Video: Obama Addresses the Nation on Race

Barack Obama is perhaps in his best element when delivering speeches. For many, his speech on “Yes We Can,” was his most famous and passionate. However, now, many are considering his speech on Race the most influential, comparing it to earlier speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. It weaves together his common calls for unity, a new kind of politics, and also his recent rejection of Wright’s comments (and the racial politics that followed).

Yael T. Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star Editorial Board reports, March 18, 2008:

Barack Obama’s smoothly delivered speech on race wasn’t perfect. But it hit most of the right notes. His campaign for president moves on.

Obama on Tuesday rightly criticized inflammatory remarks by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and also aimed remarks directly at white Americans. Obama’s view:

Many whites have grievances, too, because they are oppressed by corporate greed and powerful lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

So these mostly lower- and middle-income Americans need to work with blacks and others to improve the country, Obama said.

Excellent points, and they could make a difference with some white Democratic voters trying to choose between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The full audio file of his speech, through NPR: Obama’s Speech from Philadelphia

A full transcription from the New York times: Obama’s Speech on Race

Already Air America and Rush Limbaugh are commenting on this speech, and its sound bytes will probably filter into the news for the next few weeks.

Update by Nate

Here’s the entire video of the speech unedited from MSNBC:

More to come later as the story develops and we get reaction to his statements.

  • Janis

    For the first time in many, many years, I, a white, 50+ year-old woman, am proud and hopeful for the future of our United States of America. Barack Obama speaks truth. He will reduce the divide in our country and inspire and lead us all into a brighter future.

  • Dreadsen

    I hope the Anti Obama machine whether you are from the Hilary side or the republican side are proud of themselves. Pushing the wright issue way overboard caused Obama to come up with a speech which may possibly help him go right past Hilary and into the White House.

    With out this speech things could have possibly played out different.

    Lets sit back and see.

  • Temoc

    I just happen to be Mexican-American! And frankly, I could give a RATS POSTERIOR what color Sen Barack Obama is! Thats superficial anyway!

    However, I can understand the enthusiasm generated among African-Americans over his candidacy. This is no different than Greek-Americans getting excited over the candidacy of Michael Dukakis, or Irish-Americans (and Catholics) over the candidacy of John F Kennedy.

    That said, let me say as loud as I can;



    OBAMA!!! OBAMA!!! OBAMA!!!

  • Calista

    Obama does NOT fool me!

    Stop it with the speeches, and get honest!

  • That was one of the best speeches he has given. Obama addressed every point on this latest controversy in a very thoughtful, honest and yet also quite visionary way. Most politicians would not dare to touch upon some of the issues that he addressed, especially with such honesty and clarity. Quite a bold speech in the end (kind of stinks that it was an 11am speech, bad timing), should help him in Pennsylvania if enough voters get a chance to view it.

  • david


  • IndiMinded

    Barack Obama’s willingness, as a presidential candidate, to go out on a limb and speak in a bold and open fashion on issues that most people wouldn’t touch at a cocktail party is really his primary appeal.

    The sense of truth and sincerity that he is able to express is not what we’re used to in politics. This isn’t a politician’s measured speech, full of calculated gains and risks.

    In order to fully address the subject matter for which he’s come under fire – Wright’s angry sermons – he had to take them from the 2 dimensional plane in which they were being discussed and put them into context. The idea seems like political suicide, and it resulted the best oratory regarding race that I’ve ever heard.

    You anti-Obamians can keep crying “phony” – but this is a man who is willing to go in depth on matters and to do so boldly – if not rashly – more so than any presidential candidate in recent memory.

    I truly wish the other candidates would take the risk to speak out on controversial social issues with half as much incite, passion, and eagerness to bridge divides. They haven’t and I don’t really expect them to. I sort of hope Barack inspires them to try it though.

  • Debra Falter

    He may not totally agree with Wright but the fact that he supports this man dooms his presidential hopes.

  • Dem ’08

    This is an amazing story from Obama. I must say that this speech was impressive. However, this was a perfect world speech and does not work in this far from perfect world we live in. The real reasons race is an issue today are only spoken in part by Obama as well as all those who spoke on this subject before him.
    This speech while inspiring does nothing to tell me why Obama should be the next president. This speech does not excuse Obama for attending a church as radical as the one he is a member of. This speech is actually a good example of what Clinton has been telling everybody.
    There is no doubt he is a great speaker, but what action has he taken to make things right? A great speech will not make the terrorist decide to stop killing. A great speech will do nothing to help the economy. While his intentions may be good, everyone has to realize that it will take action to repair what Bush has done and pretty talk won’t help.
    Obama should work to bring about some of this change he talks of and maybe take another shot at being president afterward. It took a Clinton to repair what Bush Sr. did and now it will take another Clinton to repair what Bush Jr. has done.
    Keep focus people, let’s not fall in love with an image of Obama’s perfect world. This is one step at a time here. Think!

  • Dem ’08

    One thing that really gets me is that the comments made by Obama’s preacher are shouted out thoroughout church messages across the black community. I have never heard an issue about race in the white church in my life. The reasons that race is an issue in America today is because black people keep bringing it up as an excuse of why the white man owes them something.
    There is no one alive today who was a slave to the white man and nobody deserves anything because of the past. Move the hell on and stop making the past part of our future! No one is against a black person because of their skin color. It is because the subject keeps coming up from the blacks and it does piss of people to hear it over and over. I actually had a coworker claim that the government owes him 40 acres and a mule because his reaserch shows that his people did not receive what they should have. This is enough to piss off anybody and it is a good example of why race is still going on. What say you?

  • this speech clarifies his objectives and gives a glimpse of understanding to how both sides feel about racial equality. being half black and white he would be a good candidate to do this. his message basically says that people of the past have inherited lingering cynicism and we can eithe raccept it or we can change. i feel he was very genuine o nthis topic. although if the tony rezko trial goes smoothly his credibility will remain.

  • Dreadsen

    Dem 08

    The reason you haven’t heard issues of race in a white church is probably because white people don’t care about something which has no effect on them. That would be like a Hispanic church talking about an issue which applies to Asians. Most white people don’t even think racism exists because they live it’s not something they encounter. Why do you think there have been social experiments where they paint white people black for a week or so? This is so they can have an experience of something which they would not have seen in their own shell.

  • Erwin

    Excellent speech. I feel like he said look at the ugliness that exist in this country, it’s real and we need to face it. I’m very impressed at the way he handled the situation. I’m sure there are those who would have liked for this situation to go down the all to familiar road of hate and racism but he just stuck a big under construction sign in front of that road. It’s easy to hate but his words were able to stop that downward spiral and make people think. I’m also glad he is an excellent speaker. People forget that Martin L. King once lead the black community with his famous words and eloquent speeches. I bet people said that was bad during his time as well. Ghandi changed the lives of many around him with his non-violent methods. People say words are useless but they are exactly what makes this world go round. We fight, befriend and make enemies with our words. We communicate and prosper with our words. Words are of paramount importance, and if they aren’t, then the words of a pastor would not have us writing about this now. And you most certainly wouldn’t be reading this! I for one am excited about the possibilities of having a president who can effectively communicate. Especially since things aren’t always rainbows and sunshine. A friend once asked me the following: If my family was being held hostage by terrorist, who would I want the negotiator who attempts to diffuse the situation to be, Obama or Bush?

  • Michelle

    The only thing that saddens me is those who are willing to right this off as political fodder. These people are so narrow-minded that they cannot take the most honest and true words ever spoken by a candidte of our generation to heart. Rather, they say he didn’t distance himself enough from the Reverend even still. If they wold actually listen the the sermon outside the sound bite and actually study American history (as I have on both accounts) they could see that Wright is not a hate monger or a raict, but simply a black man in America with his own opinions about the injustices imbredded in this society. I will be brokenhearted if my country cannot come together at a time when we need it most.

  • Dem ’08

    Words are important you think. Why do you think race has been an issue for 200 plus years? For the most part words are the only thing people use to deal with the issue. When all you have are words change don’t happen. Their have been a few who took action and that is why there has been some change. If people only suggested the end of slave trade you would still see that today. Words are fine and they help to inspire people but it takes a speaker who gets people’s attention and then takes action that the people can follow. Clinton has been telling you but you are on the Obama wagon and refuse to listen. If words work so well for you, try bitchin about the gas prices so they will go back down.

  • Erwin

    Dem’ 08
    Words inspire and motivate. That much is undeniable! I would argue that words are among the most powerful of things in this world. A great speaker is the difference between motivating many and motivating a few. It was words that motivated that suicide bomber. Words are more than fine. They are the root of everything. Why don’t you try winning a war with a bunch of depressed troops. I’ll save you the trouble. You will get stomped. Moral and drive are important in any fight. It may be hard to believe, but brawn isn’t everything. As far as Obama’s ability to take action or not, I don’t know. but I hardly believe Clinton’s words are proof that a man lacks the will to act. He seems pretty motivated to me about the issues that plague this country. And another thing, if you think racism is gone your are living under a rock my friend. Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it is not going on. I myself have heard racist comments come from the mouths of many including friends, professors and even my superiors in the military. One thing is for sure , hate breeds hate. I live in Texas and there is plenty to go around. You say the problem is action. Personally I believe it takes a special person not to take action. Most people jump to take action even at the most insignificant things. It takes a special person to take action with a cool head as well. I think its a good challenging message. Like I said before, its easy to hate. Its hard not to. You call me naive yet you are wiling to take the words of another about someone you know nothing about. I have seen all the candidates. I don’t think Hilary is bad and I don’t think Obama reigns supreme. But I do think the course of action he took given the situation he was in was a great move. And I definitely applaud it. And as far as gas prices go : ) motivate enough people to complain about it and somethings bound to happen

  • Erwin

    Dem’ 08

    You know Dem you said earlier that race is an issue in this country because Blacks keep bringing it up as an excuse to why Caucasians owe them something. Words tell you a lot about a person, they are a window into how a man thinks : ) To that I say your words could potentially imply that your perception of Blacks is as follows: They are lazy in general or want handouts. How many black people do you know personally and where do you get your information? What percentage of the black population do you think feel that way? Did you know that the point of view you express is actually a stereotype found often in the media. Did you also know that, it is one of the answers people often give when they are asked about the problem of race in America. Of course I don’t believe you are mindlessly regurgitating information about subjects you know nothing about. I believe you are think for yourself. But little things like indicate and generate biased opinions. I won’t spell it out any further cause i’m sure you know where I am headed. Furthermore, I would say that it seems as though you believe this country is made up of only Black and White people. That is not the case and racial tensions are present between a number of races. Also the tension does not always stem from laziness either. There are other reasons why people hate each other.

  • Don

    Right on Barack. What an amazing speech.

    Words matter. You don’t see any deeds from Obama? Elect him as the president and you will see actions. The step to take this speech and deliver it in such a wonderful way is also an action. I can’t see the difference between Hillary and Obama as far as deeds are concerned. She also comes up with words. She has said that she will give solutions. That isn’t action, that is saying what you will do using words. She promises things, just like Barack. In order to make any action successful they both will need the cooperation of the American people. They will need to be motivated. And this is done by words. Actions speak louder than words. That is true. Both candidates will agree. But don’t insinuate that words don’t matter. I think that is wrong.

    Anyway, I wish both candidates success in their quest to seal the nomination. I support Obama, but I think Hillary is a fine candidate as well.

  • Babs

    The reviews of Obama’s speech are many and varied today. The Wallstreet Journal checked in with this one that struck me as fairly unbiased:

  • IndiMinded

    That article makes a good point toward the end – Obama does target many of the easy old villains as a means to move forward toward the social change he speaks of, and while I agree with that message and it’s been the theme of his campaign, it may not be the most direct way toward the progression he speaks of.

    I just don’t envision Hillary or McCain seeking to address such social issues on a depth like this, or offering up better alternatives. Time will tell though.

  • Kartik

    I believe that Obama, with his speech on race, has become a spokesman not only for american community, but for all of humanity. I hope that someone will gather courage and address in the same manner the global issue that splits mohammedans from non-mohemmedans in today#s world.

  • Dreadsen

    And to everyone else here. Why isn’t anyone bringing up McCain’s spiritual endorsements from Flat out racist and Anti Islamic ministers? John Hagee has said this

    Hagee on African-Americans
    The San Antonio Express-News reported that Hagee was going to “meet with black religious leaders privately at an unspecified future date to discuss comments he made in his newsletter about a ‘slave sale,’ an East Side minister said Wednesday.” The Express-News reported:

    “Hagee, pastor of the 16,000-member Cornerstone Church, last week had announced a ‘slave sale’ to raise funds for high school seniors in his church bulletin, ‘The Cluster.’

    “The item was introduced with the sentence ‘Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone” and ended with “Make plans to come and go home with a slave.” [San Antonio Express-News 3/7/96]

    John McCain proudly defends this guy’s endorsement who doesn’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to racism , sexism and hate of Catholics. yet the media doesn’t scrutinize this guy the way pastor Wright’s few snipits have been tossed around. BUT if someone was the suggest that maybe this is because one is white and one is black then that would be absurd correct? If that is not the reason then explain why this man can be ignored and McCain’s support of him is acceptable?

    More details on McCain and John Hagee

    And Now Rod Parsley who MCCAIN sought after his endorsement in Ohio. This guy preaches that we should wage a war on ISLAM

    I’m not saying it’s race but it would not be outrageous for someone to suggest that race motivates the scrutiny of OBAMA and the free pass on McCain.

  • Babs

    Dreadsen, I believe you’ve brought up this same post before, but that’s ok. No doubt you are an Obama supporter, and that’s great. But McCain has not been a 20 year member of Hagee’s church, has never attended Hagee’s church, never heard one sermon Hagee has preached, and has never met Hagee except on one occasion leaving us to conclude they are certainly not 20 year pals. They have no personal relationship. You’re trying to compare a skinned knee to the gaping wound of a free bleeder.

  • Dem ’08

    First of all, you must have had a slip and fall because you just let your mouth get loose and run all over the place. I never said anything about blacks being lazy. I know many black people. I know several who work as hard or harder than I do. I don’t think lazy comes from being black. I know some lazy white folk for that matter. I know good people black, white, asian, and mexican. Color of skin does not make a person any less than the next.
    Draw your conclusions about someone other than me. You may be scared to admit your feelings on race but I am not. Yea, I know plenty whites who spit out racist comments all of the time. I also know many blacks who truly believe that they can’t do anything because the “white man” is holding them down. That is an excuse for falure and I don’t buy it. That does not make me a stereotypical racist.
    Once again your fingers type faster than you read. You did not see anywhere that I said racism was gone. I don’t know where you got that so all I can say is slow down, pay attention. I do appreciate the discussion though because I like to debate. Oh yea, You think that all of the people over in IRAQ are motivated and eager to shoot somebody. I don’t know what your role in the military if any you have but it’s a domn good thing you aint running for office! Have a nice day.

  • Kendale Sturdivent

    Well, I know many black people who believe, well I should not say believe, because I do not know how they truly feel on the inside, only what they say, that they can not advance in life because of white peoples oppression of them.

    Now because you go and blame them for this belief, ask them to explain why, know the story behind this expression. I come from a black father and white mother as Obama. I lived the majority of my life in a neighborhood that as 99% black. I attended schools that were predominantly black students because that is how they did the schools here and still do today. It is a proven fact in my county, Pinellas County Florida that in school that are attended by mostly black students, they are less financially funded, they have lower requirements as to whom is allowed to teach in the schools, their disciplinary actions are composed more on suspension and expulsion rather than remediation and honest compassion for the students than are in white schools.

    Now, here is where you ask me, well how do you know Kendale? Well this is how. I attended two schools, one a middle school and another a junior high school in East Brunswick NJ. This town, as far as I could see had to be at least 95% Caucasian. I only met maybe 5 blacks the 3 years that I lived there. The schools there was ranked some of the best in all of the United States. Their curriculum was pronouncedly further along then those of the High Schools here in St Petersburg FL. The textbooks I used in 6th 7th and 8th grade were the same books used in the 9th 10th 11th and 12th grade in St Petersburg. These schools discipline us by making us do extra homework assignments whether they be on campus or at home. For someone to be suspended from school they practically had to murder someone. There was just as much drug/alcohol usage and physical violence in this town in East Brunswick NJ but it was approached differently by law enforcement and the community.

    In a nutshell, I cut this short because I can go on for ever, and if anyone wish to I will give you my telephone number, and we can talk about it, is why some black people believe that white people are oppressing them.

    I myself felt no hope to be successful in anything other than drug dealing and organized crime as a youth here in St. Pete FL. I failed to mention I attended High School here in St Pete. Up until age 21 I had no dreams of being anything other than a criminal because that is all I saw, including in school. There schools here in the poor communities are full of nothing but drugs, violence, and sex. I have friends who went to school in Northern Pinellas such as Dunedine and East Lake, Tarpon Springs, the area Hulk Hogans Kids lived, and those schools are in wealthy areas and are remarkable different from south Pinellas as far as curriculum, discipline, ect.

    I challenge any of you to a debate on this issue. I am both black and white, have lived in poor black, and wealthy white neighborhoods and have attended these two very different educational systems.

    A little on my difference now. I graduate from an Associate Degree Nursing program at Saint Petersburg College, a pretty noticeable up and coming college and one of the top 5 most accredited Nursing schools in the US, on May 3rd, 2008. I start their Bachelors program in August 2008. I am courses away from a BA in Chemistry as well and plan to attend Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Bradenton FL Campus by August 2010 or January 2011. I made this change I believe because of a few factors, 1. My attendance in school in East Brunswick NJ, exposure to something outside of a poor black neighborhood, motivation by people (white people) in middle school and high school who said I would never amount to anything, that I was ignorant, that I was stupid (did I mention these were teachers and administrators?).

    I now receiving acheivement awards for academic excellence.

    The point of the story is, I believe in Obama’s speech. I understand racism in America. I notice even people who use this website are blind to the plight of poor minorities. You do not have to like Obama, nor do you have to want him as your president, but you must understand his words and believe in them, not in him making a change, but when he tells you the reality. I don’t know if he will be able to make a change in America, but I know his words are certainly a push in the correct direction. I can not believe a presidential candidate would speak on issues that actually affect the average American. President usually try to tackle would hunger and world domination rather than listen to, believe, understand, and strive for the better of Americans.

    ok, I’ll stop there LoL <—– I’m always up for this sort of discussion, my passion is to make change in American, from the ground up. I don’t want to be the President, but I will make a difference, that is a promise.

  • Dreadsen

    Babs pointing out a double standard doesn’t mean I’m an Obama supporter. But that is irrelevant to the point here.

    Hagee is the Equivalent of Louis Farakahn. Obama rejected and denounced Farakahn but McCain embraces Hagee. Even AFTER being
    notified of his views.

    “Well I think it’s important to note that pastor John Hagee who has supported and endorsed my candidacy supports what I stand for and believe in. When he endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes. And I am very proud of the Pastor John Hagee’s spiritual leadership to thousands of people and I am proud of his commitment to the independence and the freedom of the state of Israel. That does not mean that I support or endorse or agree with some of the things that Pastor John Hagee might have said or positions that he may have taken on other issues. I don’t have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. They are supporting my candidacy. I am not endorsing some of their positions.”

    Compare Hagee’s comments with Wright and Wright is very, very pale in comparison. This explanation of his embracing of Hagee is almost a parallel to Obama’s. But what makes this worse is. McCain is just now getting on the Hagee wagon which would make it very easy and clean for him to distance him self safely with out any damage. But instead he openly welcomes his support even after knowing all the hate filled statements.

    So Babs from McCain’s own rebuttal to the anger of this he has made it clear that he knows or has been informed of the things which you claim he is blind to but he doesn’t care.

    Babs after reading this please explain how this is OK?

  • Babs

    Dreadsen, I don’t believe I said he was blind to them or that it was ok, and I don’t believe I made any comment about Hagee’s positions one way or the other. My point was, and still is, that even if Hagee were the devil himself, there is no personal relationship there, no long time friendship, nor any mentor status. That’s a different ballgame. More like Obama’s endorsement by the Black Panthers, which he rejected yesterday. There was no personal ties there, he took the endorsement from the Black Panthers off his website, and that’s the end of it. That’s a more real comparison to the McCain/Hagee incident.

  • Melvin

    Well being a “Black” man in America I have to say there are still times I see my race being an issue, but I must say that I also agree that race should never be used to say I am owed anything. I have this same argument with several people in my fathers generation including my own father. My father is a racist as much as he tries to claim he isn’t and in spite of the fact he has some white friends. This is the man that raised me and since I was a teenager has constantly told me that I should marry a white woman because black women would never be smart enough to hold a conversation with me on my level. So he is also a racist against his own race. I grew up hearing how black people were owed certain things because of slavery and all of the other crap almost daily.

    I believe that anyone from any race that believe they are special, owed anything, or better than anyone because of their race needs to take a look around them, maybe pick up a history book and understand everything in our modern world has contributions from people of every race.

    The Reason I Quoted “black” earlier is the fact that though my skin is brown my lineage is actually Indigenous American. I don’t use the term Native because anyone born here is a Native. My family in fact owned slaves; a fact most people don’t know is that many “Indian” family from the five civilized tribes owned many slaves not just the white people. So my father and many like him who think the world still owes a lot to the grandchildren of slaves should check out their own family histories and look in the mirror because my father would be paying a debt; not receiving a hand out.

    I believe the speech was a very good one for many reasons. First I do understand that someone could go to a church for many years and not agree with all of it’s teachings. Case in point I was raised by a racist yet I am not. Second He had the courage not to run from it and try to play it down like most political figures would (I also held a political office for an “Indian Nation”) I do have political experience, and have played down many things myself. Three he said some things that could and have pissed off a lot of people just so he could state some facts. Most political figures will not intentional upset those they are seeking votes from. For those facts alone I loved his speech and give him much credit for giving it.

  • Janis

    Everybody!! Wait! P L E A S E, listen, hear, understand:

    “We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

    “We can do that.

    “But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change”.

    -Barack Obama

    Please! It has been distraction after distraction for way too long. Snipets of this and snipets of that…we’re sniping at one another and being manipulated and exploited by the politics of divisiveness. Let’s not self destruct our wonderful country because we can’t unite. Let’s grow together and perhaps accept the gift of someone very special and unique, Barack Obama, and the potential of inspired leadership that will encourage and unite all of us.

  • Dreadsen

    Hello Babs

    Yes I do agree with you BUT do you think that Obama’s situation should be getting played over and over again on all the media outlets while this McCain comparison goes by ignored? I mean to KNOW what someone is about and embrace it is major. McCain could easily denounce this guy like Obama did Farakahn and the Black Panthers and get off Scott Free. But instead of taking advantage of this he decides to defend him.

    Basically McCain has taken the same stance on Hagee as Obama has taken on Wright. But the fact that this is being ignored shouldn’t be discussed?

    Anyway thanks for being the ONLY person who actually decided to respond to my posts.24gsdz