As of today, Barack Obama's Philadephia speech on race has been viewed over 1.2 million times, making it the most-viewed video on YouTube, according to the Washington Post. The fact that so many people are taking the time to view this video is encouraging. Not because I back the Senator as a presidential candidate, but because it means that people are paying attention to the most enlightened perspective on the issue of race that I have heard in a long time. Even if people are not participating in the conversation, they are willing to take 35 minutes and listen to someone else talk about it.
The catalyst for his speech was the unrelenting demand (from both critics and supporters) to respond to the remarks made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former paster, which were indeed racial and inflammatory. But I actually respect that he didn't take the easy way out and disassociate himself with Rev. Wright in favor of the political gains. His refusal to disown the influences that made him who he is today, even in a moment of disappointment, reflects great personal character in my book.
The biggest take-away I got from his speech is the notion that we can't get beyond our racial divisions by invalidating or dismissing the deeply-rooted reality of both sides. That incredibly unifying perspective would simply not have landed the same on me had I heard it from Hillary Clinton or John McCain. That tells me it is not just about the words, its about the person who conceived the ideas.
Maybe Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate, maybe he won't. Regardless, I'm glad that someone with his vision and passion is willing to sacrifice a normal, quiet life with his family to be a public stand for what is possible in this country and help us all take a hard look at the issues we avoid.