A U.S. President Whose Speeches You Actually Want to Read

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UPDATE: Here's the Video

Looks like I'm getting thrown into the Presidential horse race, and bringing it to this blog.  I just read the speech Obama gave to address the issues of race that have come to a boil in the Presidential campaign.  I have to confess the last part of it brought tears to my eyes.  I don't agree with all of it, but it certainly is well argued and well written.  And I don't feel like I'm being talked to through dozens of focus groups, polls, and sound bites.  Most of all, I wanted to read the whole thing through.  
The part that brought tears to my eyes is the last part.  I don't know why.  It's probably because I'm white and I've been in Ashley's situation before, and it touched me in that way.  I guess he's told the story before and it's supposed to appeal to people like myself but I'll paste it below anyway.  Here's the link from the Obama website if you want to read it and watch it yourself:

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

-Barack Obama

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symsess said:

I really enjoyed this story and post. Some people want to point fingers and others want to join hands. We're joining hands.

I believe our community wants to work together so there's no need to blame. We'll be too busy working together in community and ultimately in celebration.

kyledeb said:

I'm glad you enjoyed it symsess. I was afraid I was just following everyone else with this post but if it meant something to you than I did the right thing but putting it up. I hope all is well.

yave begnet said:

I agree, as outraged as I feel sometimes about "the other side," unity is the only way forward, and Obama represents that possibility in a way few have before.

Publius said:

My movie view is still not working, Kyle, so I'll take a chance and say that you're referring to Obama, a presidential candidate, not actually the president. And, judging by the bruhaha about his affinity for a church and a pastor that apparently spew venomous hate towards their country, Mr. Obama has lost his bid for the Democratic nominee. Prediction: The nominee will be selected at the convention and the delegates will decide that it's in the best interests of the party to dump Obama for Hillary. Hillary couldn't be happier at this state. Since it's been established that Hillary is unelectable when running against McCain, the Republicans will once again be in charge of the Whitehouse.

adriana said:

I heard the speech today too, and I thought it was great. He did an amazing job of tying together different groups and illustrating our common struggles.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:


Obama addressed your comments about his pastor in his speech, I suggest you refer to it before you comment, but I'm not going to argue with you about substance anymore.

I have asked you several times what your interest is here on Citizen Orange. I have asked you to make some effort at finding common ground with the authors here. I have asked you to help us work towards solutions using this forum rather than tear us down. At the very least you could be respectful.

After trying several times I can only conclude that the only reason you are hear is to disrupt this forum, which is negative and counterproductive. I hope to be proven wrong, but if this is truly your aim I can only urge you to go elsewhere, and if you don't yourself I will have to stop publishing your comments. I have already wasted minutes of my day writing to someone who expects migrants to respect him and his beliefs when coming into his country, while he comes into my forum and is disrespectful of me and the few things I ask of him.

If you haven't gotten the message yet, shape up or ship out.

Changeseeker said:

I was disappointed that Obama found it necessary and palatable to castigate his [former] minister for telling what everybody knows is the truth, but some don't want to admit. I was hopeful that Obama might find an artful way to not claim to agree, but leave it in the air as someone else's opinion in a country where that sort of thing is supposedly allowed. I was also disappointed, though not exactly surprised, that he apparently felt he had to give Israel such a warm and fuzzy embrace. And, while the story is a nice story, pretty words are just pretty words unfortunately. Stories won't save this country. I'm still backing Obama, but I'm further back in the line now. Hillary's just one of the good ole boys, from what I can tell. I'm hopeful there's something left in Obama that can be reclaimed, if he actually gets elected. For what my two cents is worth.

Changeseeker said:

I just read another section of Obama's speech and I loved it. Thank God. I guess I shouldn't have clicked the video off in the middle, huh? That'll teach me not to get so full of my own stuff, I forget to pay attention. But it probably won't teach me never to pop off again when I don't have all the information. I have too quick a mouth...er...keyboard for that.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

I was hoping you'd comment on this, Changeseeker. I don't know if you read Kai from Zuky's take on this but I feel like he says everything right.

It's interesting that you changed your mind after you read the whole speech through. There was certainly a lot of nuance to it, and something that I think everyone could respect.

I really think Obama's speech is going to be one of the historical landmarks of race relations in the U.S. It represents one moment in time where everything seemed to clear up no matter where you stood in the racial divide.

The most impressive thing to me is what I wrote on the unapologetic mexican about this speech. For the first time in my life I'm seeing white males actually show some understanding about the other side of this debate. You had Chris Wallace chiding his fellow Fox News anchors for Obama bashing, when they picked at a comment of Obama's where he referred to his grandmother as a typical white person. You had Mike Huckabee and Joe Scarborough not excusing the comments of Rev. Wright but saying that maybe we should take a walk in his shoes.

These aren't you're lefty white anti-racist hippies these are white males on the right and the fact that Obama's speech had them talking this way really made me feel that even if I didn't agree with the entire speech that it was an important one.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on March 18, 2008 12:40 PM.

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