The speech on race and religion that Senator Barack Obama delivered Tuesday has been viewed more than two million times on YouTube and has prepared the ground for further discussions in schools, in churches, and around the water coolers and kitchen tables throughout America.
Race and religion, the two most electrified rails in American politics, have both challenged and empowered the Obama candidacy and, in turn, the nation.
The Washington Post said, “Obama’s speech was remarkable: ambitious, lofty, gritty, honest and unnerving. He not only ventured into the minefield of race and made it back alive, but he also marked a path for the rest of us to follow. In tone and substance, and in the challenge he laid down to the country about the need somehow to move beyond the racial stalemate, it was the kind of speech Americans should expect of a presidential candidate or a president.”
“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union,” began the speech. Obama recalled that America’s founding document was “unfinished” because it left any final resolution on slavery to future generations. He said he chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because he “believes deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together — unless we perfect our union.”
The New York Times is reporting yesterday that, “Universities were moving to incorporate the issues Mr. Obama raised into classroom discussions and course work, and churches were trying to find ways to do the same in sermons and Bible studies.”
Julian Bond, the longtime civil rights activist and Hillary Clinton supporter, said the speech moved him to tears.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said that “As an example of contemporary oratory, it was stunning. If Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination in the most unlikely campaign in American history, chances are good that his Philadelphia speech will have been a watershed moment.”
The Nation wrote, “If people have the opportunity to hear him in full and think about it, they will recognize the strength it took for him to open his arms this way, casting aside all defenses and evasions.”
From Time: “An extraordinary speech — not because of any rhetorical flourishes, but because it was honest, frank, measured in tone, inclusive and hopeful… [Obama] clearly demonstrated today his capacity to lead public opinion and not simply be a slave to it. Indeed, I would say he appeared wise beyond his years and genuinely presidential.”
If you haven’t had a chance to see the speech, you must watch: