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. Scott

    Please find the link to the entire speech below for those who are interested in what type of man Obama really is. For those of you who think he is using race to gain an advantage in the Black community, you may notice in the speech that he challenges the Black community in ways no other candidate would do.


    January 20, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  2. Chinnu

    I donot see how playing the race card will help Hillary ?She is HURT both in the election and emotionlly after working for improving Black people life for a long time.

    The racial tone started by OBAMA'S supporters on TV when Obama lost in NH.It is helping them in SC.Now again when they LOST in NV ,they are saying that the Hispanic s are voting against Obama since he is Black.

    It is ok black people to vote for OBAMA ,because he is BLACK
    Give me a break.

    January 20, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  3. tina ny, ny

    sorry Obama you are no MLK. So stop acting like one.

    January 20, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  4. Marko, Chicago IL

    I find it odd that Bill is bashing, attacking, and smearing more now against a Democrat than he did in 2004 towards George Bush. And they say that Obama wanted to be president since kindergarten? Ha! It's obvious the Clintons wanted Kerry to lose in 2004 because Hillary wanted 2008 for herself. If Bill was half as vicious back then vs a Republican than he is now, Kerry would have beaten Bush. What a joke.

    January 20, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  5. v.cifaldi&paul



    January 20, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  6. divorced mom

    Listen for sooo long we had to endure non person of color to run our country. Now we have a WOMAN trying to run the country as well. So HRC says she has more experience....how by having pillfow talk w/ the president aka her husband is giving her more exp..

    She has her husband who was the president rooting for. Let's say she had to stand on her own two feet...what exp. would she have then.

    Let's face it we need some new blood. Not so much as hope but a change. If the country have the same problems..then let's change the leader to make a difference.

    January 20, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  7. Mark Morris, Cupertino CA

    I've recently lost the great respect I had for Bill Clinton. There is a clear conflict of interest at play when a respected ex-president takes on the role of attack dog against the new progressive leader. Bill is shamelessly distorting the truth to try to bring down Obama, while Obama is trying to raise the bar of acceptable political discourse. We need to stand against the Clinton machine, and their willingness to win at all costs! Go Obama, you have my vote!

    January 20, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  8. CK

    Hey Frank,

    Don't you think having an African-American president could go a long way towards making African-Americans feel that they are equal citizens and they don't need to be treated any differently? Wouldn't having an African-American president put us on the road towards an affirmative action free society sooner than a bunch of republicans complaining about how it's unfair? Barack Obama is a great thinker, great communicator, and understands the racial divide in this country very well. His mother was white his father was from Africa. I think Obama would completely agree with your final statement. He wants African-Americans to stand up, believe in themselves, and build from within their communities. He's not looking for handouts.

    January 20, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  9. Annie

    I am very happy that the younger generation (under 45) are so supportive of Barack Obama, because that shows that this nation is truly moving away from racism. Sadly, we are not there yet.

    I am also very fearful that the women my age believe that putting a woman in the White House is more important than who that woman is. I ask them to think about what it was that you tried so hard to teach your children. Certainly it wasn't that a woman should be President of the United States at any cost. Yes, we do need to break that last glass ceiling, but to do it with a woman that has proven to be so divisive over and over again is not the answer.

    January 20, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  10. Chris Crew, WA

    Its comical to see Hillary talking about her days in the trenches supporting the civil rights movement and her love for MLK.

    In 1963, not only was Hillary Clinton a republican, but she was also a staunch supporter of Barry Goldwater, well known as a segregationist and one of the most vocal senators adamantly against passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is why he lost in his presidential bid to Lyndon B. Johnson.

    Republican Clinton was all for the candidate who was openly against civil rights and MLK. Now she wants to claim that she has fought for his "dream" and that she will be a better champion for equal rights across racial lines than Obama. I think most Americans are starting to see through the Clinton campaign's strategic "distortions" and will choose Obama.

    Its time for a change in the way politics are conducted and Obama will soon be leading the nation in the right direction!

    January 20, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  11. Craig in Madison

    The more Obama tries to gain people's respect by associating himself with famous people, the more respect I LOSE for Obama. A man has to stand on his own even simply to be a real MAN, all the moreso to be a real President. I would vote for MLK if he was running for President, but he's not.....Obama is. And because I can't vote for MLK, and I wouldn't vote for Oprah, Usher, or any other celebrities no matter how white they shined or black they glistened, then I'm not voting for Obama until (ironically) I see him standing on his own. As for his glorification of imprisoned martyrs, Obama better have the HUMILITY to hope that McCain isn't his Republican opponent in November....because McCain himself was an imprisoned martyr, while Obama never even met MLK.

    January 20, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  12. Louise

    This is not Obama's time.....maybe 4-8 years but not now.....I am all for hope but am cautious and sceptical about blind optimism which I think is pretty much all there is behind Obama AT PRESENT. I don't want to denigrate him because I like him, I feel he will be great and he will be the President...but just not yet. We need Hillary now. My ideal team would be Clinton/Obama 08...now there's a unifying team!

    January 20, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  13. Anakenker@comcast.net

    just to let you know I was baffled but I also remembered endorsement means nothing today. People are using their decisions. Hillary pulled the race card but that is not what all people see.

    January 20, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  14. Jen, Gainesville, FL

    A young, brave Obama is running for president against two Clintons combined. He has maintained to run a positive, up-lifting campaign even though the Clintons have been consistently running negative and smear campaign after Iowa. to "desperate" after Iowa.

    So far, Obama has won the Iowa pledged delegates by 1, tied the NH delegates, and won the Nevada delegates by 1 against the powerful Clinton machine ran by a former president and a former First Lady.

    If Obama loses to the Clintons, the democrats can not win in November. The country is sick of division, playing political favor, and scoring political points without good judgment, leadership, and inspiring and unifying ability to solve real issues.

    January 20, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  15. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    What happened to "Seperation of Church and State"? Oh Ya! It only applies to Republicans not Black Churches who let politicians come to Sunday Service and give a political speech.

    January 20, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  16. rw

    I have heard from many Whites in the NE that they don't have such benevolent memories of the late 50's early 60's when the civil rights movement was underway. Many recall being harassed, beaten, by young Blacks in packs. They talk of how their children, in schools that had inner city kids bused in, were also a target of black anger inspired by King. That period in Am. history needs to be revisited objectively and from personal stories from both sides.

    I still do not understand what "unity" Obama is referring to. I personally do not see disunity based on race, sexual orientation, ethnicity around me. What I see is unity based on economic status. Edwards has the RIGHT message for this country. More and more people are working to keep a middle class status while the very rich keep getting richer. It is as if the US now has an oligarchy class, a condition no different than that found in countries with emerging markets.

    January 20, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  17. Thomas - Reno, NV

    Frank... the people playing the race card are in your camp my friend. Take a look at where the accusations come from.

    You people treat this election like a tabloid. Hillary is not the next president, and couldn't beat half of the republican candidates in a national poll. Obama is up on Romney by almost 16 points. Quit playing the race card and get back to the actual issues at hand. Stop flinging mud and contributing to the HRC negative campaigning that they have stood by the last 16 years. Wake up... this isn't 1992.

    January 20, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  18. Dan, TX

    Obama transcends race, ethnicity, and politics.

    I pray America is ready to accept a true leader rather than the partisan puppet that is Hillary.

    January 20, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  19. Ann

    Obama's speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church was brillant, inspiring!

    While the Clintons want divisions, Obama is talking about Unity!

    Clinton is not elecatable in the general election! Do you get it?!?

    Aren't we not tired of Clinton/Bush dynasties?!?!? Do you remember Clinton consolidation of the Media or NAFTA?!?

    Open your eyes please!

    Obama 2008!

    January 20, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  20. Alan

    Obama is THE RIGHT LEADER to lead the White House. I urge everyone to open their eyes at what's going on. We are in a bad shape at the world stage! Don't miss this opportunity, America!

    January 20, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  21. Cheryl Coppe

    If I may enhance the quoted writer of the Atlanta Constitution article: "Barack Obama is the only President for OUR time." In this forum I said it before and feel it requires reiteration: he mirrors the experience, aspirations and heritage of millions of Americans irrespective of whether they are white, black, latin, asian or multi-ethnic. Not only does he speak eloquently of the fact that we must strive to live up to the aspirations and efforts of Dr. King - he outwardly reflects the inner truth of his belief in every way humanly possible. We cannot allow a person so eminently qualified in character, intellect and conviction of purpose to become anything less that our next President.

    January 20, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  22. Biggdawg, Chicago

    Jabari Woods, your credibility gets totally shot when you recount totally erroneous facts. Hillary Clinton is 60 years old, Champ. She was born in 1947, not 1957. And Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953, not "the 1960's".

    And by the way, Edmund Hillary died this past week in his 80's. I'm not aware that Hillary claims to be his namesake, but doing simple math, it is possible that Edmund Hillary accomplished some feat prior to Everest that might draw attention to his perserverance and cause one to be his namesake.

    You Obamaniacs lovers are so silly and misinformed. Base your opinion on fact, and come over to the real candidate as a result.

    This brother is with Hillary 100%...

    January 20, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  23. MG

    There is such a double standard here. Obama is trying to invoke (ie use) MLK's great legacy for his own political gain, and it is disgusting. And here he is clearly playing the race card. If Hillary were to go to a black church, or have endorsements from black leaders, she would be criticized to pandering to the black community. But Obama does it, and it's "inspirational". This is sickening, and it is such a double standard. And in this so called "inspirational" speech, he talked again and again and again about hope and change, but said nothing about how to do it. It's ridiculous. He says again and again that this election should not be about race, but here he is AGAIN, raising the race card. And if the majority of the black vote in SC goes to Obama, then it is indeed, ALL ABOUT RACE. Hillary will not divide the country like that, she unites all.

    January 20, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  24. Linda

    I think the Clinton's are running a "dirty" campaign to try and discredit Obama. What kind of president would Hillary make running this kind of campaign? I am a republican, but can't stand the way the Clinton's are running Hillary's campaign. Is Hillary running for President or Bill (again)?

    January 20, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. soulonart

    It is not a play of the race card to represent your community. Speaking at Ebenezer Baptist Church, during Martin Luthur King's holiday weekend, and not representing being a black man, would be a smack in the face of all in the audience. Hiliary Clinton is proud to be a women vying for the presidency as should Obama be proud to be an African American vying for that same role. It is not a surprise many African Americans will support Obama, nor is it racist; no more so than calling all the women suppoting the idea of a female president sexist.

    January 20, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
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