OK -- it is supposed to be the speech to overcome the Jeremiah Wright situation. Let's take a look at the thing and see if it worked.
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched Americaís improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nationís original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
Great words -- seriously great words. Indeed, words that I agree with completely, and will likely include in my course materials the next time I teach American government. Why? Because Obama has it exactly right here -- the Constitution is not and never has been a perfect document and can probably never be perfected due to the flaws of humanity -- what those of us from certain faith traditions call "Original Sin". But to the degree to which we work to perfect the Constitution, we fulfill the Founders' vision. I am struck, though, by the fact that Barack Obama left out the most important means by which we perfect that document -- though the process of amendment, which is the means by which the document was intended to grow and change, rather than through the activism of judges of either the Left or Right.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.
This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.
Beautiful rhetoric, but does it really mean anything? After all, every candidate argues that they are working to bring the hopes and dreams of Americans to fruition in the better futures of succeeding generations, and that they are best suited to make that happen. In other words, he's just said nothing of significance.
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Pattonís Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. Iíve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the worlds poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
Itís a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.
True -- but do ancestry and biography really add up to competency?
Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.
This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either too black or not black enough. We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.
Indeed, it has been the folks on the Left who have engaged in that discussion, not those of us on the Right. We on the Right have long-since embraced the color-blind vision of Martin Luther King and other great Americans -- and when we echo his call we are accused of being unrealistic and insincere. I really don't care that Barack Hussein Obama is a man of mixed racial heritage whose father was raised in a faith other than Christianity -- I care solely about his competence and his character. Sadly, I find it necessary to question both because of the Wright affair.
And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.
Because you say that your candidacy is not about race while playing upon your racial heritage -- and condemning any opponent who raises the same issues.
On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that its based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
And it has only taken you two decades to recognize that those statements are offensive and say so in a public fashion. That, sir, is a sign that you are either oblivious to the extremist, racist rhetoric of your pastor or dishonest in the claims you have made over the last several days. Personally, I believe the latter to be the case, given your sudden exclusion of Rev. Wright from the festivities surrounding the announcement of your candidacy over a year ago AND the inclusion of some of his race-based rhetoric in your other writings, quoting Wright as describing the world as a place where "white folksí greed runs a world in need." You didn't denounce that rhetoric, sir -- you joined his church because you were inspired by it. That isn't my claim -- it is yours! You clearly cannot have it both ways.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.
Except for the ones you have praised.
For some, nagging questions remain.
Such as, "Why is this man lying to the American people, and does he really believe that we are dumb enough to fall for it?"
Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course.
And that is not, in and of itself, a problem. After all, many of us disagree with this or that element of American policy in very strong terms. But that isn't the issue, and you know it.
Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes.
Again, not a problem. I've been on both sides of that pulpit, sir, and I have both said and heard controversial things. That is not, in and of itself, a problem.
Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
Sure I have -- at times I have felt that they have strayed from the Gospel, at other times I have thought that they were simply incorrect in their interpretation of Scripture or politically naive. And I include in that a particular former pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation with whom I chose to maintain a particularly close personal relationship -- my wife, who I love with all my heart even when I believe her to be dead wrong.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leaderís effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wrights comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Well, at least you are honest enough to get to the heart of the problem. You are honest enough to condemn the indefensible -- statements that are incompatible with the Gospel and with patriotism. But you have been aware of these sorts of statements for a long time -- if not with the particular ones currently cited, then with similar ones made in your presence. You did and said nothing, and remained a member of this man's congregation, dedicated a book to him and proudly declared him to be your spiritual mentor? Where was your concern about bringing people together then, Senator? Or did that only become a priority when Wright's anti-American, anti-white, anti-Semitic rantings became public?
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.
Indeed, Senator, renouncing your membership in Trinity UCC is precisely what you should have done at this point -- as well as calling for an IRS investigation of the church's tax-exempt status because of Wright's explicit support for you and attack upon your major opponent from the pulpit in his Christmas sermon. Instead you have begun an attack upon those who have brought the words of Jeremiah Wright into the light.
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 Gods 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.
Yeah, he has done a lot of good things. However, that doesn't negate his hatemongering from the pulpit. But then again, given you include a domestic terrorist among your friends (William Ayers), I guess you have a high level of tolerance for those who hate America and attack this country rather than its enemies. That is not, however, a quality that is acceptable in a President.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:
People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverends voice up into the raftersÖ.And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lions den, Ezekielís field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame aboutÖmemories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild.
Interestingly enough, you fail to note that comment I mentioned earlier about "white folksí greed" -- despite the fact that it is quoted on the page just prior to this passage in your book. Great job with the creative editing -- but lousy job with the candor and honesty.
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
So are you trying to say that anti-American rhetoric is a staple of the black church? If so, you have just set race relations back decades, Senator, and made it clear that while America may be ready for a black president, the black community is not fit to produce one.
That is not, fortunately, the case. Great Americans like JC Watts, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Kenneth Blackwell, Michael Steele, and so many others have risen to great heights in this country and loved this country. That you choose to associate with those who do not love this country and embrace them shows your unfitness for office. I would gladly vote for any of the above individuals for any office -- but never, ever, for you. Not because of your race, but because of your willingness to defame your race to embrace the black equivalent of Fred Phelps.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
But we now know that he does these things from the pulpit -- and yet you refuse to definitively break from him.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
Again, you defame the black community to justify your embrace of a black David Duke. You are sowing division, sir, not unity. And let's not forget -- your grandmother merely echoes the words of Jesse Jackson when she expresses fear of young black men on the streets.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not.
Yes, Senator, it is. Quit lying to the American people.
I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
The difference, of course, being that Ferraro was correct and Wright is wrong. Ferraro made the truthful observation that it would be virtually impossible for a white candidate of such meager qualifications to be the front-runner for the nomination of either party's presidential nomination, while you have really gotten a pass up to this point because of the notion that your candidacy is the litmus test for America on race.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
So now your candidacy is about race? I thought it wasn't about race. or is it only about race when it is to your advantage to have your candidacy be about race?
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past. We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still havenít fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between todayís black and white students.
Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of todayís urban and rural communities.
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for ones family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
Interesting -- you tell us we don't need to recite the litany of injustice and racism and then proceed to recite it. Why?
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. Whatís remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politicians own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
Actually, it is more important to condemn it than to understand it. And it is important to denounce and renounce the racial dinosaurs like Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan as apart of coming of age and unifying this country. Just as no one insists that we "understand" David Duke or Fred Phelps, it is wrong to extend such understanding to African-Americans who are equally bigoted in their beliefs and their rhetoric.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no ones handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
In other words, the demands of the Jeremiah Wrights of this world and their willingness to denounce any criticism as racist has brought about a justified resentment.
Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Not true, Senator -- when we attempt to engage in those discussions we are told that we are guilty because of our race and that we have nothing to contribute. When we embrace the vision of Dr. King, we are told that the color of our skin somehow disqualifies us from actively participating in the conversation about race.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
How much did your wife make in that corporate culture? And do you want to talk about the greed of associates like Tony Rezko and your insider dealings with him -- you know, the ones that your campaign tried to hide by dribbling them out on Friday during the height of the Wright crisis?
This is where we are right now. Itís a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naÔve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
How about if we try to get beyond our racial divisions by doing away with the racial spoils system that is affirmative action, and instead look at character, qualifications, and merit? Oh, that's right -- if America did that, your candidacy would be over.
But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.
Well, then, Senator -- why don't you start embracing some of that conservative vision instead of promoting more left-wing, statist solutions that have failed again and again in the past. Government did the most to keep black people down in this country, and individuals who acted to bring about change.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wrightís sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. Its 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.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
I can agree with you here, sir -- but then again, that has been the view of conservatives during my entire lifetime. Why should we embrace your liberalism -- a philosophy that thrives on exploiting those divisions and the notion of victimhood -- to solve the very problems that liberalism needs to succeed?
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the worlds great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brotherís keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sisterís keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
There is a way to do that -- VOTE REPUBLICAN!
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wrights sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
And yet somehow the fact that 90% of blacks are voting for you can be ignored -- and will be called "playing the race card" if someone does comment upon that reality. And the fact that the white male vote is split between all three remaining candidates is a reality -- so quit building up strawmen.
We can do that.
And you have and you will.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, Not this time. This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
And as a white man teaching in a classroom in which I am sometimes the only white person, I can offer you some suggestions. But it comes not from another government program, but by raising expectations from every segment of society. It comes from allowing us to hold students accountable for learning and behavior, and not having parents scream "racism" every time a kid gets in trouble or holding a protest march because someone doesn't like a decision or objects to an expectation.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
Excuse me -- you will get treated in any emergency room in this country, and the government will pick up the tab. You don't even have to be a citizen -- or even in the country legally -- to get that benefit.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; its that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
And your solution? More government intervention in the economy? Like that has worked! More government always equals less freedom.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how well show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
In other words, cut-and-run. And, as you and your aides have admitted, go back after allowing the enemy to rest, rebuild, and rearm.
I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
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 thats 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 heís 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.
Nice fluff story -- but all it proves is that you believe that government's role is to take from the wealthy to give to the poor. That, sir, is not America.
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.
Unfortunately, your vision is incompatible with the vision of the band of patriots you praise in your conclusion. They would stand against you and your vision for America. And so do I.
And since you won't take a forthright stand against your dear friend the anti-American racist who preaches hate from his pulpit, none of it really matters -- you are unfit for office.