3.18.2008

Obama's "A More Perfect Union" Speech: Select Reviews

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I thought Barack Obama's speech was strong, thoughtful and important. Rather beautifully, it was a speech to think to, not clap to. It was clear that's what he wanted, and this is rare.

A Thinking Man's Speech, Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

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On Tuesday Obama, whose momentum was evaporating in the heat of his pastor scandal and poor Pennsylvania poll numbers, did what he had to do. He did more than that, actually. He stepped to the plate and swung for the fences. Obama gave the best, straightest talk on American race relations ever heard from a national politician.

A Speech For The Ages, Rich Karlgaard - Forbes.com

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Whatever you might think of Obama, you can't say he has taken the easy way out with a speech like this - he's taken the time to confront some very unpleasant truths about race in America. And he has done it in a nuanced manner that is pretty much unprecedented for campaign rhetoric.

Obama's Race Speech, Michael Cohen - Democracy Arsenal

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The pundits were clearly stunned. They knew they had witnessed something extraordinary, a moment when time seemed to stand still and a politician in the midst of a withering electoral storm did the unspeakable: he spoke the truth.

The Meanings of Obama's Speech, Drew Westin - The Huffington Post

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If Barack Obama is elected president, his speech on race in America will be remembered as one of the greatest in the country's history. If he loses, it will still be remembered as a terrific speech, an astonishing display of grace under pressure.

Hearing the Obama Speech, Richard Reeves - Syndicated Columnist

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The rhetorical magic of the speech—what made it extraordinary—was that it was, at once, both unequivocal and healing. There were no weasel words, no Bushian platitudes or Clintonian verb-parsing.

Joe Klein on Obama's Speech, Joe Klein, TIME

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Brilliant!

With his brilliant speech on race relations yesterday at the National Constitution Center, Barack Obama showed why his campaign for president has the aura of a mission.

Editorial: Sen. Obama's Speech on Race - Philadelphia Inquirer

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Obama sounds like cool blues. The calmness of style, the strength of his self-confidence, pull us through the nervousness. If people have the opportunity to hear him in full and think about it, they will recognize the strength it took for him to open his arms this way, casting aside all defenses and evasions. With the hope and everything else he stands for, this guy is one very strong character.

Blues for Obama, William Greider - The Nation

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"That was the most sophisticated speech on race and politics I've ever heard," said CNN's Bill Schneider, the only network pundit who actually has taught American political history at elite universities. It was all the more remarkable because, while Kennedy presided over what may have been the greatest speech-writing team in electoral history, Obama -- like Lincoln -- wrote his address himself, completing the final draft Monday night.

Obama's Lincoln moment, Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times Columnist
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...[T]he image of the first viable black presidential candidate confronting America's racial history head-on was a striking one. Not in decades has a prominent candidate so bluntly tackled the issue of prejudice. The address invited comparisons to John F. Kennedy's speech on his Catholic faith almost a half-century ago.

Obama speaks bluntly on race - Chicago Tribune

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Tuesday morning, in what may be remembered as a landmark speech regardless of who becomes the next president, Obama established new parameters for a dialogue on race in America that might actually lead somewhere -- that might break out of the sour stasis of grievance and countergrievance, of insensitivity and hypersensitivity, of mutual mistrust.

Obama's Road Map on Race, Eugene Robinson - Washington Post Columnist

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I have never felt more convinced that this man's candidacy - not this man, his candidacy - and what he can bring us to achieve - is an historic opportunity. 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.

The Speech, Andrew Sullivan

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Speaking in Philadelphia, Obama celebrated his own racial heritage but also demonstrated his ability to view the black community with a measure of objectivity and, when necessary, criticism—caring criticism. But this was no Sister Souljah moment. He did not sacrifice Wright for political ends. He hailed the good deeds of his former minister, noting that Wright's claim that America continues to be a racist society is rooted in Wright's generational experiences. And Obama identified the sources of racial resentment held by whites without being judgmental. With this address, Obama was trying to show the nation a pathway to a society free of racial gridlock and denial. Moreover, he declared that bridging the very real racial divide of today is essential to forging the popular coalition necessary to transform America into a society with a universal and effective health care system, an education system that serves poor and rich children, and an economy that yields a decent-paying jobs for all. Obama was not playing the race card. He was shooting the moon.

Obama's Daring and Unique Speech on Race, David Korn - Mother Jones Blog

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It was a bold speech delivered with the feeling of great authenticity and solemn sincerity, and it's hard to imagine someone more uniquely qualified to deliver that dose of reality than a man who was the product of a black father and white mother.

Thoughts On Obama's Speech, Mark Nickolas

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We can’t know how effective Mr. Obama’s words will be with those who will not draw the distinctions between faith and politics that he drew, or who will reject his frank talk about race. What is evident, though, is that he not only cleared the air over a particular controversy — he raised the discussion to a higher plane.

Mr. Obama’s Profile in Courage, NYTimes Editorial

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Barack Obama's hearalded speech on race is the most honest appraisal of racial problems in America I can remember a politician ever giving.

Obama's Incredible Speech on Race in America, Mimikatz

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I think this is the kind of speech I think first graders should see, people in the last year of college should see before they go out in the world. This should be, to me, an American tract. Something that you just check in with, now and then, like reading Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn. Read this speech, once in a while, ladies and gentlemen. This is us. It's us with the scab ripped off.

Chris Matthews, MSNBC's Hardball
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In a speech whose frankness about race many historians said could be likened only to speeches by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, Senator Barack Obama, speaking across the street from where the Constitution was written, traced the country’s race problem back to not simply the country’s "original sin of slavery" but the protections for it embedded in the Constitution.

Obama Chooses Reconciliation Over Rancor, Janny Scott - NYTimes Columnist

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...[T]he bigger and more basic reason the speech was a success is that Mr. Obama, like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan before him, has something powerful and rather rare working in his favor: Most Americans instinctively like him and want to give him the benefit of the doubt. And Mr. Obama delivered for them on Tuesday.

Obama Gives a Presidential Speech About Race, Steve Kornacki - The NY Observer