Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Obama’s race speech, immigration story draw comments

Sen. Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech on racial issues prompted a spate of recent comments; other topics that sparked MinnPost readers’ interest included immigration, Gov. Pawlenty’s budget, more angst in the Minnesota attorney general’s office and women hockey players.

* * * *

In response to the video and text of Obama’s speech, published Tuesday in MinnPost, Myles Spicer said:

In concise terms: the most candid, incisive, articulate speech on racism in America I have ever heard. Should be required reading for sociology and political science classes in high schools everywhere. Those who still want to hang on Wright’s every word just don’t get it; and we are a lesser nation for it. This may be the one great opportunity in decades to really start healing the racial divide.

Steve Clemens added:

I didn’t plan on listening to the speech until I received an e-mail from a friend of mine, a rabbi who has been in the forefront of justice and peace issues for years (Art Waskow of Philadelphia), who said it was one of the 10 most important speeches given in the U.S. ever — including two by Dr. King, Lincoln, FDR, … So I listened. (Thanks to MinnPost for providing the link so readily.) Wow! After only hearing soundbites through most of this interminable political season, here is what campaign speeches should be like. Refreshing, challenging.

Almost enough to make me want to vote for him, but then there is this continuing problem of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Obama’s unwillingness to risk the wrath of the military-industrial complex, halve the military budget and renounce this system that continues to put profits before people. Even so, this ranks for me as a great speech!

An excerpt from Beryl Knudson’s comment:

You didn’t have to explain it for me, Obama. But thanks for a powerful speech anyway. Your words will go down in history as one of the great messages for these turbulent times.

And as to Jeremiah Wright’s initial speech and the white frothing-at-the mouth response, essentially inspired by overt media hype, one could say that the way that some of the public — not all of the public — responded negatively to Wright was its own indictment. … Wright was right on most of the time in his words, done with a dramatic style too many white folks don’t understand.

Martin Buber, Jewish philosopher, once said, “As in a mirror face to face, so is the heart of man to man.” Wright shoved a mirror in our faces. Obama cleaned off a few smudges.

Karl Singer added:

I thought this was a very powerful speech by Senator Obama.

Race is one of those issues that everyone is afraid to mention because it is too big to tackle. But Obama took it head on, which is good. We won’t get past race until we have [an] honest discussion about it and I think Obama just started that discussion.

* * * *

Other MinnPost readers added their reactions after a follow-up story on Wednesday:

An excerpt from Jeremy Powers’ comment:

[Obama] moved the debate forward instead of dwelling on the comments by Rev. Wright. He made it personal, he talked about black anger and he talked about white anger, which is real. It should have resonated with anybody but a Rush Limbaugh Dittohead or a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He gained points with African Americans and white union workers who have felt that someone else was given something over them.

And it was politically clever and shrewd. He brought up his white grandmother and her racial slurs. Anyone listening could have thought how he or she would feel if your own grandmother used a racial slur and you were a member of that racial group. More importantly, it was right.

From Anne White:

I think the important thing Obama did in his speech was to invite Americans to begin engaging in a real, adult conversation about how we can build bridges between the races and work together on common goals for a better America. To do so, we must acknowledge the fears, concerns and anger of everyone who’s struggling to make a better life, whether they be black, white, Asian, Latino or Native American.

The media is in a powerful position to help determine how this conversation goes forward. Like it or not, the news programs, talk shows, newspapers and blogs can have an important influence on how broadly or narrowly the public engages with the issues raised by Obama in his speech.

I hope that MinnPost will take the lead in moving beyond the question of whether people think Obama “made it to high ground and perhaps even advanced Americans’ long-sputtering racial conciliation.” Why not ask community leaders for ideas on how we can take on the challenges identified by Obama in his speech, and move ahead here in Minnesota? What research, discussions, actions are needed? How can we engage more people of all ages and backgrounds in this conversation? How about a statewide discussion and essay contest for high school students?

Let’s not miss this opportunity to move forward on the tough issues of race and religion that Obama invited us to address head-on. Let’s not fall back into the horse-race reporting that focuses primarily on how well Obama did in rescuing his campaign from the damage done by his long association with the Reverend Wright.

* * * *

On the issue of immigration, Robb Mitchell was among those who commented on Britt Robson’s March 13 story, “Minnesota’s foreign-born population: then and now”:

Clearly, an important part of this Ethnic Heritage and New American Working Group report for the legislature is how bigotry and emotional reactions have always played a role in the immigration debate. It is true today and it was true 100 and 150 years ago.

Hopefully, politicians and governmental policy will not be made based on bigotry, discrimination and fear. Our politicians must have enough leadership and statesmanship (I know the mere mention of these qualities in our politicians today brings on laughter) to act in a civil and unifying fashion rather than fostering division and hatred.

But it is probably important for us to acknowledge the unfounded fear and hostility in the community and work to build bonds across race, ethnic and nation barriers. Right now, it appears the biggest enemy of understanding is opportunistic politicians and the campaign rhetoric that incites emotional responses to problems that are, in essence, about economic survival, individual opportunity and community vitality.

We must hold the political leadership accountable and not let them engage in the demagoguery of fear during their election campaigns. But we must also [begin a] healthy dialogue among ourselves about protection and acceptance that will bridge the divide that reactionary politics has tried to create.

* * * *

Mike Keliher commented on Monday’s Community Voices essay, “Pawlenty’s budget solution would exacerbate Minnesota’s problems,” by John Van Hecke:

I hope the author is not suggesting that the opposite “more money, more money” as opposed to “no taxes, no taxes” is more suitable as a rule. Neither is. The priority should be on making sure the money we currently have is being spent as effectively as possible before daring to take more from taxpayers, be they individuals or businesses.

Craig Westover added:

Van Hecke writes, “The real question isn’t how do we close the budget deficit? Instead, we must ask ourselves, “What’s our progressive budget?” He implies that semantic differentiation is indicative of change. He’s wrong. Budgeting more money to do the same things is not change.

Instead of asking, “What’s our progressive budget?” shouldn’t we be asking, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” Focusing on actions rather than money would indeed be a change.

In education, … the problem we’re trying to solve is how best to educate individual students, not how to fund a monopoly education system. “Change” is creating a funding formula where money follows the student and students are free to use that money at any district school, charter school, private school, religious school, online school or home school that best meets their individual needs. What a progressive idea.

In health care, the latter question means recognizing that managed care … is a failure: It provides lower quality care at higher costs to fewer people. Again, “change” is not dumping more money into a bad system. Change involves putting money and health-care decision making back in the hands of patients, care decisions and procedure pricing back in the hands of doctors, actuarial factoring and insurance pricing back in the hands of insurance companies free of government mandates. …

In transportation, the latter question means thinking about individual mobility, not creating a transportation system for the legacy of the political elite. Mobility is enabling people to get from where they are to where they want to go when they want to go to do what they want to do. It does not increase mobility when you sink nearly $1 billion into a light rail system and to justify the train you have to discontinue bus service that results in people walking farther to catch a train that runs at less frequent intervals than the bus. How does that benefit the individual commuter?

So-called “Progressive” solutions, as evidenced by Van Hecke’s focus on budget rather than actions, are little more than more of the same under a different name at higher cost. It’s Progressive insistence on one-size-fits-all government programs that blocks forward movement. Ironically, Conservatives, when they return to their classical liberal roots, will be the ones leading the charge for true change.

* * * *

Kevin Judd had this to say about Eric Black’s Tuesday post, “More lawyers describe pressure by Swanson to commit what they viewed as unethical conduct”:

This is really sad.

My sister-in-law’s father was an assistant attorney general with Walter Mondale in the early ’60s. He drove all over the South during the “Mississippi Burning” days to bail Minnesota protesters out of jail. … They were every bit as young, bright, aggressive and competitive as our current crew. But they sought to distinguish themselves not through infighting and shenanigans, but by serving the people of this state.

Robert Fiztoof added:

More than anything, I feel sorry for Lawler. Despite her protestations to the contrary … she has no qualification to speak for anyone but herself. She is a young attorney who started at the AGO just a few short months ago, and has virtually no real world legal experience (she only worked for a year in a legal office prior to starting at the AGO, which itself raises questions).

Lawler’s ethical complaints are flimsy (at best), and she does not even attempt to conceal that her true motivation is unionization of the AGO. That makes her actions all the more puzzling, since the majority of the office has come out in support of Swanson, as discovered in relation to meetings the staff had with Lord and Lebedoff several weeks ago.

The pro-union crowd scoffs at their finding that over 80 assistant attorney generals support Swanson, yet back up their position with nothing more than vague claims of “low morale” and a “climate of fear” that masks the overwhelming support of their cause.

The fact is, even if unionization of the AGO was legal, which it does not appear to be, there is no reason to believe that union supporters have anything like a majority of support in the AGO. … It is sad that the will-o’-the-wisp rantings of a disgruntled few have been given the amount of press coverage that they have been given. …

* * * *

Paul Schatz commented on G.R. Anderson Jr.’s March 14 post, “Comparing bridge compensation vs. the 9/11 fund”:

It’s interesting that the highest payouts for 9/11 went to the families of people who died. Although death is terrible and the grieving is sometimes nearly endless, the costs are usually lower. To put it crudely, dead people do not need long term medical care, which can be extremely expensive.

* * * *

B.D. Maginnis reacted to Pat Borzi’s Monday post, “It’s time U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inducts its first woman”:

Cammi deserves it. She certainly played the game without sacrificing her feminine identity.

Many male hockey fans appreciated that!

The others, eh. Taking your game to the level of a typical Bantam B player does not a “Hall of Famer” make. But, then, that’s the problem when girls play men’s sports, and we have to pursue PC equality in things like Halls of Fame.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply