A writer writes about the writing in Obama’s speech on race

From my friend Toddie Downs, at her most excellent blog, WordHappy (at the end of the post, she states explicitly that she is examining the speech from a writer’s perspective only):

…one of the main purposes of the speech was to respond to the inflammatory comments made by Obama’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr…

In [his] response, we see Obama’s immediate but measured response to a political controversy. But the speech transcends the controversy. By juxtaposing the conflicting elements within Rev. Wright and also his own grandmother, Obama exposes and juxtaposes his own loathing of racism against the love and loyalty of family. This side-by-side comparison of conflicting elements becomes a thematic motif of his speech, explicitly stated toward the beginning of his remarks:

I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

I agree completely with Toddie and have referred to this aspect as making the speech universal. It’s the only way to appeal to those who are open enough to listen, since we know, sadly, that not everyone is.

7 thoughts on “A writer writes about the writing in Obama’s speech on race

  1. The sadness of people’s inability to listen and or even comprehend, you could say I refuse to accept the ignorance of the majority…but then you are in denial.

    None of this is real adversity; its mostly contrived and nothing will change until the adversity real and is no longer detached. Even when it surrounds everyone they still will say they need to do something casting the blame on someone other then themselves.

    I do not think we have suffered enough to get the change…we may have to suffer for our ignorance some more. We are beginning the downward slide and inertia will carry it, physics more than sociology.

    I believe that character will form through the adversity, then the change comes and with thoughtfulness and careful consideration…perhaps, maybe, one can only hope.

    It could be the conservative right that takes us to our demise it may be our destiny. Though shall not take the lord Gods name in vain, their agenda riddled with vanity in that of self-interests, greed, decadence and reckless disregard lacking compassion and wisdom.

    How much time do they require to prove them selves wrong?

    The majority rules and ignorance abounds….party of god your table is ready…sorry we only have a penance menu…bread and water, sorry it I very expensive feel fortunate some have none.

  2. Why is there a need to feel sorry for Obama’s grandmother? Obviously he loves her and I don’t doubt she loves him, but the very act of becoming a grandmother doesn’t dissolve ALL racist or biased notions this woman or any woman of a certain age may have carried for a good portion of a lifetime.

    It was her daughter who married a black man, not her. I love my mother dearly, but she’s been known to say things about people who are of my husband’s cultural background and while not racist, they are still comments based on stereotypes that she grew up with.

  3. The “throwing his grandmother under the bus” statement was repeated by the right wing pundents for days. Why because they had to find something wrong with this speech.

    The fact is he did no such thing. He expessed real fears she had, and he went on to comment that fears like that are based in real experiences.

    He also expressed clearly the love she had for him and clearly the love he has for her.

    I have such family members, the vast majority of us do. Acknowledging that those feelings exist is the truth, it has nothing to do with throwing any one under a bus.

  4. I got the feeling as I read the speech that his grandmother had probably been made known of his feelings at some point. Given how exact he seems to be in his speeches, I can’t imagine him allowing it to come out of the blue with his grandmother. That being said, I’m certain she’s torn between pride for her grandson and mortification for herself. It can be extremely hard, though, to overcome some of the cultural biases that people have grown up among; I’d bet most of us have at least one senior relative who makes much the same comments – I know my family had one. But yes, I’d like to hear from her too.

  5. Julia – I do think others have said this kind of thing. Here’s a good post at BlogHer about that very issue re: did he throw his grandmother under the bus, so to speak.

    I sure hope he told her about the speech first! Because remember, it is possible – though we don’t know it – that she recognizes how her comments and attitudes fit in too, and she may very well be just fine with them, and accept that he isn’t.

    But yes, wouldn’t it be great to hear from her?!

  6. I’m wondering. Am I the only one who feels sorry for Obama’s grandmother? This is the woman who raised him, the one who changed his diapers, who fed him, the one that wiped his tears, cleaned his scrapes and the one that Obama threw under a bus to point her out as a racist who feared black men for being black. That doesn’t seem to be the woman who raised her black grandson to be a budding politician.

    Maybe because I am a grandmother this has stuck in my craw. I was appalled and saddened by this side of Obama. Who’s wiping Obama’s grandmother’s tears? Or are they worth nothing.

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