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And some responses:
Obama's Speech Echoes Kennedy's 1960 Address on Religion
By Indira Lakshmanan and Heidi Przybyla
March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama tried to do for race what John F. Kennedy did for religion.
The Democratic presidential hopeful yesterday attempted in Philadelphia to quell a firestorm set off by incendiary sermons made in past years by his former pastor and adviser, and to challenge Americans to transcend racial prejudices.
While the speech Obama delivered is unlikely to win over those who oppose his candidacy because of his race, it may serve a similar purpose as Kennedy's address to Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960 -- dispelling concerns among some voters about his core beliefs, analysts and historians said.
Obama's speech ``made clear that his own views differed'' from those expressed by his longtime pastor, just as Kennedy made clear that a Catholic president would not answer to the Vatican, said Ted Sorensen, 79, an Obama supporter who helped Kennedy write the Houston speech that was a turning point in his race for the White House.
``The parallels with Kennedy instantly came to mind,'' said political scientist Stephen Hess of the Washington-based Brookings Institution who was a speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower.
Tommy Christopher writes:
The hysteria over Barack's church seemed false to me at first, an absurd "Helter Skelter", Charles Manson-esque fever dream conjured up to give people an excuse to back away from Obama. I have since come to understand that, for a great many people, it is a real fear that stems from estrangement from black people.
This is the heart of this misunderstanding about so-called "black racism." Obama's church is committed to "black values" in the same way that Greek Orthodox churches hew to the Greek culture, but to an America steeped in Willie Horton and OJ Simpson and fears about the Black Panthers, and knowing of the terrible resentment that must be present in black Americans for things that modern day whites feel no responsibility for, they see an equivalence there to white supremacists and their ilk.
Connecticut Post's Urban writes:
Obama urged Americans to find "a common stake we all have in one another" rather than "accept politics that breed division." Obama "issued a major challenge to America that may go down in history as a turning point in the nation" (3/19).
Dallas Morning News' Slater writes:
Obama "took a bold step -- rather than play down the conflict he embraced it. In a 37-minute speech that pulled no punches about attitudes among both blacks and whites, he challenged the country to have a serious dialogue about race." The speech "seemed to be an opportunity" to put "the issue behind him, much as John F. Kennedy dispelled some concerns over his Catholicism in a historical speech" during his '60 campaign (3/19).
Charlotte Observer editorializes:
"It was a message our nation sorely needs to hear, and one he is uncommonly qualified to deliver" (3/19).
Contra Costa Times' Grady and Maher writes:
Obama's speech "could go down as one of those speeches that schoolchildren as asked to repeat." It could "provoke Congress to address race in America,"
Washington Post's Robinson writes:
"Once again, the conventional wisdom proved stunningly unwise ... Instead of running away, Obama issued a challenge to those who would exploit the issue of race: Bring it on" (3/19).