The candidate and the Rev. Wright
Obama's speech didn't go far enough
Sen. Barack Obama's speech on race and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright may set liberal hearts aflutter, but it did nothing to explain his attachment to a political extremist of the worst stripe.
The Rev. Wright is not Obama's crazy uncle who can be explained away with a roll of the eyes. Wright has been a close mentor of Obama's for 20 years and it is impossible that his outright hatred for America was hidden from Obama. What did Obama do in response to these attitudes? By his own admission, nothing.
This is not leadership. If the shoe was on the other foot you can be sure the national media, the Times included, would be all over it. Could John McCain escape serious political damage if he had a 20-year relationship with a bigoted spiritual adviser? Hardly.
Understanding where African-American anger and frustration originate is not conducive to accepting the Rev. Wright's comments. Obama's attempts at drawing moral equivalence between Wright's hate speech and his own grandmother's racial attitudes is pathetic. The fact that Obama has supported this reverend for 20 years tells much about his character and judgment.
Jay Johnson, St. Petersburg
I am an admirer of Barack Obama and I am inspired by his vision of an America reaching beyond the racism that divides us. I wish that more people could hear the entire speech he gave in Philadelphia on Tuesday, not simply the snippets that are picked up by the media — all too often to reinforce a prejudice that still stains our wonderful country.
Obama speaks to "the better angels of our nature." Let us meet the bold challenge of his message.
Jessie W. Bush, Sun City Center
A door is opened for
a conversation on race
Although I voted in the primary for Barack Obama, I was beginning to waiver and was considering Hillary Clinton until I heard Obama's speech Tuesday.
While I absolutely refute the remarks of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright that were played ad nauseam on the popular media, I admire Obama's integrity. He stood by the man who has been his pastor for 20 years, while he condemned some of Wright's specific comments. More specifically, I appreciate the fact that Wright, unwittingly, has been the catalyst for a conversation long overdue in American society.
As a former employee of a large Florida institution, I have long been aware of "the elephant in the room" when it came to staff discussions of race. Specifically, any meaningful discussions were squelched by the "powers that be." Thereafter, there would be many closed-door whispered discussions among white staff members — and I suspect among African-American staff members — that allowed disagreements to fester and remain unresolved.
The Rev. Wright's well-publicized diatribes have caused a response from Barack Obama that has opened the door sufficiently that just maybe the people of this nation can begin an honest, albeit difficult debate about the racial differences that still encumber this great country of ours.
Catherine Conover, Clearwater
Inaction spoke volumes
On Tuesday, Barack Obama eloquently explained away his decadeslong, close relationship with his church and pastor. Obama stated he still stands by this pastor even if he doesn't agree with everything he preaches. This all sounded so good and honorable on the podium — and the evening news.
Then I put myself in Obama's position. I imagine myself sitting in the pews of my church while my pastor puts down my country and spreads words of hate. Do I continue to attend this church decade after decade? Do I bring this pastor into my inner circle of friends? Do I keep quiet because I "don't agree with everything he preaches, but he's an honorable man"? Of course I don't.
I would have parted ways with this hate-spewing preacher and found a church more in line with my morals and ideals. I think most good-hearted Americans would do the same. I can't imagine myself sitting quietly year after year listening to these hateful sermons — unless of course I in some way agreed with them.
Obama is asking for my vote to lead our country as president. If he didn't take a stand against such bigotry and hatred in his own church, I have no doubt that he won't show better judgment and leadership as our president. And if he does agree with much that his pastor has said, then I wouldn't even want Obama as my neighbor.
Jim Mullen, Tampa
A calm speech on race, for a change
March 19, commentary
Columnist Roger Simon and others delight in quoting the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's offensive remarks about 9/11. They should be reminded that days after the 9/11 attacks, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson went on the air to blame pagans, abortionists, feminists, and gays and lesbians for bringing on the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
There are noisy preachers of all colors and persuasions who like to inflame their flocks with vicious shouts. Can we just accept this and move on, as Sen. Barack Obama's moving plea for reconciliation asks us to do?
Tom Ziebold, St. Petersburg
Barack Obama's speech regarding his preacher was politically correct, but not politically brave. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a racist, plain and simple. Obama should have acknowledged that fact and ended his 20-year relationship with the man. Instead he tried to rationalize Wright's rhetoric. This compares with Obama's half-hearted denunciation of Louis Farrakhan in his debate with Hillary Clinton.
At the risk of angering his political base, Obama has again demonstrated that political expediency takes precedence over political courage. These are not the actions of a great leader.
Louis Ciardulli, Safety Harbor
I don't care how angry or mistreated anyone feels, no one, especially a preacher, should ask God to damn America. America is our soul, our land, our people. It's what men have died for and are still fighting for. To plead with God to damn America is both obscene and unforgivable.
Lynn O'Keefe, Largo
Healing is needed
I felt sad for Barack Obama when I read what he said about his minister. I felt even more sadness for that minister. In one sentence he said he loves Jesus and in the next sentence cursed the United States!
The poor man. He was cursing himself. He is in great need of some healing and forgiveness in his own spirit. If the Rev. Wright were to experience that healing and forgiveness, he would truly have something to shout about! I hope he finds it!
Betts Huntley, Clearwater