January 17th, 2010
01:38 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama speaks at Washington church day before King holiday

President Obama spoke at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church on Sunday.

President Obama spoke at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church on Sunday.

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama says the health care bill he is pushing through Congress will be "a victory for dignity and decency for our common humanity."

"This will be a victory for the United States of America," Obama told a service at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church on Sunday, a day before a national holiday honoring slain civil rights icon the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King spoke at the same church in 1956, at a time of change and uncertainty in the United States following a court order that ended busing segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, Obama noted.

Comparing the challenges of that era to today, Obama acknowledged that he sometimes got frustrated at the slow pace of change since his inauguration a year earlier as the nation's first African-American president.

Recalling the hopes that "life would be better from the moment I swore that oath," Obama said, "We know the promise of that moment has not been fully filled."

Invoking King's non-violent struggle against racial discrimination, Obama called on people to recognize progress as steps toward a goal instead of demanding achievement of the entire goal all at once.

"Sometimes I get a little frustrated when folks don't want to see that even if we don't get everything, we're getting something," Obama said in apparent reference to the health care debate.

Democrats faced with near-unanimous Republican opposition are negotiating a final health care bill that will lack some of the provisions championed by Obama's liberal base. Some Democrats have criticized the effort as inadequate, and Obama seemed to be addressing those concerns.

Taking on Republican criticism that the roughly $900 billion bill to overhaul the nation's health care system would cause more harm than good, Obama said the measure would make the United States a better nation by helping to care for those unable to get health insurance now.

"It will be a victory for dignity and decency for our common humanity," he said to applause from the mostly African-American congregation.

Obama also called for helping America's workers facing high unemployment in the recession, and for fighting discrimination "in all forms," including injustice against gays and lesbians.

Change requires sacrifice, Obama said, whether it is making the transition to a green energy economy, overhauling health care or finding time to read to children every day.

In his speech, Obama also noted the suffering of earthquake victims in Haiti, saying the world's Haitian "brothers and sisters" were in desperate need.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. jodi

    Keep on keepin' on, Mr.President! You are on the right track, & we are behind you 1000%

    January 17, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. ROB

    What is that lying hypocrit doing in any church-how dare he even say the word 'God'-the rest of us decent Americans know that any situation for obama is a political one...as nancy pelosi said' all candidates say things on the campaign trail'... sure-but some of them are not liars----

    January 17, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. so rich even obama couldn't hurt me but you middle class folk should worry

    is he speaking at his church? oh wait that's right he's still vetting churches, its a very important decision to him and his family and I bet he doesn't wanna rush into it.

    January 17, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. Sorry, Obamacare is going down.....

    Americans do not want this bill.........then why is Obama pushing it?...
    Answer: narcissism and self aggrandizement....

    Obama's administration is not about the People....it is about him....

    Tuesday's election in Mass. of Scott Brown will bring all this foolishness to an end....

    January 17, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. Wayne in N. Ft. Myers

    Americans can only hope that the republicans will stop trying to destroy the country with their lies and hate. If only the republicans would think about what they have done to the country, stop their foolishness, and work for the common good, it would benefit everyone. In the words of the real Hank Williams, ". . . Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight, Praise the lord! . . .I saw the light."

    January 17, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. What is he smoking?

    Obamacare will not pass.....Americans by 60-30% do not want it....

    Congress and the Senate are now realizing that if they vote for it, they can pack their bags in November......you can bet they will save their own butts and throw Obama to the wolves.....

    January 17, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  7. demo no mas

    The health insurance bill will be a disaster, period.

    January 17, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  8. all the news that's fit to omit

    Obama church, interesting.....................

    See you shortly Barry, I will be one of the HUNDREDS of Brown Supporters BOOING you and you lies.

    See you real soon loser, and especially in 2012, Mr One and done.

    January 17, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  9. AJ

    What a bunch of crap. The healthcare bill Obama is pushing through Congress is another big busines giveaway that will do little for the man on the street. The Obama Presidency has been a monumental failure of leadership and thousands (if not millions) of Democrats like myself are disheartened and disaffected. If Democrats lose at the polls in November it has as much to do with horrible leadership as right wing opposition.

    January 17, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  10. Miriam

    His health care bill is a victory for big Pharma and big insurance and a disaster for every one else.
    And I was a supporter.
    Oh & Mass, maybe if you elect Brown, Obama will get the message and let us have Senate primary in NY.

    January 17, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. Sam Sixpack

    There is no limit to how low this guy will stoop to plug for the healthcare scam. He just can't wait to divert the money that is supposed to be used for your grandmother's health care into the hands of an elite greedy few.

    January 17, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. ib

    This so called heathcare bill is a disgrace for the working man. Senior citizens will have their healthcare rationed under this thing. Thank you Obama for ruining our healthcare system especially for seniors like me.

    January 17, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  13. CTGIRL

    This is the problem I have with the far left of my party, they want it all and want it now, forget about process and compromise, if it is not instant gratification it is a failure in their eyes. Not me, I appreciate even the smallest of moves. Keep on keeping on Mr. President, rational Americans are paying attention and supporting the small moves.

    January 17, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Fitz in Texas

    "This will be a victory for the United States of America,".....Actually, it won't. This will be a victory for Obama and the rest of the Democrats to control more of our lives and milk the good paying taxpayers of this country. These people are raping America and the American people.

    January 17, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  15. Carolyn Grau

    The Obama health care bill will be a disaster for the United States and especially for seniors. Too much government is exactly why America was formed. We have the best health care in the world. It could be adjusted for a minimul amount of money for those that cannot afford insurance but we are going to be force fed this program that will be a disaster and will, along with all the other supposedly bail out, clunkers for cash, appliances for cash, etc. We ALL have to pay for this and what it has accomplished is way less then what it cost. There isn't enough money in the U.S. to pay back what our deficit will be. I personally thinks his "change" stinks.

    January 17, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. Ms S Callahan

    I"m glad he has attended church.....he would be serve this Nation in acknowleging our fate is not in the hands of Washington but in the Almighty who directs our path. Want to get rid of the oppostiion allign yourself with God.

    January 17, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. Paul H

    Obama is on the fence about so many things. When he speaks to a crowd he caters to the wants and needs of that crowd he's in front of. He soothes the masses with words, and pushes a far left leaning agenda that most working class people (regardless of color, or religion) don't want.
    The luster, and the magic of having our first African American President is being over shadowed now by the heavy burden and reality of bigger government, and far left spending. We are sinking into a sewer of wasted spending, and oppressive government! Giving freedom away one entitlement at a time.

    January 17, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. J.C. - Independent 4 Public Option

    I have a dream – Universal Health Care for all Americans.

    January 17, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. GGGG

    We are not perfect but Dr. King would be impressed with our nation's progress. We've had African Americans as President, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Generals, Supreme Court Justice, Congresspeople, Senators, Governors, Mayors, CEOs, musicians, athletes, actors and academicians. We've come a long way....lets keep the dream alive!

    January 17, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |