O Me of Little Faith

I want to mention politics as little as possible on this blog, because it’s so divisive and quickly leads to defensiveness and name-calling and the spread of hurtful misinformation (and that’s just on my part!), but I have to bring attention today to Barack Obama’s long-awaited speech on race and racial relations and the whole Rev. Jeremiah Wright thing. If you didn’t see or hear the speech, here’s a transcript. Read it if you have the time.

My immediate response is that Obama knocked it out of the park. I’m not sure how much of his own speechwriting Obama does*, but this is a brilliantly written speech (brilliantly delivered, too, but his oratorical skills are no surprise at this point). I’m impressed that he is able to be honest about his connection to — and admiration for — his pastor without throwing him out the window, disowning Wright’s ideas and inflammatory stance without disowning the man himself. He denounces Wright’s hateful attitude while calling attention to the systemic racism that produced him and many others. He acknowledges that black people aren’t the only victims of racially based disadvantages. He owns up to his own failures, educates his audience on the history of America’s racial divide and the factors that still contribute to it — on ALL sides — then calls his audience to join him in trying to rise above them. He wraps this challenge into the original intent of the Founding Fathers, and says this divisiveness and resentment on all sides needs to be overcome. And he says it with humility and authentic religious faith and without showing off. As far as speeches go, it was gracious, forgiving, compassionate, empathetic, and — wait for it — hopeful.

It’s the right speech, with the right content, at the right time. In fact? I’ll go out on a limb. This will be the speech that defines him, and it’ll be the reason he wins not just the Democratic Primary, but the 2008 election.

[* Update: Marc Ambinder reports that Obama wrote the speech himself over the past couple of nights. Man. I’m impressed.]

[Another Update: I can’t say it any better than Andrew Sullivan“This was a testing; and he did not merely pass it by uttering safe bromides. He addressed the intimate, painful love he has for an imperfect and sometimes embittered man. And how that love enables him to see that man’s faults and pain as well as his promise. This is what my faith is about. It is what the Gospels are about. This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian.”]

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