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. Tony, Enterprise, Alabama

    This from a man that has run the most negative campaign in history!

    He wants unity? I suspect it was just for the crowd inside the church, because outside the church he is doing all he can to rip the Democratic Party apart! He has already said that the Republicans are the party of ideas, perhaps he would be happier as a Republican?

    I will never vote for this man now. Not in 2008, 2012, 2016...etc. Never!

    January 21, 2008 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  2. betty

    I wonder if Obama wrote the speech or did someone else write it. I have yet to hear anything positive that Obama is going to do for this country. I have only seen him touch lightly on the changes Americans will want to see. Obama should not make the mistake that all of us are going to vote for him because he is Black. If he do not win the election maybe Oprah will give him his own tv show.

    January 21, 2008 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  3. Basquale

    Americans I , a white European, ask you for whom would have MLK given his vote? Hilary or Bill?

    January 21, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  4. Basquale

    Hilary or Obama I meant. Here you see the influence of Bill doing his job!

    January 21, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  5. We All Have A Dream

    Give it up, Moe! Senator Obama was invited eons ago and Coretta Scott King fully approved. He gave a grand, uplifing speech which is a lot more than I can say about a lot of other politicos not to mention some of the posters on this blog.

    Barack Obama spoke the truth yesterday. Unity is important and we won't acheive that until we shut out the bleating sheep on both extremes. Only then will we "overcome"

    January 21, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  6. demwit

    CNN has the best political team anywhere!!!

    Obama doesn't have a chance..

    January 21, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  7. Greg in OH


    Go to his website, he has a 65 page plan for change and listen to the debates because he says it.

    January 21, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  8. Greg in OH

    Tony, Enterprise, Alabama,

    You probably were not going to vote for him anyways. I think you have your facts wrong, it is the Clintons ripping the party apart. And no he doesn't want to be a Republican, he was making a point.

    January 21, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  9. Paul, Miami florida

    Now that Obama has designated himself the king of Dr. King's mantle and crown, what next? I find his action to be pathetic at best. That just dilutes the greatness of a great man. Politics, very dirty business.

    January 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  10. Mark C.

    It is a little sad to see so many of you harbor some sort of hate for Obama that I cannot understand. But even Dr. King was hated by some and still is to this day by others.

    I guess some may believe that if enough of you say Obama is trying to be Dr. King or that he runs a negative campaign you can will it ot be so. The facts are that if Dr. King were alive he would be immensely proud of Obama. When this church asked him to come and honor Dr. King's legacy by speaking he accepted the invitation. He has been endorsed by the pastor of that church as well as many of the people who actually served with and for Dr. King. I have come to realize that America really gets the leadership it dserves. For those who say they would never vote for Obama under any circumstances – thank you. I feel smarter already.

    January 21, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  11. B, Gainesville, FL

    How can you guys say that Obama has no experience and has not "done the work"? He's been in elected office longer than Hillary has. If you look at the experience, Hillary says she has 35 years (if you are counting her time as first lady in Washington and in Arkansas, and her community work). Well, Obama then has 27–if you are counting his time in the state legislature and his community work. Big difference? I think not.

    Legislators who have been in office for years are supporting Obama and the cross-party line work he's done. This is not lip service, my friends. It is proven fact that Obama can unite legislators and interest groups. He's done it before. The Clinton campaign would have you believe he's never done anything but talk...don't be so naive! Look at his record. Take some time to even GOOGLE his sponsored bills. You'll see really quickly that the man has done excellent work in his time in elected and non-elected positions. I get so frustrated that you would buy that junk without looking it up youselves! Why would a man with NO experience run for office? Of COURSE he has experience. Oratory skills and substance aren't mutually exclusive! He just isn't linked with the name that dominates the democratic establishment. I'm about the future–not the past. I don't want to go back to teh Clinton years. I want to go forward to the Obama years!

    January 21, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  12. Will, Manchester, NH

    The only thing Bill dreams about is the White house with interns. It is shameful that Bill is living on past glory. He was not the BEST president but definitely well liked. Now it seems like he is hell bent upon erasing his likability factor even.

    January 21, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. Jimmy Baldwin (SC)


    I don't think Obama is comparing himself to MLK. The media is responsible for a great deal of the caricatures.

    I really hope you'll give this man a chance by listening to his speeches and reading his policy documents.

    He is definitely the best shot America has.

    I hope we can all come together and make history.

    V. best wishes!

    January 21, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. Irondi nwogu

    I have voted Republican since I became a US citizen. I am leaning towards Obama now. However, if the Democrats continue to play the politics of hide and seek where Bill (Lewisky) Clinton continue to distort Obama records, I will vote for Mccain if he wins the GOP nomination.

    January 21, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  15. GaryO Virginia Beach

    Hey Jabari Woods and AJ, IL,

    You make a big deal about Hillary Clinton supporting Barry Goldwater back in 1964. But that was before Hillary could even vote. Hillary was in high school back then. She was a teenager from a Conservative household, and it doesn’t surprise me that an impressionable young girl would be influenced by her father’s politics.

    Fortunately, a more mature and worldly Hillary later saw the light, and she came to realize that the Democratic party is simply more consistent with her values. Now that was a positive change. Hillary is not a kid anymore. And she is not a wet-behind-the-ears junior senator like Obama.

    Hillary is a mature and capable woman who has the capacity, the knowledge, and the humanity to affect positive changes and clean up the mess left to us by another Republican administration.

    HILLARY IN 2008 !

    January 21, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. Kelly

    I feel that Mr Obama is to young for the preisdency But feel if he was to run with Mrs Clinton and learn for the next 8 years I feel he will be the next best president

    January 21, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Geri Sacramento

    Greg in Ohio: I've been to the Obama website and read his Blueprint for Change and I would suggest that Obama go there and do the same. If he read what his plans for change are, or if someone could explain them to him (and he was able to understand them), perhaps he'd be able to hold his own in a debate. Maybe he'd even be able to give a stump speech where he'd be able to tell the folks what his plans are.

    So, Betty, go ahead, log onto Obama's website. There you'll find the "Obama" plans that he can never articulate in debates, interviews, or stump speeches.

    January 21, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. Dave

    So what about the good old Democrat cry for separation of church and state? Any candidate who takes their campaigning to the pulpit and believes as the Democrats do is either a hypocrite or delusional.

    January 21, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. TX in NV

    dear fellow americans,

    it's important for me that people get involved and stay informed and do something to bring about change in this, our lives, in this, a great political heat.

    i stood for two hours on friday to see barack obama speak and shake his hand to say thanks simply because i wanted to hear for myself and see for myself and engage myself in something profound with a complete group of strangers...because as much as we don't ever think about it, we are sharing this life with them...and as much as i never think about it, all i've known politically in my lifetime is a country run by a monarchy headed by two families. experience is a great thing, but after you've done something for so long, you inevitably become jaded and you get caught up in past agendas and lose sight of the now and the tomorrows. this is why we should want to live in a country where our leader can still step outside of his/her role as a politician and see life and its issues from the perspective of an ordinary citizen.

    i spent saturday caucusing, talking to the old, poor, beat people of vegas' east side, listening to their fears and hopes and concerns, wondering how hard it must be to believe in change at age 65 when nothing has ever seemed to offer a solution. the edwards people were seated right next to the hillary people, and we, the obama group, were across the room. when the edwards people didn't have enough of a presence for vitality, they had to choose between hillary or obama – and i thought to myself, these people try their best not to stand out any more than they do – do you think they're going to get up and walk across a room in front of perfect strangers for something as charged and heated as a caucus...no. so they didn't move, didn't speak, just sat there, letting their own uncomfortable social anxiety prevent them from doing what they might have wanted to....and this makes me still quite sad.

    we can not be afraid to move forward as a country.

    January 21, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  20. Marie in Arlington Tx

    Have to ask this question of African Americans. If the Clintons are so much in favor of seeing African Americans advance in this country, why in the world are they so vicious in their attacks on Barack Obama? it's just a question for thought.

    Their actions just don't seem to fit their rhetoric on civil rights. You can forget the experience thing...I have to say "what experience". If she was co-president with Bill she wouldn't be able to run for office would she?

    But then I am a white independent who always voted Republican who IS VOTING FOR OBAMA and it doesn't matter what his race is. I care about character and honesty.

    January 21, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  21. Marie in Arlington Tx

    To Obama 08 or MO.NY on your post of 1/21 @ 8:05 am...that was beautiful.

    I agree with your beautifully worded comment. The youth of our nation do stand on our shoulders and reach higher than we did.

    Obama IS THE FUTURE...the Clintons are the past.

    January 21, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Ginny CA

    GarryO Virginia Beach: I couldn't have stated my sentiments any better. Your message was perfectly worded. Thanks, you did my work for me today.
    HILLARY "08

    January 21, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. vasa moorthy

    Sen.Obama should continue to campaign as Sen Obama, not as Rev.Martin Luther King or as President John F.Kennedy. JFK was a great president of sixties. Rev.King was a true prophet with vision . He never wanted an office. Angry stance in campaign for president of USA is not befitting, win or lose. In 21st century the problems are different. Economy,health,terrorism, education, immigration and crime are the problems to be addressed.

    January 30, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8