Obama’s speech on race

by Stephen Tall on March 19, 2008

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama’s speech confronting the issues of race at stake in the USA has dominated the nation’s news coverage in the last day. USA Today gives a flavour:

On USATODAY.com, an article about Obama’s speech attracted 7,502 comments by 2:30 a.m. ET today, the most for a single story. The previous high for comments on a single story (5,517) was an article about Obama defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Feb. 19 Wisconsin and Hawaii nominating contests, according to USA TODAY research. By late Tuesday, Obama’s speech was the most-viewed video on MSNBC.com, the second-most viewed story on websites for ABC, CBS and CNN.

You can watch the speech in full here:

Two things continue to impress me about Obama’s campaign:

1. His speeches are impressive, thoughtful, crafted – and clearly authored (primarily at least) by the candidate himself. Of how many politicians can that be said? This is a politician who cares about words, and the impact they can have.

2. His ability to shape the political agenda. Perhaps it was inevitable that race would become a big issue at some point during the contest – but Obama hasn’t just mouthed the easy platitudes that the country must learn from its past and now move on. Instead, he has put up, front and centre the fact that race remains an issue.