, those walls of oppression would not be moved. But maybe if a few more walked, the foundation might start to shake. If a few more women were willing to do what Rosa Parks had done, maybe the cracks would start to show. If teenagers took freedom rides from North to South, maybe a few bricks would come loose. Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we’re still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.

We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.

So we have a deficit to close. We have walls – barriers to justice and equality – that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.

Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we’ve come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We’ve come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily – that it’s just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and those who exploit our racial divisions will simply go away, then all our problems would be solved.

All too often, we seek to ignore the profound institutional barriers that stand in the way of ensuring opportunity for all children, or decent jobs for all people, or health care for those who are sick. We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price.

But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes – a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.

It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart – that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others – all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face – war and poverty; injustice and inequality. We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.

Because if Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.

But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms. It is not enough for us to abhor the costs of a misguided war, and yet allow ourselves to be driven by a politics of fear that sees the threat of attack as way to scare up votes instead of a call to come together around a common effort.

The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country’s ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.

And that is what is at stake in the great political debate we are having today. The changes that are needed are not just a matter of tinkering at the edges, and they will not come if politicians simply tell us what we want to hear. All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.

That is how we will bring about the change we seek. That is how Dr. King led this country through the wilderness. He did it with words – words that he spoke not just to the children of slaves, but the children of slave owners. Words that inspired not just black but also white; not just the Christian but the Jew; not just the Southerner but also the Northerner.

He led with words, but he also led with deeds. He also led by example. He led by marching and going to jail and suffering threats and being away from his family. He led by taking a stand against a war, knowing full well that it would diminish his popularity. He led by challenging our economic structures, understanding that it would cause discomfort. Dr. King understood that unity cannot be won on the cheap; that we would have to earn it through great effort and determination.

That is the unity – the hard-earned unity – that we need right now. It is that effort, and that determination, that can transform blind optimism into hope – the hope to imagine, and work for, and fight for what seemed impossible before.

The stories that give me such hope don’t happen in the spotlight. They don’t happen on the presidential stage. They happen in the quiet corners of our lives. They happen in the moments we least expect. Let me give you an example of one of those stories.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She’s been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and the other day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

So Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we begin. It is why the walls in that room began to crack and shake.

And if they can shake in that room, they can shake in Atlanta.

And if they can shake in Atlanta, they can shake in Georgia.

And if they can shake in Georgia, they can shake all across America. And if enough of our voices join together; we can bring those walls tumbling down. The walls of Jericho can finally come tumbling down. That is our hope – but only if we pray together, and work together, and march together.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.

So I ask you to walk with me, and march with me, and join your voice with mine, and together we will sing the song that tears down the walls that divide us, and lift up an America that is truly indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all. May God bless the memory of the great pastor of this church, and may God bless the United States of America.

RSS icon Comments


The yolk of oppression?

You want that over easy or scrambled?

Posted by Picky Pants | January 20, 2008 10:51 AM

We need this guy.

Posted by Kevin Erickson | January 20, 2008 10:54 AM

Nice speech.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 20, 2008 10:55 AM

Well, mustard and relish sammies are better than soylent green...
Too damned much bullshit about religion.

Posted by isabelita | January 20, 2008 11:07 AM

On a similar topic... One of my favorite New York Times columnists, Nicholas Kristof, is back today with a vengeance:

With all the sniping from the Clinton camp about whether Barack Obama has enough experience to make a strong president, consider another presidential candidate who was far more of a novice. He had the gall to run for president even though he had served a single undistinguished term in the House of Representatives, before being hounded back to his district.

That was Abraham Lincoln.

While Kristof doesn't come right out and ask how being a First Lady counts as experience, he does refer to "Mrs. Clinton’s spurious claim to '35 years of experience.'"

Posted by cressona | January 20, 2008 11:07 AM

longest slog post ever?

Posted by drew | January 20, 2008 11:10 AM

Wake me up when I stop scrolling

Posted by karst | January 20, 2008 11:25 AM

I thought it was spectacular. I hope he carries this message with him wherever he goes.

Posted by AJ | January 20, 2008 11:31 AM

In the last few years I've sometimes thought how this nation could never elect another Abraham Lincoln president. It had never occurred to me, though, that we should see another Abraham Lincoln be a serious contender for president.

Looking back through not just his words but his deeds and his decisions, it's hard not to come away realizing that Barack Obama is a man of great intellect, vision, judgment, and character. By the same token, looking back through the history of Hillary Clinton, I come away seeing someone of pedestrian intellect, vision, judgment, and character.

Hillary got Iraq wrong in 2002 and health-care reform wrong in the early 1990s and the bankrupty bill wrong in 2005 and the Iran=terrorist organization vote wrong this year for the same reason she would make wrong decision after wrong decision as president. Because she is incapable of seeing the problems beyond the way they are conventionally, stereotypically framed; because she is fundamentally someone who cannot think for herself. Her failure to get past the tired, self-destructive hawks-vs.-doves, big-government-vs.-small-government, left-vs.-right dialectic is ultimately a failure of imagination. And that failure of imagination is a failure of intellect, vision, judgment, and character.

I'm sure there are a lot of Hillary supporters who know in their heart of hearts that Barack Obama has the greater potential to be a great president. And yet they hold out because of fear or because they can't see beyond siding with the sides they've always sided with.

I mean, it can't be about electability, can it? The Republicans know their only hope this year is if Hillary runs and they can take on the dynasty. The Republicans know only Obama has the potential to engineer a political transformation of this nation, a realignment the way Reagan engineered a realignment. There can be Obama Republicans the way there were Reagan Democrats, the way there can never be Hillary Republicans.

It's funny, the more I read about Obama and his philosophy and perspective and his ability to juggle ostensibly competing notions without ever contradicting himself, the more I'm reminded not just of Lincoln but of another group of eloquent intellectuals--our Founding Fathers. Guys like Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Those guys also had some success taking on a dynasty.

Posted by cressona | January 20, 2008 11:31 AM

Fire it up.

Posted by superyeadon | January 20, 2008 11:34 AM

That speech made me cry.

Posted by la | January 20, 2008 11:35 AM

Politicians giving speeches in houses of worship; American Taliban all the way. I think it's a perversion of American ideals and the constitution. Because it's "Christian" some how makes it okay. BS

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | January 20, 2008 11:35 AM

To clarify: The speech was great, content meaningful and honest. The place of delivery is wrong.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | January 20, 2008 11:39 AM

Well, I guess that's one way of getting rid of those bothersome posts that have been hanging around since Friday because you guys have been too lazy to post anything new. But really, who gives a flying fuck?

Posted by Aragon Son of Arathorn | January 20, 2008 11:42 AM

Great Speech.

Do we compare Obama to the Lincoln that "freed the slaves" or do we compare Obama to the Lincoln that did more damage to Democracy in his day than Bush has done in ours?

Maybe we should start comparing him to Kennedy. Is that the Kennedy that heralded the peak of the civil rights movement or the Kennedy that started the Vietnam war?

Didn't both those guys get shot? Are we on the edges of our seats waiting for another martyr?

Posted by six shooter | January 20, 2008 11:44 AM

Geez, there are some jaded motherfuckers up on this board eh? The speech was passionate and inspiring, and giving it in a church is perfectly alright. If he's a christian he can give his speeches in a church if he likes. He's not going to impose his religion on me like G.W. has.

Posted by Hunter | January 20, 2008 11:45 AM

@11 - with you. I'm sitting here crying because I never thought in my lifetime we could possibly elect someone so eloquent and compassionate.

Posted by el ganador | January 20, 2008 11:49 AM

good speech, but sounds like any other politician to me.
and i'm with a few others on this one...i don't really want to know what these politicians do or say once they enter a church. political statements should be for the secular arena.

Posted by onion | January 20, 2008 11:50 AM

Wonderful speech.

#2 is correct - we need this guy more than ever !

Posted by dkstar | January 20, 2008 11:51 AM

Thanks. Best post the last 3 months.

Posted by Cleve | January 20, 2008 11:59 AM

Y'all, he's honoring MLK, who was first and foremost, a Baptist minister. Totally legit for him to speak in a church in that context.

Barack's no theocrat; he even defends non-believers in this speech.

The one we should be worried about is Hillary. As Mother Jones magazine reports: "For 15 years, Hillary Clinton has been part of a secretive religious group that seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill."

Posted by Kevin Erickson | January 20, 2008 12:09 PM

Obama mentions in his book how sad he is that so many democrats see tolerance as secularization, essentially giving the republicans free rein over the bible and everything inside. That bible is this nation's most powerful piece of cultural heritage for millions and millions of people who democrats have been ignoring for years.I'm an atheist, but Obama's no Bush; he's just very, very smart, in addition to being a Christian.

By the way, giving a speech in a church has nothing--NOTHING--to do with separation of church and state. And, for at least a hundred years, you're not going to have viable candidate who ignores Christians.

Posted by some kid | January 20, 2008 12:24 PM

@6 --'s the longest post without interstices of truly awful local art.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 20, 2008 12:28 PM


wow. when you get out of your swoon, let us know.

It isn't a dynasty when the person is elected. FDR four times -- that really desotryed our country, didn't it? And Bush is not Clinton -- unless you have the keen political insights and the moral character of a Ralph Nader.

And guess what. Many Clinton supporters totally get that Obama is a great speaker with rgreat potential. But to compare him to Lincoln is a bit much at this stage. For that one Lincoln who became great after just giving great speeches, there are 1000's of other politicians who gave great speeches, but llater didn't achieve anything. So to say he is a Lincoln is a hope, a desire, and it's not real.

But the main problem in your post is it seems it's not enough for you to disagree with others -- you have to put them down as dumb and scared just because they disagree with you.
Well, this is the same old Adlai Stevenson/Tsongas/Kerry/wine and cheese liberalism point of view all over again. You're saying all those Latinos and women and seniors and Democrats who make $15,000-$50,000 a year -- all of whom went for Clinton in Nevada -- are too stupid and scared to get it about Obama.

Excuse us; we pause to barf at your arrogance. LEt's go over it again. You are saying that expecting a good economy because the other Clinton gave us one for 8 years -- that's dumb and a failure of imagination. In other words, instead of counting on what worked before, they should give up the idea of having a better life, more money in the pocket, more jobs, fewer foreclosures, and vote for Obama -- because he promises to transform American politics.

Right. The benighted masses eagerly await more missives of your infinite and transcendent wisdom. Clearly, their practicality based thinking is stupid and yellow bellied.

Unity was the subject of Sen. B. Obama today in church. Your approach to unity is this: "Dear opponents --you are dumb and scared and lack imagination. We know better than you what is good for you. Now come join us!"

I'm sure Sen. Obama himself thinks nothing like you do.

Posted by uranus | January 20, 2008 12:30 PM

uranus @24:

wow. when you get out of your swoon, let us know.

It isn't a dynasty when the person is elected. FDR four times -- that really desotryed our country, didn't it? And Bush is not Clinton -- unless you have the keen political insights and the moral character of a Ralph Nader.

Sorry, uranus. But, like Abraham Lincoln (and Barack Obama), Franklin D. Roosevelt was a person of great intellect, vision, judgment, and character. Hillary is no FDR. She's no Eleanor, even. And if FDR himself had been limited by the 22nd Amendment, his greatness would have been no argument for his wife or his son to succeed him.

Also, you seem to be using the word "dynasty" too narrowly, by equating it with monarchy. There's also such a thing as democratic dynasties. Monarchies hold on to power through physical force and tradition and an appeal to a divine force. Democratic dynasties hold on to power through political force and tradition and an appeal to fear and familiarity. India had the Gandhis. Pakistan had the Bhuttos. Now we have possibly both the Bushes and the Clintons. It's a shame that we should be on a par with such relatively backward, patriarchal countries.

But don't listen to me. Listen to an earlier column (May 7) by Nicholas Kristof, whose column from today I cited @5:

America's history is based on a rejection of aristocracy. It's true that in our early years, most of our leaders were wealthy elites -- and, frankly, they did a superior job. But one of our most fateful elections came in 1828, ''the revolution of 1828,'' with the rise of Andrew Jackson.

Jackson, the rough-hewn fighter, a former child soldier, defeated John Quincy Adams, who symbolized all the daintiness, education and sophistication of the aristocracy that had ruled until that time.

John Quincy Adams was the better man (if Andrew Jackson were reading this, he would challenge me to a duel, which proves my point). But Jackson's election was a healthy milestone for our democracy in that it truly opened up American politics.

The irony here is that there should be little doubt that Barack Obama is the better person, in both word and deed.

Posted by cressona | January 20, 2008 1:05 PM

I loved the Obama speech. Loved it loved it loved it. Wasn't sure what I was going to say about it.

cressona@9 and Kevin@21, perhaps you could shut the fuck up with the partisanship for one fucking day. Just a thought.

Posted by Big Sven | January 20, 2008 1:14 PM

See, here's how I'll never really understand religion.

Obama is reading how the Bible says Joshua knocked down the walls of Jericho, and then... Obama and the believers go off an take a lesson from that.

Now me, I'm reading it too, only I don't stop. I keep on going, on through the part where Joshua orders a genocide against every single human being in the city. And curses the sons of anybody who rebuilds the city, just to add insult to injury.

So, what good are these stories? If you know a person takes lessons from the Bible, that could mean they revel in crimes against humanity, or it could be they ignore the nasty stuff and are actually pretty decent. The only way to find out which is to get to know them. The mere fact that they read the Bible doesn't tell you a thing.

I suppose you could turn this around and interpret the speech as meaning that Obama is too decent a man to pay heed to the abominable lessons the Bible offers. But if that's true, then he could just as easily pull stories from a Batman comic book.

Posted by elenchos | January 20, 2008 1:14 PM

I don't even have words to describe this speech. I didn't think I could be so inspired by a politician.

Posted by Evan | January 20, 2008 1:16 PM

Big Sven @26:

cressona@9 and Kevin@21, perhaps you could shut the fuck up with the partisanship for one fucking day. Just a thought.

My apologies, Big Sven. Somehow, I was under the illusion that Obama had just given a political speech. In the future, I will try to adopt your more dignified, nonpartisan tone instead.

Posted by cressona | January 20, 2008 1:27 PM

Okay, this was wonderful (I wish there was audio but reading it was powerful) I take back my initial flip flop to Hillary yesterday and am back to backing Obama. Obama means a victory for all of America not just the Democrats. Every century has one President that defines it and the 21st is going to be the century defined by Barack Obama. Let's make it happen.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 20, 2008 1:29 PM

@30 -- Nothing like the power of consistent convictions, eh, Cato? I bet you would have loved Goebbels...

I was going to sit this one out and, in honor of the powerful words spoken, not inject my view but I'm afraid I can't help myself.

1. Speeches are not action. Especially speeches that are, essentially, Bible-based bromides. This is, essentially, an MLK Day 101 speech. Religious references? Check. Can't we all just get along sentiment? Check. Concordant use of the word "unity?" Check. Baptist pulpit cadence and repetition? Check. I expect the Af-Am candidate to have compelling things to say about MLK -- so, you want my vote, Obama? The inspire me with what you have to say about the closing fucking budget deficit.

2. Basing your vote on one speech is lunacy. William Jennings Bryan would have carried the Slog vote, I guess (cf "Cross of Gold").

3. When I was young, and my heart was an open book...I used to think politics was about emotion and vision and "changing society for the better." Now, in this ever-changing world in which we live in, I've come to realize that it's about making sure flyover staters get their farm subsidies and don't feel like the freaks from the coasts are going to turn their cornfields into gay sex clubs. So all this talk about how Obama is going to unite America and change the political process is, I'm afraid, horse pucky. Ergo...

4. Fred and Ethel Everyday are not going to vote for a black guy named Hussein. There will be a flight to the familiar and we'll elect that nice old man who lived in a box for four years.

Get past the rhetoric, people, as sweet as it sounds -- this is about electability. Sorry to stomp on idealism -- I hated it when it happened to me as a younger guy -- but there's no there there when it comes to real solutions from Obama. Speechifyin' ain't the same as driving results AND not freaking out the pinch-faced church people we need to win this damn thing.

But just to show I have a sliver of an open mind left, if, a year from today, Obama was the nominee and he is taking the oath of office, I'll personally stand on the front steps of The Stranger offices and eat my hat.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 20, 2008 1:52 PM


Nothing like the power of consistent convictions, eh, Cato? I bet you would have loved Goebbels...

That deserves a big giant WTF.

I'll be a troll by saying this, but your entire post is just depressing, pessimistic bullshit. I was going to quote it line by line, dissecting everything that you said, making detailed, reasoned arguments, but it's pointless. Electability of Obama versus Clinton? Bullshit. Pessimism about the role of the President to actually, in fact, be a united and not a divider? Bullshit. Basing votes on one speech? Hell, what else is a president *really* good for when you get down to it?

And about the "fucking deficit"... regardless of the candidate, it is something that needs to be addressed, independent of whether Obama or Clinton or Huckabee or McCain or Romney gets into the office, In all likelihood, any policy strategies that are decided upon now are not going to actually be put into place, and many of the same folks that would be advising a President Clinton on a course of action would be the same folks that would be advising President Obama.

Anyone that assumes that the strategies proposed on the campaign trail are the ones that would be actually implemented in office? Well... I think that you're the optimistic one here.

Posted by bma | January 20, 2008 2:21 PM

cressona, you know I normally agree with you, but...

I was under the illusion that Obama had just given a political speech. and I heard different speeches today.

Posted by Big Sven | January 20, 2008 2:29 PM


Stop comparing our opponents to Nazis. You're right 99% of the time, but today... too much, wrong day, wrong thread.

Posted by Big Sven | January 20, 2008 2:31 PM

@32, I think it is funny that first you can not change your mind during the primary season.

According to #31 (and yeah I am trolling on this) to change your mind is to be a Nazi. That is right, you heard it here folks. So I challenge #31 to meet me at Starbucks on Denny and Olive at 5 pm this afternoon. I will be wearing a dark blue polo. How about it? Or are you too weak in your convictions #31?

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 20, 2008 2:31 PM

Talk about Democrats eating their own. The Republicans just have to have us kill ourselves and it makes it easier for the GOP come November.

There are some real assholes on this thread. Calling people who change their minds NAZIS??!!! Changing your mind from Hillary to Obama makes you a NAZI??!!! WTF???!!!

Posted by Wow | January 20, 2008 2:46 PM

I haven't read the speech all the way through, but I'm sure it's inspiring. (And, I will read it, or look for a video, as I'm still keeping an open mind about both Democratic candidates.)

Interesting story toward the end of the speech, about the young white woman named Ashley. The narrative demonstrates how white women (currently voting mostly for Clinton over Obama, as far as I can tell) can find support in the heart/home/campaign of a black man.

Clearly, this old black man is a wise man, as he exemplifies the ideas of a speech about equality. Ashley (the name is vaguely like Hillary) is associated with health care issues and an important (but wounded) mother figure. Ashley works to organize black voters, but in the story, the roles are reversed, so that by the end, the black voter is, in a sense, now organizing for her.

I may be reading way too much into this, but the story nicely illustrates 1.) the true equal-rights tenets of Obama's church (as described in Raban's article) and of this speech in general AND 2.) what the Obama campaign needs now (female votes, white and hispanic especially).

I think reversals like the one depicted in the story are indeed what needs to happen in the real world to end racism and sexism, so the metaphor of the story works both tactically and philosophically. Interesting.

However, I'm sure Hillary would definately be called "cynical" if she inserted similar narratives in a 'non-political' speech... In fact, her comment last week about Johnson securing the ideals of MLK in real legislation were pounced upon because they not show an race-and mind-bending reversal, but a historical (and therefore, past-tense) fact.

Posted by English Major | January 20, 2008 3:20 PM

"In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone."

Instead we'll walk arm-in-arm with blandly positive promises, debt-inducing policies, and good speeches.

The man can talk, no question. It's too bad the few specifics don't pencil out much better than the current Oval Office clown.

Posted by Troy | January 20, 2008 3:24 PM
So I challenge #31 to meet me at Starbucks on Denny and Olive at 5 pm this afternoon. I will be wearing a dark blue polo. How about it? Or are you too weak in your convictions #31?

Ooh, the Slog's first meatspace-fight challenge!

Posted by tsm | January 20, 2008 3:29 PM

Instead we'll walk arm-in-arm with blandly positive promises, debt-inducing policies, and good speeches.

That pretty much defines every single candidate, on both sides. Clinton included.

Posted by bma | January 20, 2008 3:34 PM

Jesus, that was a really fucking good speech. I wish I could be more descriptive beyond that. Loved it.

Posted by Jessica | January 20, 2008 3:40 PM

i just don't get how some of the clinton supporters on here can be... i don't know... CLINTON supporters. bill and hillary weren't responsible for the 90's boom, nor have they been or will they ever be responsible for passing any progressive social policy ever. they're great at taking progressives' money and then throwing us all under the damn bus. we're getting too used to it.

i just don't get you people at all. if you don't support obama, fine... then edwards, richardson, et al are far better and fresher choices than hillary. (and frankly, do you honestly think having these two and their marital psycho-soap bullshit back in the white house will be good for a post-george america?)

Posted by wendy | January 20, 2008 3:55 PM

I say "Go for it" if all the pols want/need to visit ALL the houses of worship. If they don't, that's a violation of the separation of church and state and shows favoritism to the easiest quoted religion and his own, of course. I don't know why that's so hard for the gov't to understand. It's about Favoritism, not about what religion anybody is. Somebody else probably mentioned this already, but I'm short on time so, sorry for the ditto-head response. :D

Posted by scriptsure | January 20, 2008 4:10 PM

@4 Um, the speech was at a church, what were you expecting?

I really enjoyed it-I only wish I could have heard it.

Posted by Jen | January 20, 2008 4:12 PM

Totally cool!

Um, but SLOG editors, where was the spill page? That's a Loooooooooooong post not to spill ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 20, 2008 4:51 PM


I don't think religion should get a free pass to be a font of bullshit just because, you know, that's how those people are. To me it only begs the question: if his church speech was so great, was it great because it was religious, or in spite of it?

My wife thought it was a great speech, but she's never read the Bible. Whereas for me, using the first part of the Jericho story only underscored for me the part that was left out (the merciless slaughter of every one of the Israelite's enemies, their wives, their children their pets, the destruction of their city, and a curse laid on them to boot).

It's like if you gave a speech where you hung it on the hook of Kristalnacht, where you find inspiration in how all the Nazi brownshirts came together as one to express their united will. But of course you don't actually mention the heinous things they actually did that night, having come together as one. Part of the story is a heartwarming gold mine, and part of it is unspeakable.

See, selectively reading the history of the Third Reich looking for inspiration is gross and offensive. Selectively reading the Bible is fine. Nobody is supposed to complain about that.

Posted by elenchos | January 20, 2008 5:00 PM

I don't even know where to start with the bigotry.

There's the religious bigotry and the Godwinizing, but there's also this lack of understanding about the importance of the African-American church in politics. The SCLC came out of the Black Baptist and AME churches. The African-American church is still the central gathering place of African-American culture. You want to talk to Black America? Show up Sunday.

So to just write this off, and with it African-American tradition... it's ignorance. It's soft bigotry.

No wonder we've seen this Hillary-Obama racial strife. The anti-religious tone of the Left sounds to the ears of African Americans like racism.

And yet the strange paradox that the exit polls in NH showed that Obama won two polar opposite groups -- Democrats who attend church weekly (or more) and Democrats who do not attend church at all.

Posted by dw | January 20, 2008 5:24 PM

I know the speech was mostly because of the holiday, but I'd love all the other religions get the candidate's attention too at some point this year. The religious can go to secular places, but I'd rather not go to a church to hear what they have to say either...and I'm also an atheist.

Posted by scriptsure | January 20, 2008 5:51 PM

Sorry to add to the the anarchy of this thread, but I just can't help myself..

@5 you have a good point

While Kristof doesn't come right out and ask how being a First Lady counts as experience, he does refer to "Mrs. Clinton’s spurious claim to '35 years of experience.'"
But how about 20 years in the senate? (I'm talking about the general election, not the democratic primary)


Obama means a victory for all of America not just the Democrats.
I'm sure the Republicans won't argue with that, see above or read Obama's speech again:(emphasis added)
"Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we’ve come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We’ve come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily – that it’s just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past"

One bad experience with a white Republican is probably not enough (remember he did get reelected)
Every century has one President that defines it and the 21st is going to be the century defined by Barack Obama. Let's make it happen.
By my calculation 2016 is in the 21st century, it often helps to consider the long view if one want to make something happen.

Posted by Epimetheus | January 20, 2008 6:02 PM

I'm kind of a crier anyway, but never have I been stirred emotionally by a politician.


This is the first time a politician, merely in reading what was written, as actually made me feel emotion toward the politics that shapes our Society.


Posted by Syberexile | January 20, 2008 6:06 PM

To everyone deeply inspired by the speech (and to those just plain inspired, or just moved, or think he's a pretty cool guy who might make a good president)--

Find out your precincts, locate your caucus locations, and TURN OUT for the man on Feb 9. Ignore the "Primary" as the Democrats don't count it in delegate selection.

Admire the man's intellect and oratory skills, then do something about putting him in a higher office where he can continue to challenge, inspire, and turn thing around by shaming those who could stonewall Hillary into signing onto the efforts. That's consensus democracy.

Posted by Andy Niable | January 20, 2008 6:07 PM

You can see the video At CSPAN.

Posted by Syberexile | January 20, 2008 6:12 PM

Andy Niable @51, good on ya, mate. I was just going to add... It's one thing to be inspired by a leader. It's a whole 'nuther thing to actually be inspired to action by a leader.

We need to mobilize for February 9. And in doing so, we're not doing it for Barack Obama, or against Hillary Clinton, or as Democratic partisans. This may sound quaint and anachronistic in this cyber-cynical age (like something an old guy like John McCain would say), but when we mobilize for Barack Obama, we are doing so as Americans, for America.

Posted by cressona | January 20, 2008 6:22 PM

People know that Obama didn't write that speech himself, right? He has professional speech writers to work with him on that. And it seems that they cribbed most of their rhetorical strategies from King's "I Have a Dream." That's fine, but once you notice it, it kind of distracts from the speech's impact.

Posted by johnnie | January 20, 2008 6:23 PM

Politicians don't write their own speeches alone? Say it ain't so, Johnnie?

Seriously, at least THIS man knows what he's saying (and believes it), unlike our President New-Cue-Lur My-Pet-Goat

Posted by Andy Niable | January 20, 2008 6:27 PM

Dude knocked it out of the motherfucking park today.

Posted by kerri harrop | January 20, 2008 6:32 PM

Elenchos, the difference between Kristalnacht and the battle of Jericho as described in the Bible is that Kristalnacht actually happened. As for the biblical accounts of the conquest of Canaan, among other events recorded in the Bible, I have my doubts. And don't get me wrong--I am fully aware that you don't take these stories as literal either, so please allow me to elaborate.

The Bible, as you undoubtedly know, is not a pleasant book. For very Good Samaritan parable and 23rd Psalm there are other passages that describe tales of unspeakable horror. My understanding of what we call the Old Testament is that various authors wrote down histories passed down orally over the course of many generations of how the deity they believed in created them as a people and protected them from their enemies, punished them when they went astray but continued to identify them as his people. Whether the individual details are factual isn't really the point. It is, of course, absurd to believe in a talking snake or that stone walls miraculously fell down because Joshua blew a trumpet. And I will leave it to archaeologists and professional Bible scholars to settle whether other events such as, for example, a mass exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt ever happened. But this is the way they understood their history. Of course it is as troubling to me as it is to you that anyone would believe in a god that commands genocide. But it's interesting that the religious right (which I will speak more of in a moment) also believes in this type of god, which shows human nature hasn't changed much in the last few thousand years.

If there is a place for religion in our society (a question I have personally been wrestling with lately) it should be to motivate people to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Of course someone could be an atheist and understand that simple truth, but for those who believe the examples of Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and other similar saints can serve to inspire. Unfortunately organized religion has monumentally screwed up. In this country the Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, Ken Hutchersons, the youth pastors in Dan Savage's regular columns and countless others have alienated many from religion, myself included.

But getting back to Obama's speech, I am optimistic that the monopoly the right has had on religious and political dialogue in this country for the last 30 years may be coming to an end. Obama gets it in terms of how divisive religion has been and is hoping to bridge the great chasm between the progressives and the faithful. The right thinks anyone who doesn't agree with them will spend eternity in a subterranean blast furnace. They will always believe that, but I don't expect much from them. It is truly tragic that many on the left, however, dismiss any religious person as a dimwitted Bush-voting hick. I think we are too intelligent for that. Believe, or not believe, whatever you want about God, but don't buy into the late Jerry Falwell's myth that religious = Republican and non-religious = Democrat. We should know better than that.

Posted by RainMan | January 20, 2008 6:34 PM

If the Bible is pure fiction, then why treat it with such respect? Simply rewrite the parts that are immoral.

George Lucas could rework Star Wars so that Greedo shot at Han first because it was just a made up story. It's instructive that the people who have a problem with that are disturbingly fanatic, kind of like it was a religion.

The precise definition of "bullshit" is something that doesn't need to be true or false: it makes no difference whether this story is real or whether we treat it as meaning anything. It's neither true or false; it's pure bullshit.

So I don't see what's so great about Obama spouting bullshit. He had a lot to say that was true and was good, and it didn't need to be tainted with some highly questionable nonsense from the Bible.

As those cynics who think it's good to say these meaningless God words just to get votes from the rubes, well, that's sad, and it won't work.

Posted by elenchos | January 20, 2008 6:46 PM

@35 -- Slow down, there, pardner...I never called you a Nazi. I invoked Goebells as someone who also gave thundering, compelling speeches and was snidely insinuating that you'd be swayed by anyone delivering persuasive oratory.

So yeah, I was being a cunt. I am not saying you are a Nazi. I'm saying you're not very firm in your convictions from day to day if one speech with not a whole lot of policy substance can sway your vote. My bad for invoking the Teutonic bogey man.

And I was playing soccer at 5pm and only now saw your post. Someday maybe I'll buy you a big fat wienerschnitzel, but not today. Better yet, let's have a cock fight :-)

As for @32 -- believe it or not, I'd be very receptive to your detailed argument. I'm just going off my experience of being emotionally excited by all kinds of candidates and their lofty oratory -- especially when a candidate would mention gays and lesbians -- only to watch them go down 49 states to one.

Maybe that won't happen this time. Maybe it will.

But if you want to find the time to school me line by line, I promise I'd read what you have to say.

And @34 -- is that a lutefisk in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? I'm afraid there's no "wrong post" for discussing the merits, pro or con, of a candidate. If the mere mention of MLK means we've entered a sacred chamber of uniform opinion, then we do his memory no service whatsoever.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 20, 2008 6:51 PM

@ everyone complaining about the Religious Content of Obama's speech (or his rhetoric in general):

As a proud agnostic, I'm not thrilled about religion permeating the poltical sphere.

But going back to the reason Obama's standing in Ebenezer Baptist Church--the work of Dr. King--would you have preferred a secular, non-religious-affliated person to have led and inspired masses of people in the Jim Crow South to protest unequal treatment, to face the dogs and firehoses? If so, whom could have done so, as eloquently and effectively?

Obama, like any intelligent person who wants to function in the political sphere (meaning get in office), especially within the Black Community, understands the historic bonding value of the Christian Church. If Obama avoided all religious gatherings, refused to speak at Ebenezer, or any synagogue or mosque or anywhere near a cross... would we even be talking about him right now as a candidate for President?

It's a political reality. We can have great in-depth political games of Battleship ("Jericho was a genocide" "Miss--did it really occur?" "Exodus never really happened!" "Hit!") once we get the current "God Talks To Me" theocrat-in-chief out of office, and hopefully not replace him with Pastor Huckabee.

Posted by Andy Niable | January 20, 2008 7:04 PM

*yawn* a biblical lesson about harmony and unity, "changing our hearts and minds", how God wants us to care for others, and then some sap story involving little girls and cancer.

It's like chicken soup for the democratic soul.

I really don't get what's so amazing... maybe I'm just too jaded and cynical?

Posted by Cinders | January 20, 2008 7:05 PM

If your question isn't rhetorical, Cinders--tell us: What does inspire you? Moves you? Anything?

If so, what candidate, if any, is doing that thing?

If there ain't anything, Yup, yer too jaded and cynical.

Posted by Andy Niable | January 20, 2008 7:13 PM

Hey, it's not like I'm not for theoretical world peace and love and all that. I enjoy the sentiment in music, and I love it when people actually do something to help others. Scripture and make-you-cry stories about cancer? Not so much.

I just don't get what's so great about this particular speech, as opposed to any other rabble-rousing speech about marching to action (and there's no shortage of those around election time).

As for candidates, I think that there IS a correlation between rhetoric skills and running a government. But then again, lots of bad people have good speaking skills.

As a Canadian, I don't think it will matter who wins as long as they're a democrat. Both Hilary and Obama look pretty good... I'd love it if they ended up running together!

Posted by Cinders | January 20, 2008 8:29 PM

That speech gives me some hope for all of us, something I've been short of in recent years.

Beautiful, truly inclusive, and inspiring.

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | January 20, 2008 8:54 PM

@50 and others who are moved by this speech:

If you would like to read other speeches that are moving I would suggest the many bios of Rev. Dr. MLK, as well as the books of Churchill's speeches, and Roosevelt's speeches. The book about Lincoln which is called Lincoln's Morality (or similar) is also great.

Obama is a great and moving speaker; but yes, there have been others.

Posted by Cleve | January 20, 2008 8:55 PM

4. Fred and Ethel Everyday are not going to vote for a black guy named Hussein. There will be a flight to the familiar and we'll elect that nice old man who lived in a box for four years.

Why live in a democracy if you have contempt for your fellow man? I'd rather live in a society dominated by everyday folks than by bigots with unwarranted superiority complexes, like the poster.

Obama is a great and moving speaker; but yes, there have been others.

Your point of course being that damn good orators, like MLK, FDR, Lincoln, and Churchill, were also damn good leaders. The argument that Hillary is, on balance, no worse than W., is less than compelling.

Posted by let's vote for the inspiring guy | January 20, 2008 9:16 PM

@66 -- So I'm a bigot? Really? You think I liked being on the losing end when I supported inspirational candidates? You think I like the fact that I don't trust much of America to see past skin color? That the Brady Effect is real too often?

Well, pal, it makes me fucking sick. I have a dark view of mankind because of the things I've seen.

Grant me that -- no pity, just grant me the right to see that -- without layering it with your no-context bullshit, born of a superiority complex far more evident than any you could hang on me.

Fuck you.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 20, 2008 10:41 PM

I may be eating up his bullshit but I find Obama inspiring...his book included. After 8 miserable fucking years of a president reading (poorly) prepared lines of shit he has no idea about, Obama sounds like Jesus Christ speaking to the masses. I dont believe a word Hilary says, and if shes elected the country will be divided more than ever. Not that it matters but Christians HATE her with a passion...and I dont want to her my mom bitching about her for the next four years...

Posted by MadDog | January 21, 2008 12:04 AM

Ah, but why get so angry at people who just want to try one more time, or who are young enough not to have really tried before? My reaction, reading that speech, was to want to send it to my friend who believes Obama isn't electable. Yes, my friend is from the southeast portion of the country, and knows the sort people who would hate him better than I do. But I can't really believe that enough people to defeat him would be able to resist that level of inspiration. I admit it's possible, but I'll have to see it to believe. I'm in the crowd of people who were quite moved by that speech. And I think I'll always be in the crowd that wants to keep trying, that has very little patience for people who want to give up and choose the "electable" candidate. Go ahead, call me naive, I don't mind.

Posted by Lythea | January 21, 2008 12:29 AM

The religion thing: I don't care. The story came from the bible: I don't care. It could have come from Rocky and Bullwinkle for all I care. That speech was goddamn brilliant. Not just as a speech, asswipes, but as a credo. That's why it was inspiring, because it was so CORRECT. He gets it completely.

Posted by Phoebe | January 21, 2008 2:32 AM

i LOVE how he's using the MLK card to make himself look better and give a visual to the SC voters. nice move. that will make a HUGE difference on healthcare.

Posted by M | January 21, 2008 3:05 PM

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