The best link for the Obama speech is here because you can both read and hear it. This bears doing--probably more than once. I will also have more to say about it later but, for now, let me say that it reminds me of a story Lincoln like to tell (and one that our own, Peter Schramm often re-tells) about a little boy who reported to his father that he saw his older brother run off to the barn with a neighbor girl and that they were taking off their clothes and were about to pee in the hay. The father explained to his young son that he had gotten the facts right, but that he had come to the wrong conclusions. In some respects, this can be said of Obama’s speech though--obviously--he did it with much more grace and less naivete than the mistaken boy of Lincoln’s story.
Also, Joe K. is right to point out that Obama places the blame for everyone’s anger (white and black) right on the doorstep of conservatives. This seems to be a cynical application of his principles--and yet, I detected no sense of guile in his remarks. They seem heartfelt--and I’m not sure which is worse. He admits no possibility, for example, of a black conservative. Such a man must, in his universe, suffer from a false sense of consciousness. Are we all just a product of our respective experiences? He seems to want to transcend them, but he also embraces them . . . all of them . . . as one embraces an embarrassing relative (or preacher friend). In understanding the anger that comes from all of those respective experiences, must we also excuse it? Can we move beyond the anger or must we marinate in it and come out with a flavor--similar to Rev. Wright’s--and then demand that people "understand" where we’re coming from? Is Obama the only man running qualified to be President because of his mixed-race background? He’s the only guy who can understand and be above all that anger? Where is the path out for the rest of us? He seems to sing a siren song . . . only Obama can absolve us from our guilt. In that sense, he descends from his higher aspirations in the beginning of the speech to a place that is far more ordinary and pedestrian and--oddly--racist. If you are at all thoughtful, it must disappoint.
As for his more pedestrian policy proposals . . . all of that is just the virus of progressivism. And that probably also explains why he’s focused on the "more perfect" Union of the Constitution instead of talking about the proposition in the Declaration. Obama’s "more perfect" Union is to be judged by an ever evolving standard of perfection. The Declaration rather limits it. Today’s liberals can’t embrace it.
Obama does seem to assume that we are simply a product of our respective societal experiences. Isn't this one of the fatal traps of today's liberalism? Those on the Left reject the traditional view that those who have faced hardships and prejudice can transcend them through faith, good values, and determination. They look at a person and assume, because of his ethnic group, class, gender (and now generation) that he must be psychically crippled by life in America. Therefore, he cannot be held to the same standards of behavior and discourse. Those on the Left are not racists. They are "experiencists." In their belief system, for any one person to have "hope," all of society must fundamentally change. Obama may seem to have virtuous aspirations, but they are tied to the prerequisite of a progressive reinvention of America.