Adult conversations: Sen. Barack Obama delivered his "race" speech yesterday in Philadelphia, a powerful call to white and black Americans to overcome generations of division and bitterness. The full transcript is here, and an extended video clips are here. I was pleased with Obama's willingness to tackle such a thorny topic and shocked, as Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show, to be treated as an adult by a politician.
Will this speech advance or hurt Obama's presidential campaign? Too soon to tell, but race isn't an easy topic to discuss. I'm sure many people will react negatively simply because they don't want to hear what Obama is saying or think about the solutions he proposes. Others will spin the speech as a political move to defuse the controversy over his church pastor. But he came across as a real person with deeply held feelings about race he built over a lifetime in both black and white America.
When I had my five minutes with Obama after his UC rally Feb. 25, I asked him about how he could personally help bridge the racial divide in Cincinnati and across the country. His response:
"I come from a diverse background, obviously. I had a white mother and an African father and I grew up in Southeast Asia and Hawaii, a real melting pot.
"My starting point is a belief that we’re all the same under the skin, that we all have the same hopes and dreams and aspirations. But we have a tragic history that we’re still having to deal with. And that expresses itself in terms of poverty and the health and income gap between white and black and the disproportionate amount of violence in the African American community that has to be dealt with.
"And I think as president it’s very important to highlight these gaps and to get people of goodwill of all races to start listening to each other and to start finding practical, commonsense solutions to move forward instead of engaging in name calling that ends up not producing much."
Are there enough Americans of goodwill who want to listen to each other? We'll see.
In blogland: Living Out Loud is offering a quiz on Cincinnati history; Mike Breen reports on the new Raconteurs album, featuring local lads Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler; Margo Pierce suggests ways to help UNICEF provide more safe drinking water around the world; and Rick Pender has the results of the delayed Cincinnati Directors Competition.
— John Fox