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Obama Confronts Race Debate in Philadelphia

Sen. Barack Obama delivered what his campaign called a "major address on race, politics and unifying our country" in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

NPR's Mara Liasson tells Renee Montagne that the speech is very powerful, very complex and "will likely be remembered as one of the most important speeches on race that a politician has ever given."

The speech comes amid controversy over racially inflammatory remarks made by Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And it follows remarks by Geraldine Ferraro, a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton, who suggested that Obama had gotten so far because he is black.

"On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap," he said. "On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that ... rightly offend white and black alike."

But, he also said, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me ... but who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. ... These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
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