January 20th, 2008
01:45 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama urges unity from MLK's pulpit

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/20/art.obamachurch.ap.jpg caption="Obama spoke at King’s old church a day before the holiday celebrating his birth."]ATLANTA (CNN) - After a bitter few weeks on the trail, Barack Obama spent Sunday morning talking unity at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once presided.

He recalled the legacy of discrimination against African-Americans - but challenged the audience at the historic black church to take a look at a few lingering prejudices among some within the community itself.

"And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community," he said, citing homophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Obama told the congregation Sunday morning that if King could forgive his jailers, "surely we can look past what divides us in our time."

Obama's visit to the city coincided with his Sunday endorsement by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which cited his "appeal across many of the lines that have divided America, adding that "both Clinton and Obama would make very good presidents, [but] Obama is the person; this is his time."

Georgia voters head to the polls February 5.

In New York City, Hillary Clinton spent the morning at another historic black church, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where she picked up the endorsement of its pastor, the Rev. Calvin Butts.

Obama's chief rival for the Democratic nomination also sounded a conciliatory note Sunday. "I have the highest regard and admiration for my friend and colleague Sen. Barack Obama. I am honored to be running with him," she said. "I hope that this election remains focused on the big challenges that confront us."

Related video: Watch Sen. Obama at the Ebenezer Baptist Church

Related video: Watch Sen. Clinton on Dr. King's legacy

Related video: Watch John Edwards on Dr. King's legacy

–CNN's Chris Welch contributed to this report
soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Becky Montgomery

    This speech was amazing! He has the vision and ability to make people see and think in ways they haven't before. It is so obvious that he is the right one!

    January 20, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  2. yeeeehaaaaaaa

    nice hood Frank.

    January 20, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  3. joseph

    I was watching c-span, the speech was so uplifting with politics apart.
    I love you Barack!

    January 20, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. Jabari Woods

    Frank: What are you talking about? Obama's speech today was seen by all as a sweeping call for unity among all people. He spoke out against racism, xenophobia, and homophobia on the part of all people, including African-American people. Your reflexive ranting is totally detached from reality.

    January 20, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. lyndon

    there wasn't this much drama during jesse jackson's or rev. al sharpton's run for the white house.

    January 20, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. Hillary HATES CATS

    Hillary Hates Cats so I would not vote for her.

    Obama needs to realize we know he is black and tell us what he will do as President.

    Nobody wants HIllary the Cat Hater, but give us the option we are not sending Obama for four yrs to talk about black history we're sending him there to run the county.

    America owes the Hillary nothing, The Clintons owe America and apololgy for embarassing us on the world stage, when Bill lied to Congress.

    January 20, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. Gordo

    Here goes Obama playing the race card again. I listend to his speech and it was full of phony promises of change and the retorihc of hope. Once again Obama is playing to emotion with all of the MLK comparisons. Why is Usher going to appear at an Obama rally? Is it for the same reason that Chuck Norris and Rick Flair show up at Huckabee rallys?? Obama has no problem dragging Oprah out playing not only the race card but the gender card as well. Clinton gets an endorsement from the prominet African American church and community leader Rev. Butts and Obama supporters jump all over her? She was standing outside the church, at least she has the class to not interfere with peoples religion.

    January 20, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. charlieblaze

    For people who always argue that Obama plays the "race card", please tell me how he is playing the race card here? He is actually challenging the black church in Harlem to look at itself. But, I guess none of the other astute readers here will say that. It's just "Obama's playing the race card", and Clinton is so much better. If you doubt what I mean, examine how people like Gloria Steinem can write nationally syndicated columns that advocate support of Hillary because of her gender, since it will supposedly break a glass ceiling for women. Yet there is no way that someone could do the same for Obama. I do not advocate anyone voting solely on race or gender, and I think some of the tactics that the Clinton campaign have enacted are encouraging voting on gender.

    January 20, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. Eric

    Frank, you wouldn't know the race card if it hit you across the face. He's asking for unity across all races, but is not blind to the differences between races. People shouting "RACE CARD!" when it hasn't been played are looking like fools.

    January 20, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  10. pam

    if obama believes in unity and he is half black and half white, why is he running as a black man talking about "our community". i don't understand? why dosen't he run just as an man talking about our country's problems.

    January 20, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. Jenny, Paxton, MA

    Racial divide in this country is NOT superficial.

    The divide has been deepening under the cover of the civil rights LAW. Nominal Law doesn't work miracles, when the system itself is such that the already established, the privileged, keep getting ahead further at the expense of the disenfranchised.

    "The blacks must be inferior or lazy or something if they havn't caught up with the whites yet even though they have had equal rights under the Law, blah blah blah" is of course all BS.

    look at the subprime mortgage disaster. it was meant to help those who give big chunk of their modest paycheck to their parasitic landlords (who have made fortune by speculating on housing and charging obscene amount for rent) to finally start accumulate their own capital and get financially established instead of their blood being sucked out of them for their whole life.

    oh no, the blood sucking loan sharks couldn't let that happen. so the modern day loan sharks lured them into subprime mortgage schemes, so that they rake more money either way through exhorbitant interest revenue or repossessed properties (and quickly wrote the law to deny bankrupcy as an option for those who default), leaving the unexperienced, unsuspecting, and desperate poor out on the streets of this obscene country.

    no help for the homeless, though, who were unscrupulous and greedy. but huge tax-dollar bailouts for the loansharks (banks) themselves that are robbed and looted out by their own managers. how nicely done.

    greenspan had the nerve to say "the prosecuters (such as attorney generals of the states) are ill-equipped to prosecute the banks and lenders that perpetrated criminally shady and misleading lending practices" under his own watch. he is likely to have meant that such criminal practices were and still are technically LEGAL thanks to Bush and neo-cons and their democratic collaborators in the congress.

    thanks to billary and bush's "less government oversight is better business" approach, the african american community stands to lose more than what they have gained financially when this mortgage crisis is over and done.

    now, where do you start to untangle this web of structured inequality?

    think about it.

    January 20, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  12. Karen

    Parts of it were great, parts of it wandered and yet, he managed to get in his political digs while at church. pffft.

    January 20, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  13. Independent

    Sen Obama's speech was touched to my heart. He called unity of the country to overcome current difficulties we are facing. (http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/rospars/CGxG9)

    I have a grave concern about Hillary's leadership skills. She may have her own plans about all the issues but those are not be able to achieved by herself.
    She and Bill Clinton have deeply divided democrats so far between blacks and whites, women and men, hispanic/lanitos and non-hispanic/latinos. Bill Clinton drew too much media attention far more than Sens. Obama and Edward to play dirty politics . What we are seeing in her campaign is a reflection of what we will see under so called Hillary's presidency, Bill Clinton's 3rd term.

    January 20, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. JB

    Must this country go through the same who- is- more- racially- sensitive dance every four years? Romney makes a forced, look-at-me comment, Hillary has to explain why she dared mention LBJ, etc. The cultural legacy of MLK Jr. has long since become the private preserve of aging 60s liberals, black and white, and I'm tired of presidential candidates (and presidents) having to prove their racial bonafides all over the country. We elect a president of all the people; enough with punishing candidates with hijacked history.

    January 20, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  15. Susan

    For those of you out there.....you must read the full text of the speech given by Obama at Ebenezer Baptist Church.........I also heard a portion of it on video... It was the best speech I have ever heard from any presidential candidate......What an amazing man. and leader............a true humble and dedicated man............
    This country needs Obama..............Where is the press coverage of this...I ask you?
    Signed,,,,,,,,,, White Northern Older Woman for Obama

    January 20, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  16. JAM

    Deeds speak louder than any speeches and Obama has already played the race card one time too many for me. I know it is just a matter of time before he brings it up again.

    January 20, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  17. Just Wondering

    Frank: Where is the race card in this speech?? Read the article before responding...

    January 20, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  18. Louis, New Orleans, LA

    Politicians cannot solve the worlds problems. Every day common people genuinly change the lives of many. In this political season, some people want to make history and others want to make a name for themselves, while others really think about the daily problems Americans face. If I would have to choose, it will be Obama. He has been more sincere in dealing with the poblic. He was first to call a truce after the back and forth fighting over spilled milk, old story I may call it.
    The one thing I have against the Clintons is doing everything humanly posible to win an election, even to the extend of laughing as their supporters insult their oppenent. That is not integrity? and that is not a sincere politician who wants change? What is bad is worng and what is wrong is unacceptable period; whether you are the Clintons, Obamas or whatever you are. Obama has genuine passion for why he want to be president I hope all AMericans black, white, green, or blue will see that. This country has been so blessed different races but what AMerican lacks is taking avantage of this blessing. Race should be a stepping stone not a stumbling block unfortunately, the reverse is the case. God revive America

    January 20, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  19. Doug

    African americans should use whatever in their arsenal to get benefits long over due to them. They have had to tirelessly fight for ordinary rights, caucasians have been able to enjoy for centuries. Race card, if you want to know more, the German government still until this day is paying financially and personally for the holocaust, why, that happen decades ago. oh, if african american were jewish and someone said that they were playing the race card, they could be called anti-semetic. Question, does anyone know how many africans were killed during the slave trade? If history serves, african americans are not the only race that are treated like second class citizens, remember the Indians that were wiped off their land after giving the hand of friendship, "Thanksgiving" is the holiday that marks this event in history. How about spanish & mexican americans. Slavery, murders, rapes, the assassinations of pominent civial rights leaders, and much more are some of the news worthy stories that America still keeps in the dark. If you go back even further into the dirty laudry of America, I'm sure there's enough to make a couple of good horror movies. African americans will become equal when they know caucasians willing to let an african american lead. Then we can say, America is truly color blind.

    January 20, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  20. Patrick, New York,Ny

    Alice I completley agree with you!

    CLINTON 08!

    January 20, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  21. BRG

    This is in response to the comment posted on this blog from Anakenker@comcast.net:

    It's strange that you believe Clinton's campaign is trying to keep the issue of race alive. When Obama talked about "our community" in his speech today, do you think he was referring to the American community, or just the African-American community? I'd prefer a president who rejects the idea that our country must be divided into "communities." We are all Americans. There should be only one community

    January 20, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  22. Simon

    It seems the motivation to vote for the Clintons is out of obligation for past deeds...the motivation to vote for Obama is what he can do for the Country, not what is OWED to him. WHICH is better for America?

    January 20, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  23. Florence

    Hilary gives a far too hazy impression to me. Obama seems slightly more matter-of-fact, straight-talking and trustworthy. Honesty is the best policy. However I have yet to read or hear about the details of his serious policies. People die out of political neglect or incompetence, people stay shrouded in ignorance, but the politicians are splitting atoms over abortion. People will just go to Canada anyway, forget about echoing Sunday school classes and just take part in a grown up world.

    January 20, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  24. Skinner

    Hillary drives me nuts with polished political sneaky attempts! I'm sorry but the Clintons are crooked and will do absolutely anything to try and win! She has been planning and scheming this for years.....It seems so obvious to me! She is so unbelievably FAKE and purposely plans all of her comments and moves!

    I am independent and  believe we should pick the very best candidate regardless of a stereotypically title (i.e. dem. or rep.) After studying ALL the candidates I fully BELIEVE and have faith in OBAMA! This guy is the real deal! An innovator, motivator, an true Patriot!

    OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! Come on SC! Do the right thing for our country.......................VOTE OBAMA!!

    January 20, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  25. zoey

    what did Barack focus on...
    he told the african american community that if they want equality they must start with
    their own hearts and minds... that the black community is sometimes homophobic, sometimes anti-Semites, sometimes sexist and sometimes anti-immigrant. that black men should stand with their families, and that racism is also a black problem. He is being honest, discrimination is a problem for all human beings, something that we must face and work on everyday. He's not pandering, saying what the base wants to hear, he's saying was if often the most difficult to admit. Democrats have a choice between honesty or a dynasty. In NH more than half the voters for Hillary would have preferred to vote for Bill, well Bill is not on the ballot and it's time Americans were as honest with themselves as Barack is willing to be for us.

    January 20, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
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