Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama on Race: Breadth, Depth, and Respect

A funny thing happened on my way to blog about Obama's speech on race. I saw the Reuters headline: Obama denounces preacher; says can't disown him. Not inaccurate, but is that really the headline?

True, Obama talked at length about his relationship with Rev. Wright and distanced himself from his former pastor's remarks without denouncing the man. But isn't that what we all expected? Couldn't that headline might have been written last night?

Here's the real headline. Obama talks honestly about race in America (video). He put the whole festering, difficult tangle of issues on the table for open discussion without pandering or patronizing. It's never happened in any presidential campaign I can remember.

What astonished and heartened me about the speech was its breadth, depth, and respect.

Breadth, in that it encompassed the full sweep of race relations in this country from slavery, through constitutional compromise, segregation, and hopeful future.

Depth, in that it embraced our shared and separate experiences from both black and white perspectives—acknowledging resentments and suspicions on both sides—all channeled through the lens of Obama's multi-ethnic heritage.

Respect, in that the tone, structure, language, and argument of the speech appealed to our heads as well as our hearts, adult-to-adult.

Oliver Willis wrote this after the speech:
"One of my personal maxims has been that politicians will disappoint you... With Senator Obama, for the first time in my life, I have watched a political leader who I don’t worry if he’ll be up to the task."
Mickeleh's Take: If I may borrow from Rep. Ferraro, we're very lucky he is who he is.

No comments: