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March 19, 2008

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One more thought ... I had the transcendent experience of watching a good chunk of the speech with a small knot of multicultural activists here at the Take Back America conference here in DC.

A day later, I am listening to a panel of progressive Christians who are referencing the speech repeatedly - especially how it seems to break down the binary world views (left vs right, West vs terrorism, men vs women, blacks vs whites, Christians vs Muslims, faithful vs secular, etc etc).

Hillary Clinton can lead, but she unfortunately strikes me as someone who still operates in a very binary fashion (win vs lose in her case). In Obama, we have an opportunity to elect someone who can really help us break these thought patterns and move forward as a country. I pray we don't blow it.

Excellent comment Julie. I hadn't been able to put my finger on it. I think the system lends itself to us v. them, as of course the racial issue does itself. Obama transcends that and arrives at the truth, a truth that resonates with all of us on either side of the v, causing us to be introspective.

I was still meditating on Abraham Maslow's 1965 journal on the qualities needed in a leader when I watched Obama's speech. And then listened again. Obama exemplifies the strengths needed in crisis-laden times, qualities too often described, by those frozen into dichotomies, as weaknesses. As Sisyphus observes, Obama's habit is to rise above apparent conflicts to find transcending congruence. These are qualities that inspire new leaders to emerge, encourage diverse voices, and support expression of long-suppressed needs, desires, hopes. He also inspires commitment to enter dangerous new territory. This, remember, was the charge given to those long-remembered heroes, the knights of the round table. Cowboys (in our old west movies) rode round and round through the same back-lot dust, getting nowhere. Thus our modern-day cowboys. I'm ready for a new path.

Obama gave a very, very good speech that finally addressed the fact that racism continues to boldly exist in our society. However, he also did not leave out the anger that white America also feels about their own plunge into poverty with resultant scapegoats. Nor did he suddenly abandon and banish his preacher because of Wright's angry statements.

No, instead the major theme throughout his speech were evoked through two words in the first sentence, "perfect union."

Only two of my college students saw the speech so I read it to them (for expediency) and they jotted notes on how Obama spoke about topical issues. Having recently focused on the cognitive frameworks or networks described by Lakoff (linguistics), Domke (communications), and Westen (psychology), the students did an excellent job of finding those words and phrases in the speech. Having focused on race for several weeks, they also were astute about recognizing how Obama took the race issue and spoke about it in a way that took it out of the realm of individual, institutional, and media stereotyping. The overall opinions from these college students were positive.

Although Reverend Wright's statements have been considered as inflamatory or anti-American, to any student of race relations his comments make sense in the context in which they were uttered. When people wrap the cloak of self-righteousness around themselves, they close discussions. Wright made clear that there is a history of racial relations in this country that has always found fault with people of color, put blame on the victim, and that refuses to accept responsibility for indoctrinating children through their textbooks and school curricula into a worldview that portrays the history of America as a white history.

When a candidate like Obama comes along, is willing to confront inconsistencies and problems and seeks to solve those problems by recognizing common ground and focusing on the problems we all face in this nation, then "...form[ing] a more perfect union...." is a theme that resonates positively for everyone.

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