March 17th, 2008
08:15 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama set to deliver speech on race, Wright

 Obama will deliver a speech on race and politics Tuesday.
Obama will deliver a speech on race and politics Tuesday.

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) - Far from putting the controversial issue of race behind him, Barack Obama has decided to address the issue head on in a speech Tuesday.

"I am going to be talking not just about Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign - which has ramped up over the last couple of weeks," Obama told reporters in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod characterized the speech, to be delivered in Philadelphia, as "a discussion on race and politics."

"Given the events of the last few weeks, Obama felt it was time to address the issue of race and politics directly, and what it means in our country," Axelrod said.

News of the speech comes days after the Illinois senator formally denounced controversial sermons delivered by his former minister and longtime friend, Jeremiah Wright. The racially-charged remarks came under fire after being the subject of an ABC News report last week.

Axelrod described the Illinois senator as "a force for reconciliation" and said he wants the opportunity "to put this into context."

Speaking with reporters, Obama said the media is portraying Wright inaccurately.

"I think the caricature that is being painted of him is not accurate, and so part of what I will do tomorrow is to talk about how these issues are perceived from within the black church community for example which I think skews this very differently."

UPDATE: Axelrod later told CNN's Gloria Borger that the Illinois senator has "always contemplated giving a speech like this."

“He will address the broader questions of race and politics, these are complex issues that transcend Barack Obama, and are fault lines in our politics and society, and, ultimately, can be a barrier…They’re easily exploited, and hard to address," he said.

(Updated with Obama comments)

– CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and Mike Roselli contributed to this report

soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. Stephanie, PA

    Thank you, Sen. Obama! Please open this dialogue so we can address all of these issues head on and with honesty! Race is obviously still a big issue in our country. You have been, and still are my candidate for president!

    Obama '08

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  2. Lou in Des Moines

    Was the First Amendment repealed when I wasn't looking? I thought every one of us – including Obama's pastor – enjoy freedom of speech EVEN IF we're saying something controversial. My daughter is serving in the U.S. Army to help people in other nations win the right to criticize their government without fear of recrimination. But between media agendas and public self-righteousness, we are close to taking that precious right away from ourselves.

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. Robin, Henderson Nevada

    This is no good for anyone. Mr Obama is in a tough position, he is both Black and White. This is somewhere he should not be, he trusted a preacher and got burned. I strongly disagree with the notion that Hillary does not know about kids growing up in single parent households, after all she married Bill and he is from a single parent home and also raised by his grandfather who made it very clear to him, that he needs to treat everyone equal regardless of their race. Mr Wright and others like him are the ones that loves living in the past. These idiotic statements are exactly whats wrong in the black community. Mr Wright should focus on preaching to young black men to respect themselves fully and take responsibility for their actions. Learn to read, write and understand that excuses is exactly that 'Excuses'. Racism is alive and active, but it can be overcome with understanding, not ignorance.

    Another thing to place in Mr Wright corner, is that Barack Obama upbringing is far from that of millions of African Americans in this country. Don't paint him as the poor black boy from a single parent home, his Mother was college educated and so was his Father, in addition to him growing up in the 2 parent home of his grandparents.

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Rebecca

    Okay, okay which is worse, having a minister who says hateful things, or giving away missles to China, selling pardons, etc., etc., etc.

    March 17, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. AT

    He either had no courage to criticize religious leaders or he believes what Rev. Jeremiah Wright has said. Either way, he does not represent me. When I have found myself disagreeing with harmful religious rhetoric I have gotten up and sought other religious instruction. If a common citizen could do it, then I would expect someone of "his" charachter to have done the same. Hate can be easily concealed in religious rhetoric.

    March 17, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. carla

    Give it up Obama! We know you can give a speech. The American Presidency requires just a wee bit more than oratorical skills. For one thing, it requires allegiance to our flag and country. Do you think the American public is so stupid to believe that you were a devoted follower of that "minister" for 20 years and do not believe in the same things he preached?

    March 17, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. JEF

    It is hard for me to believe that Senator Obama was never present in his church when his pastor delivered these caustic sermons. How many times did the pastor slam the USA or Hillary in his sermons? Is there a way to document whether or not Senator Obama was present for any of these sermons and therefore could have addressed this issue sooner. (Let's keep them honest!)

    If he was present and did nothing, then silence, to me, means consensus.

    March 17, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  8. USMC VET

    Please stop Hillary supporters. The only people crying its too late or how they're tired of his speeches are people who never had any intentions on voting for Obama since day 1.

    We do understand. You would rather switch party vs facing defeat in your Hillary campaign. If Hillary had a 100+ lead on Obama, you would be screaming for him to get out of the race for the sake of the party.

    I see right through you!

    March 17, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. eddie, New York City.

    Can't wait to hear him.

    March 17, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. mark

    Prepared speech? how about a round table discussion with the credible media people?

    March 17, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  11. Adam

    First off, Ken Mahler, Obama stated that he became aware of these comments when he started running for President, that that matches up with what he said. Second, to everyone, do you always agree with what your preacher states? I know I don't, but I stay there because most of the time he stays on topic and I have friends and family there. I judge a man by what he believes in, not what his friends believe in. This has gotten ridiculous. The fact of the matter is this primary season had turned SOUR. No longer are we wanting to hear how these individuals will help our country. We want to hear who they are friends with. Are their friends racist or sexist? Who has released tax returns. This has gotten CRAZY and STUPID! The campaigns need to grow up. I don't care who your friends are. I don't care where you go to church. I want to know what you are going to do to help this country!

    March 17, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  12. Ana

    Obama has lost credibility, he is just another not so clean politian that we do not really know... Who is he? a great speech maker? Is that all that we can hope for in our country? Fortunatelly there is people with knowledge and SOLID understanding that do not hide their racist ideas behind religion, Obama's church granting Farrakan their honors and Obama not saying anything about it? Or Michelle Obama saying that she has never been proud of our country until her husband run for president.

    If one criticises Obama one is called a "racist" Is this the way he plans to run our country? At the same time he keeps bringing race to the discussion and plans to continue tomorrow in a dedicated speech. Shame on you Obama and Obama campaign you are DIVIDING our people as clearly illustrated in reverend Wright's preachings full of antisemitism, hatred and racism. Obama accepted this for 20 years and now after being caught he denounces his own mentor. SHAME ON YOU OBAMA. We need more than a "talker" to lead our nation. We need someone that is knowlegeable and TRUE to his/her words. By the way, what about the Rezko personnal dealings?

    March 17, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  13. Nice to have (from california)

    Openness+ Accountability + ownership = Obama
    Keep it going!
    It's the best part of the campaign!
    Hang in there!

    March 17, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. Brian Tampa, FL

    One issue is no big deal but when you start to add up him not wearing the flag or covering his heart, his wife's comments about not being proud of America, now his Reverend and by the sounds of the tapes most of his church are racist, anti-American bigots there have to be some serious questions asked. He is not a known commodity and these things are disturbing to many serious people.

    March 17, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  15. Texas, Delegate

    Obama is my choice and he can defeat McCain. Because we have a strong party.

    When is the media going to press Clinton like they press Obama.

    You talk about unfair press.

    I don't feel it's because his skin color but it's because of there Rating Game..

    March 17, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  16. Michael

    Corey, there is a separation from church and state. Why then, did Obama have a racist pastor in his campaign?

    March 17, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. HJ, Richmond

    The trouble with Americans, is that we have a very short memory. Coupled with the fact that the majority of Americans know nothing about American history and they know even less about world history.
    If you take a honest look at some of our policies abroad, it is a wonder why we as a country havent had more problems like 911. It seems as it we have learned nothing.

    March 17, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Vincent

    THIS is what a leader does. THIS is how a LEADER confronts problems, by taking them head on. Wow, I love this guy!

    March 17, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  19. Bukky, Baltimore

    I think what should be taken away from this is that Obama is not running from the issue. You have questions about something he is going to give you answers. You may not like his answers but at least he will tell you, instead of ignore it.

    March 17, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  20. Diane

    I wonder if everyone contributing comments here would want to take credit for everything their pastor and friends have said in the last 20 years. I am an Independent, by the way.

    March 17, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. Michael

    One more thing, I am really tired of people charcterizing me as a "black" voter. Yes I am black. But I am also an informed voter.

    I am a person! I am a voter!

    Are there black people voting for Obama because of his race? Yes. But are there voters voting for Hillary because she is white? Yes.

    But this issue does not come about for whites. I have yet to see a story asking whites if they are voting for Hillary because she is white. But I see thousands......and i mean thousands of stories asking black people if they are voting for Obama because he is black.

    All in all, we are Americans. When will we stop this?

    March 17, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  22. Carolyn Gara

    Surprise! Obama will play the race card. Who'd of thought that would happen?

    March 17, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  23. A Concerrned American Soldier

    I think that we should all hold off on judgment and let the man speak. If anyone that has commented has been judgmental I would ask do you believe in god, and if so, do you read the bible. The reason I ask is because one of the key components of Christianity is to not be judgmental....or am I mistaken?

    March 17, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  24. Only McCain Can!

    Wow ... you Obama-folk have a really high tolerance for impropriety.

    March 17, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. Ann Brian

    Geezzz…. Another speech? You think Americans are all stupid to buy in your pointless speech?

    March 17, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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