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Obama’s Moment of Greatness in Selma

I thought it was a great speech. And I didn’t even agree with much of it.

But President Obama’s address Saturday in Selma, marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, was still a great moment because he made a passionate case for the values he believes in, but for once, didn’t demonize anyone, not even the white Alabamans who opposed the marchers.

He spoke with eloquence and passion. And most importantly, he cast Selma as a heroic moment not just for civil rights, but as an event consistent with the greatness of America, seeking to include all Americans in the triumph of the brave marchers that day.

From his remarks:

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place? (Applause.) What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people –- unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals? (Applause.)

That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience. That’s why it’s not a museum or a static monument to behold from a distance. It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents: “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (Applause.) . . .

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge, that’s the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot, workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon. (Applause.)

Obama of course invoked Ferguson, but he leavened it with an assertion that racism is “no longer endemic.”

Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. And I understood the question; the report’s narrative was sadly familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement.

But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic. It’s no longer sanctioned by law or by custom. And before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was. (Applause.)

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America . . .

Obama unabashedly invoked the religious foundation of our republic:

When it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on [the] wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.” (Applause.)

We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.

May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)

Of course, Obama being Obama, he claimed the American idea involves moral relativism and a rejection of timeless principles:

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. That’s America. (Applause.)

That’s what makes us unique. That’s what cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity . . .

For Obama, all change is good. And anything that can be justified as helping any ostensibly aggrieved group is warranted. The civil rights struggle is akin to support for illegal immigrants.

As some of you noted in the comments section for the live stream of the speech, this actually diminishes the achievement of those who fought for civil rights. It’s the simplistic narrative of liberals today that every problem, every inconvenience, and all inequality is the violation of a “right.”

And every change in the status quo supports the betterment of society.

That is exactly the attitude that gave us the sexual revolution, the breakup of the family, and the plague of fatherless children, most prominently in the very black communities the civil rights leaders struggled to help.

Obama also shamelessly linked his own campaign slogan to the most hallowed phrases of our history.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person. Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” “We The People.” “We Shall Overcome.” “Yes We Can.” (Applause.)

But I digress . . .

That the 50th anniversary of Selma was marked by a black president was remarkable enough. But Obama spoke not just as a black president, but as a president.

Obama’s conception of America might be wrong. But he has a right to his opinion. The greatness of his speech was that he brought all of us with him to Selma. For just moment, Obama was a uniter, not a divider.

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22 Responses to Obama’s Moment of Greatness in Selma

  1. Oh brother, so the destroyer of the country made nice. What a load of smelly stuff dumped by the lair in Chief.
    After ruining health care as we knew it, making a shambles of the middle east, trying to neuter the 2nd amendment, taking over the internet, he makes nice.
    The country once known as the land of the free is now being over run by illegals who rape and pillage, all at Obama’s request.
    But he made nice so all is forgiven.

  2. Keith, I have to disagree with you regarding Obama acting Presidential. Because of his actions and words in the past, race relations are at an all-time low. He has acted more like an Emperor than a President.

  3. And he is not a black man. He is only half black via his mom and then when his radical father left, she married a Muslim and they lived in Indonesia.

    This man does not represent anything this country wants or needs.

    But he made nice for a change. Crap!!

  4. Obama has a right to his opinion and so does Keith, who may have heard “greatness” but I heard

    “hey someone write me a greatness quality speech to cover up the fact I really don’t care about all the crap I’m spewing at them…”

    It’s about Obama, always has been, always will and that’s my opinion ;)

  5. The lack of self congratulatory comments, particularly the overuse of the term “I”, was refreshing. This speech reminded us that our President is best suited for local and regional social conflict, not so for global conflict and economic recovery.

    H

  6. Great guy
    Housing ownership at an all time low.
    Over 46 million on food stamps.
    Labor participation rate at all time low.
    Jobs being created are mostly part time.
    He wants a war in the Ukraine.
    ISIS is running amok in Iraq.
    Some say he has no birth certificate.
    Some say he is an illegal alien him self.
    But he made nice.

  7. No matter how lofty, how compellingly American or how inclusive MrObama pretends to see the ways of our people, his goal is to take us to a country that is an impossible dream for all socialists. There will always be the ins, and the outs, the favored and the hated, and that isn’t just a White, ‘privileged’ America, but the way of all humans everywhere.
    His specific message is that we must embrace all lawbreakers, share with them what we alone have earned, and then shut up.

    The DOJ report on the actions of the Fergurson PD using traffic stops of Black drivers as a form of revenue is probably true enough, but we know that the same thing happens in White communities, too. It’s a money/revenue thing, not a racial offense.
    MrO’s desire to enhance voting rights is ridiculously retro thinking – where are Blacks being denied voting rights? The demand for a valid ID is not a racial thing, but an attempt to prevent voter fraud.

    I read his speech through the lens of a innocent White who has been pummeled, smeared, demeaned and wrongfully accused of a racism that keeps Blacks in poverty, forces them into a life of crime, and needs to be punished. I’m not responsible if a Black child refuses to go to school, if a Black man has no viable skills to find a job, or a Black woman is saddled with children she must raise alone.
    Every possible advantage has been assigned to those who claim to be Af-Am here in the US by White people who only tried to help.
    It’s not our fault that they have abused theat assistance, or refuse to take advantage of all privilege our laws allow.

  8. Didn’t watch any coverage on Saturday — only news clips. The words are meaningless, imo, because they come from the lips of a man who has done more to create racial tension than anyone in recent history.

    It was ‘the speech’ at the 2004 DNC convention that catapulted the racist-in-chief to fame and fortune; and we know now that it was all BS. There are no Blue States, no Red States…yeah, sure.

    As for his delivery, it looked as if he was auditioning for the lead role in an Oprah film. Good script, lousy actor.

    Obama is just a petty, little man with a huge ego who is trying to create greatness for himself. Doesn’t work for me!!!

  9. I read the entire transcript:

    http://time.com/3736357/barack-obama-selma-speech-transcript/

    and I’m not impressed. I will say that this was definitely drafted by a different speechwriter than his usual one(s). I see a lot of lip service to certain American ideals, but after six years of watching this community agitator I don’t believe that he believes a word of it. Most of it was just stirring the pot, claiming our “work” isn’t yet done, gotta keep agitating the people.

    “We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character – requires admitting as much.”

    Translation: Oh no, whitey, don’t you think that you’re off the hook yet. We are from done making you pay.
    What else do they want? When is it ever enough? When will they stop blaming whitey for their problems??

    “And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed.”

    There goes the Agitator-In-Chief slamming a Supreme court decision (yet again). He LIES when he claims that there are laws being enacted “to make it harder for people to vote.” NO, voting laws are there to make to harder to commit voting FRAUD!

    “If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.”

    In other words, do something about that Supreme Court decision with which he vehemently disagrees.

    “Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples.”

    Wow, note how he refers to the laws as “VOTER SUPPRESSION LAWS”. No, it’s FRAUD suppression, you liar.

    “We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.”

    Nice way to mix in the ILLEGAL immigrant with the legal ones, Obummer! The thousands who crossed the Rio Grande and came here ILLEGALLY last year are just “hopeful strivers”.

    I better stop now, because I could pick apart every paragraph of this speech. By the way, I found it interesting that he referred to “gay Americans” three times in the speech.