2008 March 18

“A More Perfect Union”: Obama’s 2008 Speech on Race at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia


Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, delivered a major speech about race in America, entitled “A More Perfect Union.” The speech was almost universally praised. Obama was prompted to address the issue of race because of inflammatory statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor in Chicago. One of his most important points was that America was continuing to change and that much of the rhetoric surrounding race and civil rights was based on past and not current realities. As president, however, he largely avoided talking about race directly.

Candidate Obama: “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old – is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know – what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”

Read and watch the speech: http://constitutioncenter.org/amoreperfectunion/

Learn more: David Maraniss, Barack Obama: The Story (2012)

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