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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Audacity of Hope: Obama's Address to the UCC

Today, Senator Barack Obama addressed the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. His message is powerful and I invite all my readers to take a few moments and read Senator Obama's remarks. You can also watch the speech here.

Senator Obama's testimony....
So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called “The Audacity of Hope.” And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works...................

Yet what we also understand is that our values should express themselves not just through our churches or synagogues, temples or mosques; they should express themselves through our government. Because whether it’s poverty or racism, the uninsured or the unemployed, war or peace, the challenges we face today are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten-point plan. They are moral problems, rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.

And so long as we’re not doing everything in our personal and collective power to solve them, we know the conscience of our nation cannot rest.

Our conscience can’t rest so long as 37 million Americans are poor and forgotten by their leaders in Washington and by the media elites. We need to heed the biblical call to care for “the least of these” and lift the poor out of despair. That’s why I’ve been fighting to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and the minimum wage. If you’re working forty hours a week, you shouldn’t be living in poverty. But we also know that government initiatives are not enough. Each of us in our own lives needs to do what we can to help the poor. And until we do, our conscience cannot rest.

Our conscience cannot rest so long as nearly 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance and the millions more who do are going bankrupt trying to pay for it. I have made a solemn pledge that I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premiums by up to $2500 a year. That’s not simply a matter of policy or ideology – it’s a moral commitment.

And until we stop the genocide that’s being carried out in Darfur as I speak, our conscience cannot rest. This is a problem that’s brought together churches and synagogues and mosques and people of all faiths as part of a grassroots movement. Universities and states, including Illinois, are taking part in a divestment campaign to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the killings. It’s not enough, but it’s helping. And it’s a testament to what we can achieve when good people with strong convictions stand up for their beliefs.

And we should close Guantanamo Bay and stop tolerating the torture of our enemies. Because it’s not who we are. It’s not consistent with our traditions of justice and fairness. And it offends our conscience.

But we also know our conscience cannot rest so long as the war goes on in Iraq. It’s a war I’m proud I opposed from the start – a war that should never have been authorized and never been waged. I have a plan that would have already begun redeploying our troops with the goal of bringing all our combat brigades home by March 31st of next year. The President vetoed a similar plan, but he doesn’t have the last word, and we’re going to keep at it, until we bring this war to an end. Because the Iraq war is not just a security problem, it’s a moral problem.

And a big hearty AMEN to that message!

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Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Amen! Obama definitely has "the Vision Thing" downpat. He knows how the personal and political intersect. He speaks out of his own particularity and yet invites in other particularities for common work toward the common good.

And for a church service, like the UCC gathering, this is well and good. Also for some political gatherings.

But although these problems require MORE than "a perfect 10 point plan," they also require planning. What I keep waiting for with Obama on the campaign trail is the detail work. He opposes the war, but is light on details for how to get us out. He wants to reform healthcare, but John Edwards has the more detailed plan. Etc.
Unveiling such plans would be wrong at an address to a denominational gathering, so this is NOT a critique of his speech before the UCC. We NEED this kind of vision. Too often in recent years Democrats have lacked this ability to give moral hope--and left me hungering for a return to the speeches of John and Robert Kennedy or of FDR. But I wish Obama would fill in the details in other, more appropriate venues. Because we need someone to lead us who has both vision and pragmatic planning--both.

9:42 AM


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