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. tobi

    Obama needs to campaign with the fervor he showed in Iowa. Oprah potentially will deliver the African American and Female votes as she did in Iowa and Obama should get a big bump from African Americans in South Carolina who do not want to be the state that affectively ends the run of the first realistic African American presidential candidate - just as women in Mass did not want to kill Hillary's campaign.

    There are a lot of reasons Obama SHOULD win in South Carolina, but the facts are if he loses in SC, Hillary carries all of the momentum into Super Tuesday instead of most of the momentum. Aditionally, Obama pulls heavily from peop[e who don't normally vote. If they can't turn those people out - like they haven't been able to in the last 3 states, they will have a hard time winning. In otherwords it is again do or die time for the Obama camp.

    January 20, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Kim

    I am voting for Hillary, she is the most qualified and I feel has the best chance of taking it all the way to the White House. I am a woman and not ashamed to support Hillary. Save all the speeches about just voting for a woman, it is old and done. We need to stop putting our Democratic candidates down and just stand up and be counted. I don't want to change anyones mind about their choice, I feel they have both played cards, both as guilty as the other so that will not influence my vote or I would vote for John McCain who is running a very "nice" campain compared to all of the other candidates across the board.

    January 20, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  3. Greg OH

    Go All The Way,

    What do you think about Obama/ Bloomberg? Just an idea

    January 20, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  4. dmw, roeland park,ks

    Please do not lump all Black people together as supporting Obama nor wanting handouts from the government. I am a black female; I have three degrees and have worked since the age of 16.

    For me it is a sad state for black America when black folks have in large percentages pledged support for Obama because he is black. Yet, when whites support Hillary because she is white, the media and some in the black community raise holy hell. It is double standard and hypocritical.

    Obama does play the race card when it suits him. And black American, in large percentages play the race card to make whites feel guilty.

    I do not want to live in a color blind society. That would be very dull and boring. I wish to live in a society where we are appreciated for the content of our character and not the color of our skin. As a country, we best embrace each other and understand that our differences are blessed because we are all from the same Creator.

    In a lot of ways, blacks will not let go of the past. We do not need to forget it, but, we can not continue to live our lives as if we are still in the past. In America today, everyone can make it, if they are willing to do the work and to work hard for what they want to achieve and be proud about in their lives.

    I support Hillary Clinton because she has always done the work. Obama is a great orator, but, he has not done the work to gain the experience needed to run this GREAT land of America; Hillary Clinton has!

    January 20, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  5. Ron333wood

    The most striking difference between Obama and the Clintons is Obama's expressed desire to unify rather than divide the American people to use them as a "force" against the entrenched special interest groups that control Washington. Much has been made of his positive comments about Ronald Reagan...an attempt to maintain this schism in the American populace. Obama is from the state that is home to the greatest Republican president, Abe Lincoln so perhaps that is why he is able to acknowledge Reagan's achievements. It's time to stop attacking someone just because they are in another party. This tactic was used by Bush and Rove successfully, but look at what it's done to our country for the last two terms. It's time to come together, to work together and get things changed.

    January 20, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  6. Teejay

    Frank, your comments apparently showed that you have not read Obama's speech. Pls do that and stop the blind criticism for goodness sake.

    January 20, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  7. Sharon in FL

    It's ironic that Obama is pushing unity, when he is the most divisive figure on the political scene. He is having a tremendously negative impact on the Democratic Party and Howard Dean is aiding in Obama's destruction of the party. If Obama is the nominee, I will vote Republican for the first time.

    January 20, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Will DePort

    Let's see....the rich snuck a bunch of illegals into the economy so they could make more money........at the expense of paying a living wage to Americans.....No way will we look past what divides us.......We want retroactive reparation. Our lives has been destroyed by the illegal economy. We are not going to forgive and forget....

    January 20, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. Greg, Brattleboro, VT


    " Dear Bill,

    We loved Bill Clinton as president.

    When you told us you didn't inhale, with that little twinkle in your eye, we believed you and loved you even more.

    When you got more than just a twinkle in your eye and a cigar in the - well, we stuck by you. We rallied against the vast right wing conspiracy and ushered Newt and his fellow reptilians out of office.

    Man, the 90s were fun – huh? The Macarena alone... But now we're in a new decade. Web 2.0, YouTube and camera phones; preemptive wars and terrorist attacks. It's a new era. And we've spent 8 years under the thumb of a royal son.

    We're ready for change. We have some amazing Presidential Candidates. Edwards, Obama, and of course, the candidate like family to you – Clinton.

    I know you want your wife to win. A lot of us want a Democrat in 2008. But you're getting mean Bill. That twinkle in your eye is starting to look more like crazy eye.

    You're making accusations that Karl Rove & Co. will eat up and spit back out at us come time for the general election.

    You're actually disenfranchising folks this time around, dividing the electorate at a time we need to come together.

    And Bill, you're starting to make stuff up. And this time, we're noticing. It's a new era, Bill; everything you say is recorded and broadcast.

    So what we're asking, Bill, is that you just shut up.

    Just shut up.


    Pretty Much Everyone ".

    January 20, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  10. Robert Campbell

    Presidential cabinets are a good place for people with experience. Yes, someone with 3 years of experience in the White House can bring consultancy and continuity so that the executive branch, all of it, can deal with changing times.

    Dynamic Leadership, however, along with hope and change is what the American presidency is for. If we can elect an open and candid leader full of enthusiasm, this will be a leader all Americans can respect and who all the world can respect. Such a president can coach The United States of America to fulfill the highest expectations of its founders, and maybe even address some challenges they could not have even forseen.

    Please elect Barack Obama President of the United States.

    January 20, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  11. Robert Campbell

    meant someone with 35 yeas of experience (above)

    January 20, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  12. S, WI

    Clearly, Obama has changed his speech style.
    He's trying to imitate MLK now.
    This is very unauthentic, and little bit funny too..
    Is this the change he was refering to?
    All these nonsense about him using a teleprompter or soemthing just makes me laugh.
    Instead of paying too much attention to improve the style he should concentrate on adding substance to his empty stump speeches.

    January 20, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  13. tina ny, ny

    Well Obama may be you should start at you home first. Stop you wife when she speaks publically about race. There is enough videos of her on utube.

    January 20, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  14. Jake, ATL

    If you haven't seen the speech, I urge you to see this wonderful speech in its entirety on cspan: http://www.campaignnetwork.org/ it's at the top of the page labeled "Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Campaign Event in Atlanta, GA "

    "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.

    We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity."

    January 20, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  15. jsg

    Chris from Houston, I agree with you. I thought it was me. First the big hype – Obama about to talk; Obma said; Obama on the trail and ............zip. Nothing. I run from the l/r to the kit and back and he is gone. What 's up? I have watched so much that I could count the newspeople who began, all of a sudden, wearing checked shirts last week to go along with some candidate. Some did, some didn't. haha

    Obama is going to win anyway no mattter how cheap they are about showing his campaign stops and the lesser effective parts of his speeches! Obama GO!!!!!
    It's time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 20, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. DeVone

    America needs change, honesty an all new White House a all new America.
    Not white not black America must go forward. Senator Clinton's experance
    is Bill Clinton how can they claim change when they are doing the same
    thing their Katrena buddies did. we talk about Rev.King, what would he say?
    I wonder.

    January 20, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  17. Margarita, Los Angeles


    January 20, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  18. geoffrey

    Obama has called for a new kind of politics that he says should appeal to people's hopes, not their fears.

    January 20, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  19. rob

    I am so saddened to see how the coverage of Dr. King was deminished by the media just not to air Obama in the church. Thank God we had something called Cspan.

    January 20, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  20. Tracy

    We still have dreams even us white people who are oppressed in this country. It is time for us to raise up and demand our rights and time to end dynasty in a free world like America.

    January 20, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  21. d

    He talks great, but he is definitely playing the race card. And early stumping by Oprah played a major role is this race issue.

    January 20, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  22. d

    He's got a speech writer... and he is the one advocating race ; especially when he joined hands with Oprah.

    January 20, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  23. nem

    What are you people talking about? To some degree, every successful politician has to have some sort of slogan. I truly believe Obama is a man of integrity. Hopefully, he can unify America. A most difficult venture to try to take on–as evidenced by the previous posts. Barack Obama's goals may be lofty, but at least they are goals worthy of respect. What is our current administration doing that warrants respect? Driving us further and further into debt? Further intensifying a negative image for America? We are represented by people who make Americans appear to be selfish, entitled, arrogant, and ignorant. What are the other candidates promising that is believable and genuine?

    January 20, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. Racy

    The Clintons consolidation of the Corporate Media should sound an alarm to anyone who wants to continue the Clinton/Bush Dynasties!

    Without the consolidation of the madia, we could not have the Bush dictatoship/Criminal wars! Do you get it!!!

    Obama 2008

    January 20, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  25. Scott, Madison, WI

    Margarita, L.A.:

    If you can't post something with a level of maturity, keep it to yourself! (First comes the diaper talk followed by the poop and pee talk).

    What have you done in your lifetime that makes you so resentful of others who have overcome obstacles to make something of themselves? Feeling a little threatened by the challenges in your own life? The game you are talkin' ain't so great and sounds like it's right out of the Clinton/Bush Dirty Politics 101, page1.

    January 20, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
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