Sunday, March 11, 2007

In Selma, Obama Appeals to Black Voters

Obama gave a very powerful speech in Selma last weekThis is indeed true:

In a call to action perhaps politically unfeasible for his white rivals to make, Obama said the current generation needs to honor the civil rights movement by taking responsibility for rejecting violence; cleaning up "40-ounce bottles" and other trash that litters urban neighborhoods; and voting in elections.

"How can it be that our voting rates dropped down to 30, 40, 50 percent when people shed their blood to allow us to vote?" Obama asked.

He criticized the Bush administration for opposing affirmative action and said blacks must fight for banks to reinvest in their communities and for more spending in their schools.

But, he added, parents also have to "turn off the television set and put away the Game Boy and make sure that you're talking to your teacher and that we get over the anti-intellectualism that exists in some of our communities where if you conjugate your verbs and if you read a book that somehow means you are acting white," he said.
Here is the end of his speech, which was especially moving:

We understand that, but I'll tell you what. I also know that, if cousin Pookie would vote, get off the couch and register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics. That's what the Moses generation teaches us. Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Go do some politics. Change this country! That's what we need. We have too many children in poverty in this country and everybody should be ashamed, but don't tell me it doesn't have a little to do with the fact that we got too many daddies not acting like daddies. Don’t think that fatherhood ends at conception. I know something about that because my father wasn't around when I was young and I struggled.

Those of you who read my book know.  I went through some difficult times. I know what it means when you don't have a strong male figure in the house, which is why the hardest thing about me being in politics sometimes is not being home as much as I'd like and I'm just blessed that I've got such a wonderful wife at home to hold things together. Don’t tell me that we can't do better by our children, that we can't take more responsibility for making sure we're instilling in them the values and the ideals that the Moses generation taught us about sacrifice and dignity and honesty and hard work and discipline and self-sacrifice. That comes from us. We've got to transmit that to the next generation and I guess the point that I'm making is that the civil rights movement wasn't just a fight against the oppressor; it was also a fight against the oppressor in each of us.

            Sometimes it's easy to just point at somebody else and say it's their fault, but oppression has a way of creeping into it.  Reverend, it has a way of stunting yourself. You start telling yourself, Bishop, I can't do something. I can't read. I can't go to college. I can't start a business. I can't run for Congress. I can't run for the presidency. People start telling you you can't do something, after a while, you start believing it and part of what the civil rights movement was about was recognizing that we have to transform ourselves in order to transform the world.  Mahatma Gandhi, great hero of Dr. King and the person who helped create the nonviolent movement around the world; he once said that you can't change the world if you haven't changed.  

If you want to change the world, the change has to happen with you first and that is something that the greatest and most honorable of generations has taught us,  but the final thing that I think the Moses generation teaches us is to remind ourselves that we do what we do because God is with us. You know, when Moses was first called to lead people out of the Promised Land, he said I don't think I can do it, Lord. I don't speak like Reverend Lowery. I don't feel brave and courageous and the Lord said I will be with you. Throw down that rod. Pick it back up. I'll show you what to do. The same thing happened with the Joshua generation.

Joshua said, you know, I'm scared. I'm not sure that I am up to the challenge, the Lord said to him, every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, I have given you. Be strong and have courage, for I am with you wherever you go. Be strong and have courage. It's a prayer for a journey. A prayer that kept a woman in her seat when the bus driver told her to get up, a prayer that led nine children through the doors of the little rock school, a prayer that carried our brothers and sisters over a bridge right here in Selma, Alabama. Be strong and have courage.

When you see row and row of state trooper facing you, the horses and the tear gas, how else can you walk? Towards them, unarmed, unafraid. When they come start beating your friends and neighbors, how else can you simply kneel down, bow your head and ask the Lord for salvation?  When you see heads gashed open and eyes burning and children lying hurt on the side of the road, when you are John Lewis and you've been beaten within an inch of your life on Sunday, how do you wake up Monday and keep on marching?

Be strong and have courage, for I am with you wherever you go. We've come a long way in this journey, but we still have a long way to travel. We traveled because God was with us. It's not how far we've come. That bridge outside was crossed by blacks and whites, northerners and southerners, teenagers and children, the beloved community of God's children, they wanted to take those steps together, but it was left to the Joshua’s to finish the journey Moses had begun and today we're called to be the Joshua’s of our time, to be the generation that finds our way across this river.

There will be days when the water seems wide and the journey too far, but in those moments, we must remember that throughout our history, there has been a running thread of ideals that have guided our travels and pushed us forward, even when they're just beyond our reach, liberty in the face of tyranny, opportunity where there was none and hope over the most crushing despair. Those ideals and values beckon us still and when we have our doubts and our fears, just like Joshua did, when the road looks too long and it seems like we may lose our way, remember what these people did on that bridge.

Keep in your heart the prayer of that journey, the prayer that God gave to Joshua. Be strong and have courage in the face of injustice. Be strong and have courage in the face of prejudice and hatred, in the face of joblessness and helplessness and hopelessness. Be strong and have courage, brothers and sisters, those who are gathered here today, in the face of our doubts and fears, in the face of skepticism, in the face of cynicism, in the face of a mighty river.

Be strong and have courage and let us cross over that Promised Land together. Thank you so much everybody.

God bless you.

In Selma, Obama Appeals to Black Voters

Obama, Clintons Campaign in Selma, Ala.; Obama Urges Blacks to Take More Responsibility


SELMA, Ala. Mar 4, 2007 (AP)— Barack Obama reached out to the civil rights generation Sunday on the anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march, saying the protesters helped pave the way for his campaign to become the first black president. He also urged blacks to take more personal responsibility.


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