September 28th, 2007
04:49 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama: Candidacy a sign of racial progress

Watch Sen. Obama discuss the black vote with CNN Contributor Roland Martin.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, told CNN in an interview Friday that the fact he is viewed as a legitimate presidential candidate is testament to the progress America has made in regards to race relations.

Denying that progress would be an insult to "dishonor the memories of all those who fought for our civil rights throughout the generations," said Obama, the only African-American candidate running for the Democratic nomination.

"My belief is that we have changed sufficiently in this country that it is possible for a large numbers of whites to vote for an African-American candidate," Obama told CNN contributor Roland Martin. "If I did not believe that, I would not be running.

"I just want to point out that all those other candidates are taking me awfully seriously, and if they didn't think I could get white votes then they wouldn't be worrying about my campaign as much as they are," he added.

Full story: Obama: Candicacy a sign of racial progress

More video: Obama on Ahmadinejad

- CNN's Silvio Carrillio and Scott Anderson

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Felifar1 indianapolis, IN

    Why does everyone insist on saying hillary has experience?!? She was the wife of a president and the wife of a governor. She has some senate experience yes, but Obama's elected experience overshadows her. He was in the State Senate! Hello? The Constitution was intended by the Framers to ensure a Federal system of government. The State and National governments share power with the people. Please make informed comments!

    September 28, 2007 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  2. Jackson, Tampa, FL

    I'm voting for Barack Obama! I'm voting for Barack in the primary election! I'm voting for Barack in the general election. I'm voting for Barack Obama!

    As Abraham Lincoln said, our American government system is, "Of the people, by the people, for the people." Barack genuinely conveys that understanding of our country and our government. The Preamble of the United States Constitution begins, "We the people of the United States." Barack believes in our country, our government, and our privileged right to vote "in order to form a more perfect union."

    As for experience ... we, the American people, have experienced indebtedness, insecurity, injustice, insanity, inequity, and ineptness. I am voting for judgment! Experience has "stayed the course" long enough! With all the years of experience looking at us from the podiums at debates and rallies and from PSAs, infomercials, and advertisements, I am struggling to see the wisdom, discernment, and learning that is supposed to be the end result.

    I am hopeful that the American people will consider that this is our country, our government, our house (the White House)! When we interview the candidates for the highest job in America, we need to remember that our elected officials work for "U.S." We are hiring them to work for "U.S.", to do the best for "U.S.", to represent "U.S.", to serve “U.S.”! I'm quite tired of accepting reclassifications of the job once the elections are over.

    I'm voting for Barack Obama! I'm voting for Barack in the primary election! I'm voting for Barack in the general election. I'm voting for Barack Obama!

    September 28, 2007 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  3. SB, Maryland

    Thanks for asking about the votes. My understanding is as follows:

    1. Re- The vote, Senator Obama issued the following statement:

    "The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements," Obama says. "This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It's precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington's ability to solve America's problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared.

    Obama goes on to say, "All of us respect the service of General Petraeus and all of our brave men and women in uniform. The way to honor that service is to give them a mission that is responsible, not to vote on amendments like the Cornyn amendment while we continue to pursue the wrong policy in Iraq."

    2. Re the Lieberman-Kyl amendment: There was no vote scheduled for this amendment, but Senator Harry Reid called for one mid-day, leaving Senator Obama no time to get back to DC from New Hampshire. I am of the understanding that he has issued a statement rejecting the vote which is thought by many to give the President the power to invade Iran, should he chose to do so. Senator Reid was aware that the amendment would pass by a large margin and Senator Obama's vote would not help to defeat it.

    It is important to note that Hillary Clinton voted FOR the Lieberman-Kyl amendment. This is a glaring contradiction from her statements regarding having learned from her misguided Iraq war vote.

    Hope this helps.

    September 28, 2007 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  4. Lou Tulsa ok

    Its a shame Joe Biden is a white male. That is the only thing "wrong" with him in this election. Its also a shame America pays more attention to gender and now color than to quality, experience, and integrity. Biden has it all, but unfortunately won't win – not enough surface flash and too much depth for the average American voter this time around.

    September 28, 2007 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  5. ronnie - knoxville, tn.

    did ya notice that almost every piece on Hussein Obama is about empty promises and stuff that has NOTHING to DO with how and why he is qualified to be President !!

    Stop rambling on about nothing Obama, and tell the voters what you've done to EARN THIS.

    September 28, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  6. Maria, Houston

    yeah, Obama is half white, half black, whatever... what is so interesting that so many different people relate to him and his message. It is obvious that he genuinly wants to find sensible solutions acceptable to majority of all Americans. That's what makes him so valuable. He is the real thing.

    September 28, 2007 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  7. bobbysingleton, Philadelphia, PA

    You know, Mark, I agree with Obama. And, since you mentioned it, I'll admit some white folks are not half-bad.

    September 28, 2007 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  8. Max, Los Angeles, CA

    Yeah he is half white, but in this society, even being an eighth black makes you black. Being white is the norm, so any differences from that are what gets people's attention. It's not even about racism, it's just how people think.

    September 28, 2007 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  9. C.LyOnS, New York NY


    If he didn't tell you, would you know?

    September 29, 2007 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  10. Me in raleigh,NC

    UM....excuse me but, does anyone believe in division of church and state? Stop quoting the bible and do somethimg about real problems. Oh yeah and, in this country it actually sucks to be white! If you are white you are made to feel that everything is your fault and that you get handed life on a silver plater. Not true.

    September 29, 2007 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  11. Moe, NY

    Hey Common Sense...even if I buy what you are selling...why did Obama not vote for the children in this country to be covered by health care insurance? (It was a really simple vote...yes or no). I am beginning to think that Obama does not vote on current issues because he does not want us (american citizens) to see which way he really will for thought!

    September 29, 2007 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  12. Saulsberry Milwaukee, WI

    In this day in age we need a change of leadership. We need to find new ways to improve this country. We need someone that doesn't have any ties or special interest other then improving the way of life in the this country. It is important to remember that its doesn't matter what gender or race our leaders are, what is important is the content of character.

    September 29, 2007 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  13. Chip Celina OH

    Moe from NY, you wrote:

    I like Obama, but am voting for Hillary. I just do not feel confident with Obama's experience.

    On another thread, I posted the following;

    Is she the really the experienced candidate everyone says she is?

    Clinton – In office since 2001 (6 yrs)
    Obama – In elective office since 1995 (12 yrs)
    Edwards – In office 1998-2004 (6yrs)
    Richardson – In office/cabinet/ambassador since 1982 (25 yrs)
    Kucinich – In office 1995-96 state senate, 1996-present (12 yrs)
    Biden – In office since 1972 (35yrs)
    Gravel – In office 1963-66(state rep)1969-81 US Senate (15yrs)
    Dodd – In office 1974-80 US Rep, 1980-present (33yrs)

    So, when using the criteria of holding an elective or appointed office at the state level or higher, Senator Clinton is tied with Mr. Edwards as the LEAST experienced of the group.

    You can find this information almost anywhere. I got these particular numbers from the candidate bios/career information portion of the CNN website.

    I sort of slighted Kucinich, he was a city council member and mayor of Cleveland, but those are local/city offices so I tended to weight serving at the state level or above as a little more significant.

    Have a great weekend!

    September 29, 2007 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  14. Lance in Monrovia CA

    I attended a meeting of the Foothill Community Democrats last night in Monrovia. I walked in and immediately thought, "whoa, this is total Hillary territory." as I looked around and saw maybe thirty older, mostly grey haired people, mostly women, and mostly upper class. The type of people who actually go out and vote.

    I sat through the meeting waiting for someone to speak up about how great Hillary Clinton was. They did not say this at all. In fact the club itself is not endorsing a candidate as they believe the race is too close to place a reliable bet.

    The real proof in the pudding was at the end when the lady running the meeting asked, "does anyone want to introduce themselves and say who they are supporting for President?"

    Everyone spoke up one at a time as they went around the room. I was struck by the fact at least five of these people spoke up loudly about their support for Barack Obama. Another two were going back and forth between Obama and Edwards, with Obama a close second in their minds.

    The rest, a group of older and respectable ladies, all said that they were still undecided. They said they were torn this year and felt that there was such a good choice of candidates they simply had to wait to make up their minds.

    This, to me, says everything. If Hillary is going to have support, she already has what she's going to get, because once you really start paying attention to the issues, you start to see what a clearly better candidate Barack Obama is. He's the most experienced, has the best judgement, is the far better communicator, and you simply believe him when he speaks.

    The fact they were undecided means that THEY DO NOT SUPPORT HILLARY. It means that this ENTIRELY WHITE club in an upper scale neighborhood is HEAVILY considering voting for a black candidate named Barack Obama not because of what color he is but because they like his ideas, they like how and what he has to say, becuase they OVERWHELMINGLY want to WIN THE WHITE HOUSE and they're not sure that Hillary can deliver that but they are thinking about who best can.

    Another words people, don't believe the hype when they say Hillary is the front runner and that "we're not ready" for Barack Obama.

    Democrats are ready to win. They're as mad as hell and they're not going to take being manipulated anymore. They're going to make up their own damn minds and as long as they do that, we all win...

    Obama 08

    September 29, 2007 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  15. Chris, Middletown, CT

    I agree with you – I think Obama would have the best chance. As a Republican I would vote for Giuliani over Obama (as I believe that a moderate trumps a left wing candidate) – but....with that being said – if the religious minority nominates anyone by will show that the party is no where near as progressive as I thought – and Obama will get my vote. (now....if Hillary runs....its a "anyone" trumps a socialist)

    September 29, 2007 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  16. A. Thomas, New York, NY

    Contray to the prior black presidential candidates (Jesse Jackson & Al Sharpton) who ran on a black platform, Obama is running as a half black on a white platform to please the white voters.

    He has pleased neither group of people, and that reflects on his poll standings. In South Carolina where black is predominant, Obama is falling in polls. The people there have realised that Obama has failed to addressed the black concerns at all. Meanwhile, Obama's poll standing is also falling in New Hampshire, a predominantly white state.

    As Jessee Jackson & Al Sharpton said, Obama's platform adresses mainly to the white voters.

    September 29, 2007 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. RuthieM

    I don't think Obama needs to please any particular group of a people, he only needs to please himself, be true to himself, and when he does this, as he has, he does come through as transcending all races, because that is what he is all about - not just black, not just white, which is as it should be - FOR ALL PEOPLE. On the other hand, if the republicans get in, (white or black) we have a guarantee it will be all for one people - white, as it has been the last 6 years. So I think people need to stop thinking that because Barack Obama is black that he should lean solely towards blacks, that he should swear to solve whatever historical problems blacks have been challenged with. He is only a man, he is not God. If we want him to be all things for all people, we really need to get down on our knees and pray to God and ask Him to do that. We, as black people, and as white people, and as latino people, and as asian people, and as any other people, need to just get up off our butts on this coming primary day wherever we may be - AND VOTE FOR THIS BARACK OBAMA, who, like he said, the day he is inaugurated, that is the day American will change - and I say - FOR THE BETTER – and we all will be the better for having been here at this time in our history that produced this courageous and insightful president of our United States!

    September 29, 2007 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  18. James, Phoenix AZ

    Face it folks. We still have a race problem here in the US, and it is only through the efforts of the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton that we will ever achieve any kind of racial equality.


    Posted By James, Phoenix AZ : September 29, 2007 9:44 am

    – – – – – – – –

    The greatest form of flattery has been said to be imitation. I think even GREATER form of flattery is impersonation!

    Thanks "James – Phoenix" for attempting make silly statements contrary to MY real views. It only goes to show the weakness of your true thought and position. Instead of directly challenging my views with logic and facts – you resort to grade-school antics. Any CNN regular very easily sees the empty rhetoric you've attempted to post versus the expanded logic and reasoned approach I take.

    Keep it up, though. It's amusing.

    September 29, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    There is no distinction of race, gender, etc. in brillant minds. Any attempt to undermine the intelligence of an individual, regardless of race, gender, etc. is truly not the sign of a brilliant mind. America has made progress in regards to race and that's one of many reasons I am proud to be an American.

    September 29, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. lavelle Rochester,ny

    Contray to the prior black presidential candidates (Jesse Jackson & Al Sharpton) who ran on a black platform, Obama is running as a half black on a white platform to please the white voters.

    He has pleased neither group of people, and that reflects on his poll standings. In South Carolina where black is predominant, Obama is falling in polls. The people there have realised that Obama has failed to addressed the black concerns at all. Meanwhile, Obama's poll standing is also falling in New Hampshire, a predominantly white state.

    As Jessee Jackson & Al Sharpton said, Obama's platform adresses mainly to the white voters.

    Posted By A. Thomas, New York, NY : September 29, 2007 10:20 am

    where are u getting your info from?

    September 29, 2007 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  21. al, San Francisco, CA

    Yes, america has embraced our black fellow citizen as our sons or daughters – Tiger Wood, Condi Rice, etc.

    However, it is too bad that Obama as black or half-black, talks to the concerns of white voters predominantly, per Jessee Jackosn & Al Sharpton. This explains why he fails so badly in polls in the black states, e.g., south carolina.

    September 30, 2007 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  22. colony14 author

    Get race and gender out of the argument and focus on the issues, please. I will not vote for Obama or Hillary, but that doesn't make me a racist or a sexist. I will not vote for them because they will lead America further down the road to socialism. If the Republicans can find a black woman who believes in the Constitution of the United States, I'll be first in line at the polling place!

    September 30, 2007 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. Brianna, McEwen, TN

    I'm not only white but also a Christian and I had what I thought was the privilege of hearing you speak in Nashville. But when my own brother abused in boot camp came to you for help you turned him down. You showed my family what the audacity of hope is all about and as far as I can see you're all smoke and mirrors. WOuld you have helped my brother had he been black?

    September 30, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  24. Zhonni, Nashville, TN.

    Dan in TX is right. Most of Obama supporters are White. Most blacks are supporting Clinton and have not gotten to know Obama. A black female friend of mine thought he was Harold Ford. We are talking less than 2months ago.

    September 30, 2007 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  25. Matt, Ca

    ...It could be just me but, all I've ever seen in my lifetime are scandals involving the Clinton and Bush families and their cabinets. It's about time that we get somebody trustworthy in office. It doesn't matter that Obama is black. What matters is that our next president seeks Justice, not Power.

    January 29, 2008 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
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