Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A speech to listen to

I'm sure you have heard commentary on or even watched or read what Barack said yesterday.

After driving back from Winston I turned on my TV last night to see the speech. It was powerful, well done, and to me, seemed honest.

I do NOT claim to be an expert on politics or on this whole issue, but I there were several parts that made me nod my head and say, "this is what we need to hear."

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

This may not be something that is a "good move" politically, but to me this shows that there is more to people than one portion of their lives. I want a president who can see complexities in people and pull out the good.

He spoke about coming together, about understanding the other, about moving beyond spectacles, about hope for more than division, about the real struggles, anger, fear, and grief that people of all racial back grounds have felt and feel.

Then this morning on CNN , I heard one commentator say something like , "His speech was a discourse that didn't just address his association with Reverend Wright, but it asked the American people to look at themselves."

The commentator said this like it was a NEGATIVE thing... to consider our part in the system of fear and anger and oppression and division. All of us, white, black, brown DO have a part to play in it.

We want a scape goat, we want to point fingers at those who take extreme positions. It makes us feel better about ourselves.

What are your thoughts?


Erin said...

To me, his whole speech sounded like it came straight out of my cross-cultural counseling class in grad school (which is a good thing!) That class shook me up and woke me up, and it made me think that more people need to hear things like this and really sit back and examine their lives, their attitudes, and the issue of white privilege in our society. I love how Barack gave such an open, honest speech - this is what we need right now from politicians - no more spin, please!

Shannon Smith said...

I just listened to the speech. i really liked it. Aside from him being a Presidential candidate, it was just a good speech.

It was long and I don't have a great attention span. At some point I was kind of bored with his delivery, which, oddly, for me is was a good thing. Often he is so brilliant with his delivery that he could be saying heretical things and people would applaud.

With this talk, it seemed to be more about content. There were flashes of his eloquence, but overall it was as if he was more interested in getting the message out, than igniting passion within the listeners with a fiery delivery.

Sam Ed. said...
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Shannon Smith said...

When I think of you, or anyone else that is a part of Visio Dei, I don't automatically associate them with Jeff or Jason, except for their families.

I don't know much about Rev. White, but the ideas you present make him seem like a loon. In the speech, he refers to White as his "former pastor", but it doesn't seem like he wants to be disassociated from him. He says, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." Personally, I admire his resolve to not throw his friend under the bus.

Rev. White is obviously off, but for me that does not make me look down upon Obama, but that's just me. I'm not a Obama supporter. I just not a Obama hater either.

Sam, for the record, what company would you like your President to keep?

Sam Ed. said...
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Matt said...

I don't want to gang up on Sam (I don't think I know you =) ). But I don't know how much value I put into the actions of friends (or preachers).

The problem with other people is that you can't control them. I have friends who don't believe the same thing that I do, and when I hear them talk I take that into consideration. The bigger issue is not what my friends think, it's what I think.

Now, I understand that if you don't know somebody it's tempting to judge them by their friends (what choice do you have?). But most of the time it is better to just get to know the person; heck, even ask them if you have a question about their beliefs.

I think it's safe to say that Obama has at least one friend who is a little crazy (who doesn't?). But from the impression that *Obama* gives me, I bet he thinks "it's ashame that my preacher feels that way, that's not right". I've felt that way about things I've heard my friends say. Luckily, Obama doesn't make us guess about his feelings, he told us directly that he doesn't support those views of his preacher, and he even when farther to explain why somebody would have misguided views. We would all benefit learning the roots of those fears and misguided thoughts.

Anonymous said...

i, too, loved the speech for the same reasons. he's wooing me!! love, mom

Elizabeth said...
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Elizabeth said...
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Elizabeth said...

I have to agree with Sam on this one. Obama's speech was well written by his speech writers and well spoken from a teleprompter. His points about race were moving and inspiring.

However, I do not want a President that aligns himself with a "spiritual leader" that will use rhetoric such as GD America...

Also, Obama sat in Wright's church for seventeen years, allowed Wright to baptize his children, marry him and his wife and he didnt know Wright felt this way? Obama is a learned young man and I seriously doubt that he had no idea what the beleifs of his "spiritual advisor" were.

Shannon Smith said...

I don't think he claimed ignorance to Rev. Wright's views. He said, "Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely"

He claims Rev. Wright is his "former pastor". I wonder who is his current "spiritual advisor" and if they line up with what Elizabeth and Sam see as acceptable? Does anyone know who that is?

Anonymous said...

He's got my vote.

Matt said...

The scary thing about what Elizabeth and Sam are saying is that it probably reflects a sizable portion of the US.

It doesn't really matter how Obama feels about what was said. People will continue to say "oh no, he's closely related to somebody with radical views." and somehow forget that most people know people with hopelessly incorrect views of the world.

As for White being his spiritual advisor, we're lucky that the White wasn't talking about spiritual issues. I'm pretty sure that Obama is not and will not be getting political advice from White. If you want to judge White's influence in Obama's life you should evaluate his spiritual advice =).

Sam Ed. said...
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Matt said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you were doing something wrong. I enjoy talking about the issues with people who have an opinion. I was only thinking from Obama's perspective, where he is mostly helpless to watch the fallout.

Anonymous said...

Before you get halfway through this and get mad or call me a crazy liberal hater please do yourself a favor and read the rest of the post AND the articles referenced at the end.

When I say the names Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Judas, James, if you have grown up in church or know about Christianity, those words have a certain meaning to you. You know who those people are; you also associate those names with another one - Jesus. I think this has much to say about the current situation here. As people, we are undoubtedly influenced by those around us, in good and bad ways. Christ was a powerful example of someone who understood the influence that words and ideas hold over people’s actions and behavior. From a purely non-spiritual point of view, He understood the power of a mentor/disciple relationship.

What I see from this speech by Obama is not so much a distancing of himself from a bigoted racist pastor, but a sly attempt for us to look past the things said. In a sense he is saying, it’s okay if this guy is a nut, look at all the other things he did that are good and not so controversial. Let’s just sweep the bad things under the rug. Like it or not, the people around us shape our ideas and thoughts, and to some extent our actions. How in the world could anyone trust this man to be president knowing they type of people he has voluntarily put into a position of influence in his life!!! Do you really want a president who was close to this man, who put him in a position in his life to influence him and couldn’t recognize his character flaws??

Some of you may argue, you sound like a Pharisee!!! Jesus gathered around himself taxpayers the prostitutes and the sinners, so how is this any different? Never once anywhere in the bible does he take council from, or allow himself to be spiritually influenced by someone other than those close disciples. Christ had wisdom in those he chose to keep council with, while never backing off his ideals. He NEVER told people just what they wanted to hear.

Sadly what scares me about this whole post is the idea that somehow this man, who can’t even wisely pick his friends, thinks he can bring unity to this country with his words plus a little government intervention. This is the same bunch of silver-tongued nonsense that has gotten our country into hot water in the past. For those of you who know much of history, you can draw some parallels between the smooth talking Illinois senator, and a former US president. I see in Obama, shades of the great cornerstone of American Liberalism - FDR. Mr. New Deal would use his silver tongue in his weekly fireside chats to tickle the ears and dull the minds of those foolish enough to listen.

FDR did the following:
Backed Joseph Stalin (the mass murderer FDR affectionately referred to as "Uncle Joe"). During and after WW2, Stalin killed over 50,000,000 of his own countrymen. (For those of you keeping count that 7 times as many people as Hitler killed.)
Denied boatloads of Jews seeking political asylum in America prior to WW2 sending them back to Germany
FDR's new deal actually prolonged the great depression
Under FDR the highest marginal tax rate was 95 %...( yes that’s right 95%... why would you even try to work?)
Under the New Deal…sharecroppers were actually put out of work because the government was paying farmers to NOT grow crops
FDR's policies and programs did much to harm black and poor people.

If Obama is a liberal from the mold of FDR, we have great things to look forward to.
While some may read this and ask, “what the heck does FDR have to do with Barak Obama? And what does any of this have to do with Barak, and his pastor?” The common vein is this: FDR - one of the most horrid, evil, morally bankrupt people to have ever lived - was somehow able to be elected president 4 times. He would tickle the ear of his listeners so well that the millions looked past his actions. Dare we let our ears be tickled again by a man who keeps council with those who shout “GD America!!!” Don’t pair a tickled ear with a vacant head.

An interesting read on the subject of liberalism and FDR.

For a list of many good articles on the subject….

Anonymous said...

some more links i forgot to post...again read them all before you get mad....

Shannon Smith said...


1) Why not put your name on it?

2) Get your own blog and post with a trace back.

Personally, I ignore your response because I don't have that much time to read it. Your response took it from a conversation to a diatribe. Possibly, if knew who you were, I may read what you have to say, but as it stands right now, I don't and I won't.

Bad form.

Elizabeth said...
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Elizabeth said...
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Matt said...

Like Shannon I think that post was definitely a little more than a response to our discussion but sorta took off in a new direction. Whether FDR was good or bad might be interesting to talk about later (start a new conversation in your own blog and shoot us a link).

Unlike Shannon I'd like to respond to what I can because I'd like to try to connect some of the things you said back to our conversation.

The sticking point about Obama seems to be whether he was influenced by the bad things he preacher said. More than just that, it's a larger question of can he be trusted to make wise decisions and can he sort out the good advice he's given from the bad advice.

Shannon already posted a quote from Obama explaining how he knows that some of the things his preacher said are wrong. To move forward on figuring out the real influence Wright had on Obama is to look at Obama's actions and find examples of those thoughts in action. I don't know of any of Obama's actions that match the hatred from Wright, but I'm sure that if there were some the Clinton campaign would be getting those actions into the news. Does anybody have examples from his policies or actions that shows any influence from Wright?

traci said...


Anonymous, you point out some interesting things. However, I am going to have to agree with Matt in that we need to look at how Obama's policies have or have not been affected by Wright's influence.

As far as your FDR argument, I think you don't give the american people enough credit when using words like dull minds, vacant heads, and the like. They make us (and our ancestors) seem like naive individuals swayed too easily by the "silver" tongue.

(Consider your rhetorical style here as well... if you were a bit more compassionate in your response and identified yourself people may give your argument more than just a passing thought)

As a communication scholar I don't pretend to ignore the amount of rhetorical influence that one can have (in both positive and negative ways). And I think Shannon pointed to the fact that the latest speech from Obama veered from his typical grandiose style.

It is important for us to look at the long term ramifications and benefits of any policy or presidential candidate. No matter how much we like their character.

I'm sure there will be scholarly articles written on this speech and I can't wait to read them.

Rebecca said...

I wonder why it is that you need a name in order to evaluate an idea. This whole discussion seems to have taken an emotional turn, and left scholarly evaluation of an idea behind. Regardless of whether you or i agree with "anonymous" it's clear that it was an attempt to enter into a discussion with a logical point of view. to remove the face from the comment makes it difficult to get angry, emotional, or upset at the person who wrote it, since you don't know who it is, forcing us to think only about the idea.

i think it's worth contemplating.

agree with me or not, i don't really care. but, traci, you asked for thoughts, and it seems that is what "anonymous" is offering. it seems that people shouldn't get upset about that when you solicited others to share their thoughts and ideas.

Anonymous said...

Wow…ok so I think some of you have completely missed the concept and point of my post.

Ok so in response to some criticism I have a few answers.

First Shannon: the reason I don’t put my name is very simple. It makes no difference who I am, I am black, I am white, I am brown, I am man, I am woman. I am poor, I am rich. The point is this; you don’t need a face to think about what I am saying. By criticizing the person behind the idea for simply not giving a name, AND not taking the time to read and understand the post, you make my point for me.

Second, Matt: the central problem in my mind has nothing to do whatsoever with whether or not Obama was influenced by this guy in good or bad ways. My point is why would you want someone who is such a poor judge of character to run our country and possibly appoint people of similar craziness. You seem to so easily dismiss his association with Rev Wright and move the focus to his policies and actions. Which again play directly into the point I was making.

Third, Traci: “It is important for us to look at the long term ramifications and benefits of any policy or presidential candidate” that’s exactly what I was trying to do with the parallels to FDR. Since I can’t predict the future, I can only tie Obama to similar politicians in the past. Obama is a liberal; FDR is the model of modern liberals. Bottom line - FDR’s policies failed, and even did more to hurt those who they where intended to help. Why would today be any different? Obama’s ideas and policies will fail, period. When people let their ears be tickled but fail to understand the history, source or consequences of an idea, that’s dangerous. Traci I will go ahead and say this, whether you like it or not FDR was a BAD GUY. And more importantly to this discussion, he had BAD IDEAS! Those bad ideas had real tragic consequences. Even if I grant the Obama is the greatest guy in the world, the consequences of his liberal ideals have been shown in the blood sweat and tears of the poor and oppressed many many years ago. Traci you said I seem to not be giving our ancestors or us credit and you would be right! How can I when we/they can’t see what’s right in front of our face?

Matt said...

I completely agree that you don't need to have a name behind an argument for it to be discussed. My attempt to get people talking about actual policy and actions was to keep the discussion logical and to avoid hypotheticals and emotional reactions as much as possible.

I agree that we need a person who is a good judge of character as president. My reaction to his speach was a reassuring feeling that he was a good judge of character. He was able to separate the good pieces of Wright from the bad and to consider both sides with a level head.

My avoidance of the FDR comparison was only to keep the discussion on Obama and the immediate issue we were discussing. I share your frustation for many liberal viewpoints and consider myself a socially liberal but fiscally conservative person. The discussion about whether liberal or conservative policy is better for our country is a conversation everybody should be having right now. Unfortunately, I have to go to a friend's kid's birthday party right now.

traci said...

It is easy to turn conversations...

I am thankful for all of the comments, regardless of identification and hope that we can continue to have the conversation.

I am not sure though if I agree that FDR failed and that he was a bad person. I will need to do some research on that one. I do not claim to have much knowledge of what happened during his presidency and it will be important for me to look into that.

As far as the long term ramifications of Obama's policies. This is something that we do need to discuss, and I believe that we can separate that from the comments of Rev. Wright.

This is in my opinion what we need to do.

Matt said...

Traci, maybe you could pick an issue and compare the ideas from McCain and Obama in a series of entries =). You said you were looking for ideas for posting last night...

Elizabeth said...
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traci said...

Anonymous, in response to the first article...

I may not comment on all of them, but would like to consider the arguments. I looked at the source (Ron Paul supporter), which is totally fine, but I was trying to get a context for who it was writing the article.

I feel even more convinced that I am okay with being a "liberal" in the form of FDR after this article. I am unconvinced of where my convictions come from... are they a part of my faith perspective or just my political views? I'm not sure...

But, the idea of working a for a fair wage is something I think we should consider. I think the challenge here is to look at what systems we support and are a part of that contribute to oppression and perpetuate poverty. I don't think its necessarily the government's job to police this type of system, but we do need to be aware of how we function in the global society.

Any thoughts on that?

Anonymous said...


I do have response to your thoughts. The reason I draw parallels to FDR are many. First I would correct you on one thing. The man writing the article you characterized as a Ron Paul supporter. While technically you are correct, I would add this. If you read the article you will notice it was written in 2005, long before Ron Paul announced a bid for president. So as far as accusing him of a political bias, I think you have put the cart before the horse. I would classify many of the articles I quoted as being written from the perspective of an Austrian business cycle theory economist. This is technically different from a Libertarian (Ron Paul is a Libertarian running on the rebublican ticket). The term Libertarian refers to a political party based on the views of an Austrian Business cycle theorist. An economic theory put into political practice. While a true ABC theorist would know that classically there was no difference between economics or political science until the last 80-100 years. Up until that point economics and political science were taught as the same discipline. So to really understand the context of who was writing the article you read you need to understand the history of both political science and economics. I don’t really have the time to give you a history lesson on economics but I say a few things. From a true classical economic theory perspective you basically have two logical consistent points of view you can take. Free markets (aka ABC theory) or Communism. Communism (and Socialism) has shown itself through history as a bad idea on paper and a worse idea in practice. Every person I know who has lived under a socialist or communist rule would have a heated emotional response to any suggestion that it is a good political or economic system. (I know from experience)

Since apparently for some reason you still think FDR was good, can you name one…just one single liberal social justice program that has been successful? FDR accomplished the goal of many modern day liberals. Government heath care, welfare, social security, public housing, farm subsidies. All started by FDR, all HUGE failures we are still dealing with today. One of the authors of those articles I linked too was I former liberal who lived during the time of FDR. Not only did he preach on the dismal failures of the FDR social agenda, he actually compares FDR to Hitler and Stalin. Several of the other articles talk about how social justice programs often tend to do more harm then good to those they seek to help. Can you name one person in this country who wants to live in government housing? You stated “I think the challenge here is to look at what systems we support and are a part of that contribute to oppression and perpetuate poverty.” I am with you on that and I have been doing that for the last 10 years. As a Christian I have wrestled with the issue of capitalism and communism, of oppression and poverty. I have read Karl Marx and I have read Adam Smith and David Hume, Ludwig von Mises and FA Hayek. I have read the words of Christ, and of Paul. Those who blame capitalism as the cause of oppression and a reason for poverty are ignorant to both the science of economics and the history of western civilization. From a Christian perspective it comes down to this... As a Christian my heart breaks for those around us who go hungry, and lack many of the basic things I may take for granted. So what do I then do? I cannot with a clear conscience pass the buck and make it the work of the government to take care of problems in my own neighborhood. The government has shown time and time again, it is not efficient, it does not function in such away as to make it a good entity to fight poverty or any other social justice issue you can think of. I need only look at my paycheck to see that. God asks for 10% the government wants 35%. As a Christian I would be stoked to give God 45% and the government 0%. In the book ILLICIT the author talks about one of the primary reasons of success in trafficking of illicit goods, (weather it be ppl or drugs or dirty money etc) is that large government bureaucracies cannot compete against a market economy. He concudes you must fight the market forces with the market, not a bigger goverment. In conclusion can you find me an example in the bible of Christ condemning Rome, instead of the individual for its treatment of the poor? In short I join Jesus in placing the burden of the poor, the slighted and the oppressed straight on to the heart of the church, not on the backs of the taxpayers.

P. S.
“But, the idea of working for a fair wage is something I think we should consider.” Who decides what’s fair? You? Me? I would be wary of anyone with the arrogance to say they have the perspective to determine what a “fair” wage is. (I won’t even start to get into how price ceilings and price floors adversely harm the poor.) Who are you (or anyone else for that matter) to say it’s fair for me to make $15,000 a year and bill gates to make 1 billion a year? I will end with this; I really do not have the time or desire to debate, argue or teach history or economics. Frankly as bad as it sounds I don’t really want to spend my time arguing with people who have no basis, perspective or understanding of the subject. I do however have a huge amount of respect for those who have different opinions but genuinely want to learn and ask questions of “the other side” That being said, if you or any other person who reads this what’s to really seek out and evaluate the depths and complexities of why free market economics are the most compassionate to the poor, the needy and the oppressed and to understand the economic and political system I am advocating I would be happy to point you in the direction of some good books on the subjects and answer the occasional question as they arise.

Anonymous said...

you can reach me by email at

Anonymous said...

or check out
for a good run down of my political views

traci said...


Thank you so much for taking the time to thoughtfully and respectfully respond to my questions. I do struggle with the very issues you raise and will consider your points.

After this discussion, I am even more aware of my responsibility to research and take a stand politically as a Christian.

I amy email you at some point to find out some more resources.

In all honesty, I struggle with extreme positions, and was talking with a friend of mine yesterday about this... I often criticize capitalism and am in theory a fan of communism... however, I recognize that these systems have never worked and have contributed to more oppression than freedom whenever they are instated.

The reality is that whatever system we have is corruptible. We live in a fallen world. I hope to be a part of a church that restores it. This includes considering multiple political perspectives (such as yours) and Obama's.

Anonymous said...

Here's some more food for thought, via a New Republic blog post:

The gist is that basically even Hillary's pastor has said really good things about Dr. Wright and that we and the media do an injustice to the whole issue of race in this country when we "soundbite" a few short comments without understanding the whole picture.

I have not lived the Black experience in this country, so far be it from me to judge the feelings, anger, bitterness that the community might feel from time to time.


Anonymous said...

P.S. I am chewie posting as Anonymous becuase I have apparently forgotten my blogger login... i am NOT (obviosly!) the same "Anonymous" that posted earlier on this thread!