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. Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA

    Margarita, do you know how many death threats the Obama family have received since he announced his candidacy? I'd say that's putting your life on the line. Certainly not to the degree someone like Dr. King did, but it's at least comparable.

    Anyone that thinks Obama is running for president as some sort of vanity project or ego trip needs to wake up. Seriously.

    January 20, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  2. Carrie

    Obama 08!

    YES WE CAN!!

    January 20, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  3. favor

    dat speech was good-straight to the point, l've been waiting for a candidate to point out to the black community where they failed to unite-it pains me in my heart to see the division between blacks and jews!!!!!!-immigrants-well-obama you made a good point

    January 20, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  4. charlotte

    MLK and JFK were two of the best speakers in my generation. They also both put their lives on the line. They talked the talk and walked the walk. Regean was pretty good as well, fooled me into crossing over. That is something I hopefully will never do again. Obama is a good speaker, but I just can't get behind him at this time. I look beyond the speech, and see nothing to ignite a fire in me.

    January 20, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  5. forrestine Eubanks

    Some more of Obama's generic, non-committal, fluff talk. How do you mention MLK, a Baptist Christian minister, and homophobia in the same sentence or even conversation. "......The content of his Character........" Do your homework, Obama. No, as African American s we are not blameless, but that sly little double talk is a conversation for another day-another forum-another focus. If some of us are crazy as a people, we have stood under the lash of some of the most intense mind and soul rape visited upon a people and given the fragility of the mind, it';s going to take longer than 300+ years to reverse or ameliorate the psychological and spiritual damage of slavery and subsequent oppression. Every trick in the deck has been played out against us. He ought to go some where and lend his mind to healing us instead of chasing his ego or someone's payoff running for the presidency of the United States. Run and tell that!

    January 20, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  6. John Adkisson

    I have seen the entire speech. I have now seen and heard at least five separate speeches in which his oratory soars far beyond any leader since the sixties. This guy speaks to something deep within me and apparently deep within millions of us. He is simply wonderful.

    January 20, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  7. Cristina

    I agree Margarita.

    I feel insulted when he compares himself to MLK.

    He is fast-tracking his career. He organized votes, signed up voters. That was his community organization.

    I don't see himself putting himself on the line for anything other than running for office. It's not right that he does that, compare himself to MLK and allow his wife to say race-based comments.

    January 20, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  8. marie Opelousas,Louisiana

    Obama, don't get into the Clinton's trap by answering all of the negatives. Continue the type of speeches that got you where you are now in the polls. Be yourself. That will work for you.

    January 20, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  9. ray in vegas

    This was a beautiful speech! My wife and I were dumb-struck and very touched after we finished watching it on TV.

    He pulls no punches in this speech, telling it like it is. He preaches personal responsibility, empathy, and hope.

    Just when you think he couldn't possibly outdo his last speech, he hits one out of the park! This was easily as historic and timely as MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech.

    If everyone would just stop listening to lies and innuendo and actually listen to one of Obama's speeches, they would understand why so many of us have dedicated so much time and effort to get him elected.

    It would not be an overstatement to say that this man has changed my life in a positive way.

    January 20, 2008 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  10. James Brown ( Independent )

    Obama IS the right person at the right time.

    Clinton will never get elected in the General. Independents won't vote for her , and Dems will cross over to keep her out of the White house...........she is un-electable.

    OBAMA 08

    January 20, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  11. LA

    This man is not MLK but he sure is pulling that race card out when he needs to remind people he is an African American man. Pretty speeches don't make a great man and his rhetoric is politics 101. Tell the stupid people what they want to hear and do as you please when you get the vote. I read his congressional record adn he is no way MLK or even close. Obama is not great and so far all he has is the race card to pull.

    January 20, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  12. GLC

    HEY DEMOCRATS STOP THIS DUMB CRAP! I do not know who played what card and I DO NOT CARE! We have a chance to destroy the Republican party once and for all!! I don' t know about you but the Republicans have made my life miserable. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE. An Obama/Clinton or a Clinton/Obama ticket will destroy the republican party once and hopefully for all time. Let fight hard for our democratic canidates but lets destroy the republicans.

    January 20, 2008 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  13. a little sad

    jsg January 20, 2008 7:50 pm ET

    "It's time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

    Time for what? Are there any standards for the next president. or are we supposed to let the country go further in to H*ll in a hand basket because it is "time"?

    January 20, 2008 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  14. Bethany, St. Louis MO

    As a woman, having a choice is important to me. That's why I choose Obama.

    January 20, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  15. NOBAMA NO WAY

    A little late to try to pick up the gay vote, NOBAMA.

    HILLARY CLINTON 2008

    January 20, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  16. idahosa

    i watched as the best political team on CNN kept emphasizing the need for hillary to show some emotion in her campaign. then i wondered, isn't that in itself playing the gender card? without surprise she shed some tears, got the support of female voters and won NH.

    whenever we speak from the heart, people are moved and this always stood out to me in all of MLK's speeches. MLK spoke from his inner most being. to this very day any time i see a documentry on him and hear him speak, tears still roll down my eyes.

    Obama always speaks from his inner most being and that is what makes his speeches so powerful. some prominent blacks have ran for president before him but not many have been able to win the support of all races like him. why? cos right from the very start, uniting the nation has always been his vision, which was and still is MLK's dream.

    Obama is taking MLK's dream a step further by veying for the highest position of authority in america. because in a position of authority, you can actually do more to serve the needs of the people that you represent. and as with Obama, the people of america.

    i love and admire senator Obama and his vision for the great nation of America. pls lets stand by him and stand for him to return this nation back to the promise land.

    January 20, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  17. JAZ

    Wow, BO! You go brother. You are the new MLK. Keep invoking his style, it will make for some funny contrast videos for when you talk like a old-money patrician.

    Will the real BO please stand up and quit hiding your middle name. MLK, JFK, RFK, FDR, LBJ, the list goes on. Quit hiding your Muslim ancestry.

    January 20, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  18. Ed

    There hasn't been a presidential ticket without a Bush or Clinton on it since 1976.

    This is America, not a monarchy. I cannot stress this enough. No matter what you think about Hillary Clinton it is NOT AMERICAN to have two families running our country. It's time for some serious change, and by "change" I mean real change.

    Barack Obama is the candidate that can bring forth the most drastic change to our country.

    OBAMA '08

    January 20, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  19. darrell

    Margarita, Los Angeles

    Society Oppress oppress the most, all politician have some motive. Hillary and Obama's motive is in the right place. However, Obama unifies people like Bill Clinton of old. Obama enlist Americans into this change, as did JFK. Obama can empathize being disenfranchised. Now the Oppress can have their voice heard.

    Bill had no Washington experience in 1992. Then, he said, Old experience is irrelevant, as his argument for change.

    That is Obama's argument with Hillary's experience, Old experience is irrelevant
    She voted for war with Iraq and 2007 voted for war with Iran. That does not seem like change, or a willingness to learn from prior mistakes.

    Obama 08,

    January 20, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  20. Shocked!!!

    Great speech. Thank you Sen. Obama – I like both you and Sen. Clinton. I hope we (democrats) can stop all the bashing and support the nominee.

    January 20, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  21. Amir

    And while I can understand that every American is free to give their support to the candidate of choice I was, however, intrigued by the comments from Congressman Charles Rangel regarding why he endorses Hillary instead of Obama. In short Rangel's explanation was that (to summarize) "while he likes Obama but doesn't believe a person of color can run the country"!!! Really Congressman Rangel!?

    It's well documented Rangel has been in Hilary's pocket for years (heck Hillary spent decades imbedding herself as part of the Washington establishment) but that comment takes the cake. Obama would be a better leader than Hillary not because of their sex or color but b/c he's NOT "status quo" and second many congressmen whom we elected 2 yrs ago are also NOT Washington status quo establishment. What better way to put icing on the cake against the status quo than to elect Obama in '08.

    January 20, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  22. Porter

    Funny how the left praises Obama for speaking at a church but if Huckabee has a lit bookshelf that kinda sorta resembles a cross in an ad you get 500 "Separation of church and state" posts.

    January 20, 2008 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  23. Dwayne, Pa

    Ladies and Gentlmen, the Clinton campaign will continue to play the race card, and every other dirty card in the deck. Of course, they will not play them directly, They will have one of her "supporters" put something out there, then pretend they knew nothing about it, and wait for Obama supporters to respond, then blame him for it.
    I can't believe people can't see this strategy.
    And I realize women want the first woman President. I just wish they could see that Hillary Clinton is not the first woman they want to hang their hat on.
    Senator Clinton will not be able to unite this country as she has way too many people that do not and will not like her.
    She brings too much baggage to the table for her to get the support of many Americans.
    There are millions of inteligent, capable women out there! Please ladies, pick one that you and the rest of America can be proud to call the first woman President!

    January 20, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  24. From The North

    yah Great Speech....I could give one too if someone wrote it for me and put it in front of me on a prompter in large print so I could read one line at a time!

    Yep that's what America needs in a President all right....a Great Speaker....
    And you have two before you.....quoting empty words.....Obama and Clinton.....
    And, I've never known anyone to move mountains or divide seas with words except the Divine.

    There should be a pre- requisite for those who choose to quote Martin Luther King. They should be required to demonstrate his integrity, soul, compassion, love of fellow man, and humility through action. To but regurgitate the wisdom of such a profound Leader and Humanitarian for personal gain is unconscionable.

    January 20, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  25. Murry

    Thanks, CNN for this story. When I here people of the older generation talk about Obama they say, "Wow, I haven't seen anyone that inspired me so much since Bobby Kennedy or John Kennedy or Martin Luthor King." Not that Obama can replace these men, no one can. But he brings us something that we as a nation have not had for a very long time, a dream for something better. We've just become cynical over the years. There's nothing wrong with a dream, MLK had one.
    Vote for Obama '08

    January 20, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
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