Barack Obama’s appeal to the people to join in building a “more perfect union” touched a deep chord among the American people weary of the politics of division and hate as practiced by the corporate ultra-right and their mainly Republican agents in Washington.

His 37 minute speech March 18, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia has already been hailed as “a speech for the ages” compared to the greatest of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is likened to John F. Kennedy’s defense of “separation of church and state” when his candidacy was threatened by anti-Catholic bigotry. Obama’s speech rings with the prophetic power of Dr. Martin Luther King’s orations against segregation, war, and poverty.

With the media whipping up hysteria over the inflammatory sermons of Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the speech was seen as a life or death challenge for the viability off his campaign. It was heard live by millions who stopped work to listen on cable and network TV. The overwhelmingly positive response proved that Obama turned a threat into another stirring victory, reaching once again across racial and partisan divides to build a grassroots movement for change.

Obama delivered the speech quietly, with few rhetorical flourishes. But it was also a seamless speech, difficult to reduce to a few sound bytes. Thus, the entire speech has been posted on thousands of web sites and is the topic in millions of emails. YouTube reports their podcast of the speech has been viewed by more than two million. MoveOn.org has posted the video urging anyone who opens their site to forward it to family and friends. The New York Times reports that it is already being incorporated into classroom and Sunday school lessons.

Obama warned that the corporate media may broadcast Wright’s sermons “on every channel, every day” until the November election. “We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And nothing will change.”

The other choice, he said, is to focus on the real issues: crumbling schools and the neglect of children of all races, a broken health care system, and a war in Iraq that never should have been authorized and never fought. He calls for common ground against the “real culprits” that impoverish working people of all races, “a corporate culture rife with insider dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.”

Obama expressed a deep understanding of the anger and frustration of tens of millions of African Americans still fighting poverty and discrimination 60 years after the Civil Rights revolution. Yet he also displays a keen sensitivity to the plight of white workers who “don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race.” He adds, “They’ve worked hard all their lives only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pensions dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures and see their dreams slipping away.” That insecurity and declining income breeds resentment, he said.

Obama decries a “racial stalemate” decades in the making that will not be broken by a single election cycle or a single candidacy.

“But I have asserted a firm conviction, a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people, that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.”

No one seems to have understood Obama’s message more clearly than New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, the nation’s only Latino governor.

Richardson announced his endorsement of Obama to a cheering crowd at Memorial Coliseum in Portland Oregon. Obama, he said, “showed us again what kind of leader he is. He spoke to us as adults. He asked us to ponder the weight of our racially divided past, to rise above it and seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races who struggled and died to bring us together.”

Richardson added, “As a Hispanic, I was particularly touched by his words. I have been troubled by the demonization of immigrants – specifically Hispanics – by too many in this country. Hate crimes against Hispanics are rising as a direct result and now in tough economic times, people are looking for scapegoats. I fear people will continue to exploit our racial differences and place blame on others not like them. We all know the real culprit – the disastrous economic policies of the Bush Administration.” The crowd erupted in cheers.

Obama he continued, “rejects the policies of pitting race against race” and argues that “only by bringing people together, bridging our differences can we all succeed as Americans.”

Richardson also rebutted snide insinuations by McCain and the Clintons that they, but not Obama, are equipped to lead the U.S. in foreign and military affairs. He hailed Obama for understanding “the security challenges of the 21st Century” adding, “you will be an outstanding commander in chief.”

Richardson, who served in the Clinton Administration, also spoke of his admiration for Bill and Hillary Clinton. It is time however, for a “new generation of leaders,” he said, and also “time for Democrats to stop fighting amongst themselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall.”

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