Responding to Obama

We’re still pooling reactions to Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on race yesterday.

Our first two responses come to us via Youth Radio Atlanta:

“Once again Senator Obama has turned to his excellent orator skills and his idealism of unity to respond to a major issue in the campaign. The issue of race is undoubtedly a distraction but no more so than the distraction of Senator Clinton’s cold demeanor or the misinterpreted statements of the former President Clinton. This entire election has been shrouded in distraction and this latest speech is no different, as evidence by the fact that his remarks were primarily on the state of the America’s racial divide opposed to the policies he intends to promote. I believe it is time for the two democratic presidential hopefuls to put their egos aside and do what is best for the party by combining forces into a single ticket that truly is the last great hope for the future of this country. Senator Obama can talk of unity but it is time he Senator Clinton begin to practice the unity of which they speak.”
Wesley Myrick, 21 years old, Georgia State University

Next up, Miriam Archibong answers our questions from yesterday directly:

In your opinion was the Obama campaign in trouble this past week? Did he need to make this speech? The Obama campaign was in trouble last week. His speech was necessary to reaffirm his position on race relations in America, and to reassure the American public that he did not condone the racially divisive comments made by his pastor. Initially, I thought that the faith community should address this controversy. But, after hearing his speech, I knew that his speech was the best way to address the situation.

Do you think Obama has taken definitive control of the Rev. Wright “controversy” with this speech? Did you care about the controversy in the first place? Yes. In his speech, Senator Obama affirmed his relationship with Rev. Wright, yet he clearly stated that he did not condone his pastor’s racially divisive comments. As an African American, I did not find Rev. Wright’s comments offensive. In addition, I thought the opinions were Rev. Wright’s alone. I never thought that Senator Obama was responsible for the free speech utterances made by his pastor.

Did Obama do the right thing by making the speech or is he merely giving ground to his critics? Senator Obama did a very courageous and correct thing by making the speech. I was particularly struck by his confession that he did not disown his White grandmother when she made racially divisive statements. In his words, he “cringed” at the comments, but continued to love his grandmother. Senator Obama’s critics might observe that he did not take a strong enough stance against his pastor. However, when in U.S. History has a presidential candidate been called upon to defend a sermon given by his pastor?

Is this speech so good that Rev. Wright’s statements were a blessing in disguise for Obama? Yes. The controversy has already resulted in more Americans talking about the race relations in America. Senator Obama is demonstrating leadership by challenging Americans to move beyond the negative racial history of our past, and to look to a future where our country is united – despite our racial differences.

Most important: Has your opinion of Obama changed in the past couple of weeks? Your friends/parents? How? After Senator Obama’s speech, I felt that I knew him better. His sincerity and courage were very admirable. My mother said that his speech brought tears to her eyes. And, my grandmother wondered why there was so much controversy about his pastor’s sermon. She said she agreed that Blacks and Whites had different experiences. My grandmother wondered what was wrong with saying that from the pulpit? For my family and friends, their support for Obama has grown stronger as the result of his ability and willingness to take a direct and honest stance in his response to this controversy.

Miriam Archibong, 20 years old, Spelman College

Here at YR HQ, Commentator “King” Anyi breaks down his reaction to the speech:

When I was in middle school, we had to memorize Martin Luther King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” Speech. By the time I was born, Dr. King’s speech was 20 years old and by the time it was 30, the world changed dramatically, in some ways better, and in a lot of ways, for the worse. When repeated over and over every January and applied to today’s social climate, the speech inspired dreams of my own…through sleep. Fantastic dreams of me fighting along side Optimus Prime and Lion-O…My sound slumber has been interrupted by the sound of Presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, addressing race in America in response to some racial hits his campaign has taken recently.

Check out his full reaction at Youth Radio.Org.

And finally, Jenny Chon from the comments yesterday:

I think you are asking the wrong questions. What if we looked at what Barack Obama is actually saying in this speech and pull that apart. not ask the horse-race questions…

You know what, Jenny, you’re right. We should be drilling down into what the man said. Still, the first question on everyone’s mind yesterday was “How does this play in Peoria?” Unlike other writer’s on here I’m tasked with the duty of giving as little of my own opinion as possible, and felt that to ask about the content of the speech might be viewed as a tacit endorsement of its political value.

Either way, now that the subject is breached:

  • What do you think of the content of what Obama has said?
  • Has he painted an accurate picture of race relations in America?
  • What kind of person does the speech reveal him to be?
  • A lot of pundits, on “both sides of the aisle” have said that this speech goes far beyond what were used to from our politicians– did it? How?

One Response

  1. As most of you know, Mrs. Michelle Obama is the Vice President of the Department of Community Affairs at The University of Chicago Hospital (UCH).

    On August 5, 2008, The Dean (who is very kind) referred me to the Department of Community Affairs. When I contacted the Department of Community Affairs, I had received a phone call from Mrs. Michelle Obama’s assistant. The assistant verbally intimidated and indirectly threaten to have me fired simply because I sought the Dean, several times, for help to start a pilot violence intervention prevention program for high risk young people in my neighborhood of South Shore where there are no resources and several murders have taken place.
    After this incident, I was forced to question how many others have sought Mrs. Michelle Obama’s help from The Department of Community Affairs and was ignored, rejected or mistreated by her staff simply because he or she did not have any political ties or he or she is deem as an “UP” – unimportant person. Maybe the Department of Community Affairs is only to serve UCH best interest and not be concern for the neighborhood residents who are poor to working class poor and where there are no resources.
    I do not know. All I know is the ending result of intimidation and threats by Mrs. Obama’s staff person when I sought Mrs. Michelle Obama’s department to help my neighborhood.
    In all fairness, they did forward me to outside resources, but I was not seeking outside resources. I could have done that on my own. I was forward to Michelle Obama’s Department of Community Affairs because they can help me and I need their help. I need The University of Chicago Hospital’s help for the poor to working class poor who need resources to help educate and combat diseases and prevent deaths – that is what I need for my community.
    I feel hospitals, like The University of Chicago Hospitals (although a nice place), should give back to the communities that they are indirectly profiting from the violence in these neighborhoods. If The University of Chicago Hospital of Department of Community Affairs takes an active role in starting a pilot violence intervention and prevention research program in neighborhoods needing resources, then other hospitals will begin to take a leadership role too. Because I was an employee, it would have shown how committed UCH is to their employees concerns in giving back to their communities.
    The Dean had no problems in helping me and he forwarded me to the Department of Community Affairs so they could format a program to help my community, so why Mrs. Michelle Obama’s Department did not want to help my community?
    The University of Chicago Hospital can easily obtain the resources needed, so what is the problem? Again, is it that I am not a politically connected person? Is it because I am not important in their sight? Is it because I am a poor working class citizen? What was so wrong with me asking the Dean of The University of Chicago Hospital to help my community? I did submit a proposal that I know will work.
    Mrs. Michelle Obama does not know me; she may or may not know what her assistant did to me, and no I am not blaming Mrs. Obama for this assistant’s behavior. However, Mrs. Michelle Obama is still held accountable for the behavior of her staff as with any department head, and because of how I was treated by Michelle Obama’s staff person, I question rather or not others from communities, in desperate need for resources, sought Mrs. Obama’s Department of Community Affairs help and they were ignored, rejected, or mistreated?
    A leader, department head, manager, or supervisor basically knows their staff. A staff should reflect the character of the department head or leader. Mrs. Michelle Obama had to know of her assistant’s mean-spirit behavior before and overlooked it, for this assistant did not fear any consequences for the mean-spirit behavior toward me.
    If Mrs. Obama did not know of her assistant’s behavior, then why not? Was this assistant following Mrs. Michelle Obama’s procedures or “unwritten” policy to reject helping the communities who are in badly need of resources? Communities who need help for high risk youth or families who do not received proper medical help or guidance?
    I tried to resolve this conflict. First, I quit my temporary position at the University of Chicago due to the disrespect that I had received from Mrs. Obama’s assistant, and I had no recourse in resolving the matter. I emailed Mrs. Michelle Obama and Senator Obama several times to address my concerns. The only replies I have received were for me to donate to Senator Obama’s campaign, so I faxed a letter to three of Senator Obama’s staff offices.
    For an entire month, I received no response to address my concerns for the youth and young adults who are being kill and dying on the streets in my community and other communities throughout America.
    Yes. I know Senator and Mrs. Obama are very busy with the election and there are things more important than my “issue” of folks in my community being killed (Of course, I am being sarcastic.), but that is why they have a staff. A staff person should have contacted me and try to resolve my concerns and help me get resources to combat the problem. THEY DID NOT RESPOND TO ME AT ALL.
    This says to me, an Obama supporter that Senator and Mrs. Michelle Obama do not care about me or my community. Which is also saying to me that I am not important as a voter or as a representative of my community?
    So, if I am being ignored by Senator and Michelle Obama now, then how are they going to treat people like me once Senator Obama is elected president?
    I want to know if Senator and Michelle Obama really care about the no name people like me, and will they care about the high risk young people who are being murdered throughout America?
    Senator Obama has spoken regarding working families, but neither Senator Obama nor Senator McCain has said anything regarding the violence of our high risk youth and families in America who are being killed – literally.
    Let’s be honest, during this election, I have not heard anything from Senator or Mrs. Obama in regards to the violence among our high risk young people in America. I have not heard Senator Obama speak about bringing resources to the neighborhood blocks right smack where the violence is taking place.
    I have not heard Senator Obama speak about helping neighborhood organizations who are not politically connected, for obvious reasons, but who are working in the trenches with very little means or resources and some organizations that do not have any resources at all. Like me, that use my working income to help my community as much as I can. These are the sincere people and organizations that really care about their community.
    Could it be that because the violent deaths of our high risk young people and families in America are not important because they are African American and Hispanic and apart of the gentrification process?
    (It will not be the first time, for when African American and Hispanic youth were, and still, being killed in American schools, in their neighborhoods, no one was doing anything about it – but talk. The Government really began to act when Caucasian youth were killed in American schools in their neighborhoods.)
    Will Senator Obama answer be to just throw all the high risk youth and young adults in jail instead of developing a program that will provide a positive support and discipline system and the resources needed by partnering neighborhood organizations and people, like myself, with hospitals and other institutions to transform violent and negative behaviors within the communities and or neighborhood blocks where the violence is actually taking place?
    My issue is not simply to question Senator and Mrs. Obama’s commitment to our high risk young people and the families who have lost their love ones to death and whose blood is stained on the sidewalks of our communities, but how dedicated will Senator and Mrs. Michelle Obama be to the people who will be seeking their help – people like me?
    I am a Senator Obama supporter, but I have been ignored by Senator Obama’s staff and mistreated by Mrs. Obama’s staff at The University of Chicago Hospital. If this was to happen to you, would you not begin to have serious doubts about how committed Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama will be to the people in your community?
    It will not be the first time that political leaders turn their backs on the people who supported them the most and voted for them, and most African American and Hispanic groups know that Senator McCain does not care about the folks in the “hood”. (Gosh! Who am I going to vote for now?)
    Yes, our Government releases millions of dollars for violence prevention programs. However, if the organizations are not politically connected, they will not get the money that is needed in their neighborhoods. The only organizations that received the big bucks are mostly politically connected.
    Most true community organizations do not want to become politically connected for obvious reasons. Again, these are the organizations and people who work in the trenches and risk their lives everyday to help transform lives for a better neighborhood and overall community.
    Most of the monies for violence prevention programs are not right smack within the neighborhood blocks in communities that need the resources, and one can forget about the Alderman of these communities, for most Aldermen only care about position and power. Most will jump over hoops for their mayor or other powerful people.
    I am clearly aware of the past outstanding performance of Senator Obama and his once true dedication to the communities but what about now?
    Can you tell me if the organizations who are not being funded will receive the financial and other help needed to combat violence and provide high risk youth and families with the resources in neighborhoods where there are no resources within blocks of each other?
    Base on why I asked UCH to help me in the first place, will Mrs. Michelle Obama’s Department of Community Affairs at The University of Chicago Hospital care to do something about the violence of our young people and families in my neighborhood and throughout Chicagoland?
    What role will Mrs. Michelle Obama have regarding the deaths and the school dropped-out rates of our high risk young people when she becomes First Lady of the United States of America?
    As a voter, I need the assurance that Senator and Mrs. Michelle Obama is sincerely committed to the neighborhoods who are struggling with the overwhelming violent deaths of young people across America during this historic election.

    What about you or are you going to wait until the violence hits home before you demand that the resources be spent where it is actually needed?
    Remember, what impacts one person, group, or community will eventually impact all of us.
    Again, will the Obama’s really care about the youth violence and families in neighborhoods who are not getting the resources needed to stop the violence across America?

    And, will hospitals, like The University of Chicago Hospital, begin to take an active leadership role by actually having an outreach violence intervention research program within neighborhood blocks that have no resources at all?

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