Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Great Ivan Dixon (1931-2008)

Julius Harris, left, and Ivan Dixon in the 1964 film “Nothing but a Man,” about a black couple navigating the Deep South.

Ivan Dixon (right) with Diana Sands In this March 1967 photo, actor Ivan Dixon and actress Diana Sandsare seen in an episode of the ABC-TV show 'The Fugitive.' Dixon, who brought the problems and promise of contemporary blacks to life in thefilm 'Nothing But a Man' and portrayed the levelheaded POW Kinchloein TV's 'Hogan's Heroes,' has died. He was 76. Dixon died Sunday, March 16, 2008, at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.,after a hemorrhage, said his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixonof Charlotte. He had suffered complications from kidney failure, she said.

Editor's Note:


Ivan Dixon (1931-2008) was an absolute GENIUS and one of my all-time favorite actors. What a great and enduring artist this man was! One of the authentic giants in fact. "Nothing But A Man' (1964) is one of the finest films featuring African Americans in the history of cinema and Dixon's pathbreaking role as the Nigerian student who romances the late, great Diana Sands in "A Raisin in the Sun" was equally brilliant and yet another outstanding example of the creative ability that Dixon had to steal any scene he was in as his longtime friend and colleague Sidney Poitier so aptly pointed out. ORIGINALITY and EXCELLENCE were this man's benchmarks in everything he ever did as both actor and director.

REST IN PEACE brother. You left a very important and powerful legacy for all of us


Ivan Dixon, Actor Dies at 76

The New York Times
Published: March 20, 2008

Ivan Dixon, an actor and director who was best known for playing Sgt. James Kinchloe on the 1960s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” but whose films included vivid portrayals of black struggles in the American South and insurrectionist inclinations in the North, died on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. He was 76 and lived in Charlotte.

The cause was complications of kidney disease, said his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixon.

Ms. Dixon said her father was always pleased to be recognized as Sergeant Kinchloe, the American radio technician in a World War II German P.O.W. camp who could adeptly mimic his captors. But he was most proud, she said, of the 1964 movie “Nothing but a Man,” in which he starred, and of the 1973 film “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” which he directed.

In “Nothing but a Man” Mr. Dixon played a young black railroad worker who gives up his job to marry a minister’s daughter, played by Abbey Lincoln, and then runs into trouble for not knowing his place in the Deep South. In a 1991 article on the history of black films, Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times that “Nothing but a Man” was “way ahead of its time.”

“Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln give tough, moving performances as a couple making their way in a white world without apologies to anyone,” he wrote. “No thoughts of integration for them. They demand their own lives and are willing to fight for them.”

“The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” based on the novel by Sam Greenlee, tells the tale of Dan Freeman, the first black officer in the Central Intelligence Agency. After five years of menial assignments, Freeman quits, takes what he has learned about terrorist tactics and goes to Chicago, where he tries to put together a black guerrilla operation.

Although “The Spook” aroused controversy and was soon pulled from theaters, it later gained cult status as a bootleg video and, in 2004, was released on DVD. At that time Mr. Dixon told The Times that the movie had tried only to depict black anger, not to suggest armed revolt as a solution.

Mr. Dixon directed scores of television shows, including episodes of “The Waltons,” “The Rockford Files,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Quincy” and “In the Heat of the Night.” In 1967 he played the title role in a CBS Playhouse drama, “The Final War of Olly Winter,” about a veteran of World War II and the Korean War who decides that Vietnam will be his final war. For that role he received an Emmy nomination for best single performance by an actor.

Ivan Nathaniel Dixon 3rd was born on April 6, 1931, in Harlem, where his family owned a grocery store. Besides his daughter, Doris, who lives in Charlotte, Mr. Dixon is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Berlie Ray; and a son, Alan, of Oakland, Calif.

Mr. Dixon graduated from North Carolina Central University in 1954 with a drama degree. His big break came in 1957 when he appeared on Broadway in William Saroyan’s “Cave Dwellers.” Two years later he played Joseph Asagai, the charming, mannerly Nigerian student visiting the United States in Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun,” the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.

IVAN DIXON (1931-2008)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Actor Ivan Dixon, who brought the problems and promise of contemporary blacks to life in the film "Nothing But a Man" and portrayed the levelheaded POW Kinchloe in TV's "Hogan's Heroes," has died. He was 76.

Dixon died Sunday at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte after a hemorrhage, said his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixon of Charlotte. He had suffered complications from kidney failure, she said.

Dixon, who also directed scores of television shows, began his acting career in the late 1950s. He appeared on Broadway in William Saroyan's 1957 "The Cave Dwellers" and in playwright Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking 1959 drama of black life, "A Raisin in the Sun." In the latter, he played a Nigerian student visiting the United States, a role he repeated in the film version.

While not a hit, the 1964 "Nothing But a Man," in which Dixon co-starred with Abbey Lincoln, also drew praise as a rare, early effort to bring the lives of black Americans to the big screen.

Other film credits included "Something of Value," "A Patch of Blue" and the cult favorite "Car Wash."

"As an actor, you had to be careful," said Sidney Poitier, star of "Patch of Blue" and a longtime friend. "He was quite likely to walk off with the scene."

In 1967, Dixon starred in a CBS Playhouse drama, "The Final War of Olly Winter," about a veteran of World War II and Korea who decided that Vietnam would be his final war. The role brought Dixon an Emmy nomination for best single performance by an actor.

He was probably best known for the role of Staff Sgt. James Kinchloe on "Hogan's Heroes," the hit 1960s sitcom set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.

The technically adept Kinchloe was in charge of electronic communications and could mimic German officers on the radio or phone.

Dixon was active in efforts to get better parts for blacks in movies and television, telling The New York Times in 1967: "Sponsors haven't wanted anything negative connected with their products. We must convince them that the Negro is not negative."

"Heretofore, people have thought that, to use a Negro, the story must pit black against white. Maybe we're getting to the problems of human beings who happen to be black."

While Dixon was most proud of roles such as those in "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Nothing But a Man," he had no problem about being recognized for Kinchloe, his daughter said.

"It was a pivotal role as well, because there were not as many blacks in TV series at that time," Nomathande Dixon said. "He did have some personal issues with that role, but it also launched him into directing."

Dixon also directed numerous episodes of TV shows, including "The Waltons," "The Rockford Files," "Magnum, P.I." and "In the Heat of the Night."

In 1973, he directed the film "The Spook Who Sat by the Door," a political drama based on a novel about a black CIA agent who becomes a revolutionary. He also directed the 1972 "blaxploitation" story "Trouble Man."

His honors included four NAACP Image Awards, the National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award from the Black American Cinema Society.

Born in 1931 in New York, Dixon graduated in 1954 from North Carolina Central University in Durham.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 53 years, Berlie Dixon of Charlotte, and a son, Alan Kimara Dixon of Oakland. At Dixon's request, no memorial or funeral is planned, the family said.

Governor Bill Richardson Endorses Obama


What Governor Bill Richardson says in his surprise endorsement of Obama speaks volumes about the fierce battle within the Democratic Party over the negative and divisive role of the Clinton Machine in the primary race and about Governor Richardson's own considerable political integrity and independence in embracing Barack despite the fact that he is a longtime friend of the Clintons and served with them in important cabinet positions in both of Bill Clinton's two administrations from 1992-2000. Finally what Richardson says about Obama indicates that he fully realizes what Obama's actual strengths are as both a man and a politician and that he knows Obama has the right stuff to make a decent President. Whether Richardson's endorsement will help Obama at this point with the national Latino vote is anybody's guess and probably problematic given the Clinton's tight political rein on other national Latino leaders but it does indicate that not every major national Latino politician is for sale to the Clintons and that ideas, values, integrity, and vision do count more to Governor Richardson than cynical slavishness to political cronyism. Thank you Governor for having the guts, honesty, and the vision to fight for what you know is right instead of just "going along to get along" in the Clinton camp.


Richardson’s Endorsement of Obama

Published: March 21, 2008

The following is the text as prepared for delivery of Governor Bill Richardson's speech endorsing Senator Barack Obama in Oregon.

My friends,
Earlier this week, an extraordinary American gave a historic speech.

Senator Barack Obama addressed the issue of race with the eloquence and sincerity and decency and optimism we have come to expect of him.

He did not seek to evade tough issues or to soothe us with comforting half-truths.

Rather, he inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility.

Senator Obama could have given a safer speech.

He is, after all, well ahead in the delegate count for our party's nomination.

He could have just waited for the controversy over the deplorable remarks of Reverend Wright to subside, as it surely would have.

Instead, Senator Obama showed us once 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 to seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races, who struggled and died to bring us together.

Senator Obama reminded us that cynicism is not realism, and that hope is not folly.

He called upon us not just to dream about a less racially-divided America, but also to do the hard work needed to build such an America.

He asked every American to see the reality and the pain of other Americans, so that together we can rise above that which has divided us.

He appealed to the best in us.

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 look for scapegoats and I fear that 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!

Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race.

He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans.

His words are those of a courageous, thoughtful and inspiring leader, who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

And, after 8 years of George W. Bush, we will desperately need such a leader.

Our national security and our global standing have been gravely damaged by the divisive partisanship of recent years.

We need a President who can bring us together as a nation so that we can face urgent global challenges and repair the damage done in the last 7 years.

Barack Obama will make the historic and vital investments into renewable energy, to help create clean energy jobs and fight global warming.

Barack knows that the safety and future of every American child requires that we restore our shared sense of national purpose, so that we can then set about the hard work of rebuilding our alliances and rehabilitating our image in a dangerous world.

By uniting our nation, we can reverse America's global decline.

We need a realistic, principled, and bipartisan foreign policy again.

We must restore our international reputation, our influence and our capacity to lead others.

America must become the beacon for the world again.

We need a foreign policy based upon American ideals, and not upon the mere ideology of a President.

A foreign policy of diplomacy and respect for international human rights.

We prospered and prevailed in the Cold War because both our friends and our enemies knew that containment of the Soviet Union and the promotion of democratic values was not a Democratic or a Republican policy – it was an American policy--the very essence of what America was.

Senator Obama understands the importance of realism, principle, and bipartisanship in foreign policy.

He opposed the Iraq war from the beginning because he knew that, despite what the Administration claimed, this war would not be easy.

He also opposed the war because he saw President Bush's rush to employ military force, and to do so without the support of most of our allies, as dangerous and unwarranted.

And he saw the war also for what it so quickly became – a terrible source of partisan political division -- and a catastrophic distraction from the war that had united us against the real threat posed by Al Qaeda.

Now, I trust him to do what is so long overdue—End the Iraq war and bring our troops home!!

I know Senator Obama well.

I first got to know him when I chaired the last Democratic National Convention, where he gave that wonderful keynote address.

And then, last year, as we campaigned against each other for the Presidency, I came to fully appreciate his steadfast patriotism and remarkable talents.

I also felt a kinship with him because we both had one foreign-born parent and we both lived abroad as children.

In part because of these experiences, Barack and I share a deep sense of our nation's special responsibilities in the world.

Barack Obama, you are an extraordinary leader who has shown courage, sound judgment and wisdom throughout your career.

You understand the security challenges of the 21st century, and you will be an outstanding Commander in Chief.

Above all, you will be a President who brings this nation together and restores American global leadership.

You will make every American proud to be an American, and I am very proud indeed to endorse your candidacy.

Before concluding my remarks, I would like to say that we are blessed to have two great American leaders and great Democrats running for President.

My great affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver.

It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the Fall.

The 1990's were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward.

Barack Obama will be a historic and a great President, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad.

I know that all Democrats will work tirelessly to get him elected.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce to you the next President of the United States, my friend, Barack Obama.

First a Tense Talk With Clinton, Then Richardson Backs Obama

Senator Barack Obama accepted the support of Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico on Friday in Portland, Ore. Mr. Richardson ended his own bid for the Democratic nomination in January


Published: March 22, 2008

PORTLAND, Ore. — “I talked to Senator Clinton last night,” Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said on Friday, describing the tense telephone call in which he informed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that, despite two months of personal entreaties by her and her husband, he would be endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president.

Senator Barack Obama at a rally Friday at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Ore. The Oregon primary is May 20.

“Let me tell you: we’ve had better conversations,” Mr. Richardson said.

The decision by Mr. Richardson, who ended his own presidential campaign on Jan. 10, to support Mr. Obama was a belt of bad news for Mrs. Clinton. It was a stinging rejection of her candidacy by a man who had served in two senior positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration, and who is one of the nation’s most prominent elected Hispanics. Mr. Richardson came back from vacation to announce his endorsement at a moment when Mrs. Clinton’s hopes of winning the Democratic nomination seem to be dimming.

But potentially more troublesome for Mrs. Clinton was what Mr. Richardson said in announcing his decision. He criticized the tenor of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He praised Mr. Obama for the speech he gave in response to the furor over racially incendiary remarks delivered by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

And he came close to doing what Mrs. Clinton’s advisers have increasingly feared some big-name Democrat would do as the battle for the nomination drags on: Urge Mrs. Clinton to step aside in the interest of party unity.

“I’m not going to advise any other candidate when to get in and out of the race,” Mr. Richardson said after appearing in Portland with Mr. Obama. “Senator Clinton has a right to stay in the race, but eventually we don’t want to go into the Democratic convention bloodied. This was another reason for my getting in and endorsing, the need to perhaps send a message that we need unity.”

In many ways, the decision by Mr. Richardson, a longtime political ally of the Clintons, was as much a tale about his relationship with them as it was about the course of Mr. Obama’s campaign.

Mr. Clinton had told his wife’s campaign that he had received several assurances from Mr. Richardson that he would not endorse Mr. Obama. One adviser who spoke to Mr. Clinton on Friday said that the former president was surprised by the Richardson endorsement, but described Mr. Clinton as more philosophical than angry about it.

Mr. Richardson looked anguished when asked in an interview if his relationship with the Clintons would withstand endorsing Mr. Obama. In doing so, Mr. Richardson was not only taking sides in the most bitter of political fights, but rejecting the candidacy of a close friend.

“There’s something special about this guy,” Mr. Richardson said of Mr. Obama. “I’ve been trying to figure it out, but it’s very good.”

Mr. Clinton helped elevate Mr. Richardson to the national stage by naming him his energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations. And Mr. Clinton left no doubt that he viewed Mr. Richardson’s support as important to his wife’s campaign: He even flew to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl with Mr. Richardson as part of the Clintons’ high-profile courtship of him.

But Mr. Richardson stopped returning Mr. Clinton’s calls days ago, Mr. Clinton’s aides said. And as of Friday, Mr. Richardson said, he had yet to pick up the phone to tell Mr. Clinton of his decision.

The reaction of some of Mr. Clinton’s allies suggests that might have been a wise decision. “An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.

“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.

Mr. Richardson said he called Mrs. Clinton late on Thursday to inform her that he would be appearing with Mr. Obama on Friday to lend his support.

“It was cordial, but a little heated,” Mr. Richardson said in an interview.

Mrs. Clinton had no public schedule on Friday, and spent the day at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, played down the importance of the Richardson endorsement, suggesting that the time “when it could have been effective has long since passed.”

Mr. Richardson called Mr. Obama about two weeks ago to tell him that he was “99 percent with him,” Mr. Obama’s aides said. The announcement was delayed because Mr. Richardson had been scheduled to go on vacation in the Caribbean. Even though Mr. Richardson had promised Mr. Obama that his mind was made up, Mr. Obama’s aides said they grew worried that the furor over the racially inflammatory remarks made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor might lead Mr. Richardson to reconsider.

But Mr. Richardson, who had sought to become the nation’s first Hispanic president, pointed specifically to the speech that Mr. Obama gave in Philadelphia on Tuesday in explaining why he endorsed him.

“Senator Barack Obama addressed the issue of race with the eloquence and sincerity and decency and optimism we have come to expect of him,” he said. “He did not seek to evade tough issues or to soothe us with comforting half-truths. Rather, he inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility.”

He added: “Senator Obama could have given a safer speech. He is, after all, well ahead in the delegate count for our party’s nomination.”

Mr. Richardson said he was dispirited by the tone of the Democratic nominating fight, reflecting a sentiment that has been increasingly voiced by party leaders. Unlike many others, though, Mr. Richardson placed the blame on Mrs. Clinton.

“I believe the campaign has gotten too negative,” Mr. Richardson said, speaking to reporters in Portland. “I want it to be positive. I think that’s what’s been very good about Senator Obama’s campaign — it’s a positive campaign about hope and opportunity.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Richardson appeared together on stage of the Memorial Coliseum in Portland on Friday morning. Mr. Richardson was still wearing the beard that he grew during what he called a period of decompression after leaving the presidential race.

On their own, endorsements in contests like this — with two such well-known candidates — do not necessarily move votes. Mr. Obama won a boost of publicity after he was endorsed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts; Mrs. Clinton, however, then won the state’s primary.

But the audience now is less primary voters than superdelegates — uncommitted elected Democrats and party leaders — whose votes will be critical in helping Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama get the 2,024 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Mr. Richardson is the 62nd superdelegate to endorse Mr. Obama since Feb. 5, compared with fewer than five who have moved into Mrs. Clinton’s column since then.

The move by Mr. Richardson could give license to other superdelegates who had been holding back, at the request of the Clintons. His endorsement could prove particularly potent with this group because of the way he chastised Mrs. Clinton for the tone of the campaign, and his call for the party to unify around one candidate.

It also came at a moment of vulnerability for Mr. Obama, in which he was dealing with questions about his former pastor. Mr. Richardson’s decision to step out was a signal to primary voters and superdelegates that he did not believe Mr. Obama had been hurt politically by these events — or at least that he was willing to use whatever influence he has in the party to limit the damage.

At this point, the number of Democrats whose endorsements could shake the race is down to Al Gore, the former vice president and presidential nominee; John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who dropped out of the race last month; and Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. Aides to Mr. Edwards and Mr. Gore said that they did not expect either man to endorse anyone in the immediate future, if at all. Aides to Ms. Pelosi said she was unlikely to endorse at all.

Adam Nagourney reported from Washington, and Jeff Zeleny from Portland, Ore. Pat Healy contributed reporting from New York

Friday, March 21, 2008

Government Spying on Obama's File =Cointelpro Redux


Can anyone out there say COINTELPRO?*

NOTE: This latest bit of Government spying and subterfuge violating Obama's human and civil rights by the State Department takes place on Condoleeza Rice's watch (The Bushwhacker's very own windup Butterfly McQueen doll)...So much for emptyheaded 'skin analysis' boys and girls...


*COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert and illegal projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. The FBI used covert operations from its inception; however the formal COINTELPRO operations took place between 1956 and 1971.[1] The FBI motivation at the time was "protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order." Targets included groups suspected of being subversive, such as communist and socialist organizations; people suspected of building a "coalition of militant black nationalist groups" ranging from the Black Panther Party and Republic of New Africa, to "those in the non-violent civil rights movement," such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), and other civil rights groups; a broad range of organizations lumped together under the title "New Left" groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Weathermen, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, and even individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; and a special project seeking to undermine nationalist groups such as those "Seeking Independence for Puerto Rico." The directives governing COINTELPRO were issued by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of these movements and their leaders."

A major investigation was launched in 1976 by the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, commonly referred to as the "Church Committee" for its chairman, Senator Frank Church of Idaho. However, millions of pages of documents remain unreleased, and many released documents are entirely censored.

In the Final Report of the Select Committee COINTELPRO was castigated in no uncertain terms:

"Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that...the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence."

The Church Committee documented a history of the FBI being used for purposes of political repression as far back as World War I, through the 1920s, when they were charged with rounding up "anarchists and revolutionaries" for deportation, and then building from 1936 through 1976."

The Final report of the Church Committee concluded:

"Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The Government, operating primarily through secret informants, but also using other intrusive techniques such as wiretaps, microphone "bugs", surreptitious mail opening, and break-ins, has swept in vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views, and associations of American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous -- and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations -- have continued for decades, despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity. Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed -- including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials. While the agencies often committed excesses in response to pressure from high officials in the Executive branch and Congress, they also occasionally initiated improper activities and then concealed them from officials whom they had a duty to inform.

Governmental officials -- including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law --have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.

State Dept. Finds Breaches of Obama’s File
New York Times

Published: March 21, 2008

WASHINGTON — The State Department has fired two employees and reprimanded a third for improperly opening electronic information from the passport file of Senator Barack Obama, State Department officials said Thursday.

On three separate occasions in January, February and March, three employees looked through Mr. Obama’s file in the department’s consular affairs section, violating department’s privacy rules, the State Department spokesman, Sean D. McCormack, said. Mr. McCormack said the department’s internal controls flagged the breach, which he attributed to “imprudent curiosity.”

State Department officials said that they had no idea why the employees broke into Mr. Obama’s files. The department is continuing to investigate, Mr. McCormack said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was told of the security breach, which was first reported in The Washington Times on Thursday evening. Mr. McCormack said security measures used to monitor records of high-profile people like Mr. Obama worked properly in the three instances to alert department officials of the breaches.

“This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years,” said Bill Burton, an Obama campaign spokesman.

Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management, said that he and other top officials at the State Department found out about the breach Thursday afternoon, after Mr. McCormack received a telephone query from a reporter.

“I will fully acknowledge that this information should have been passed up the line,” Mr. Kennedy told reporters Thursday night in a hastily called teleconference. “We have a sophisticated computer tracking system that looks at this when it sees anything that’s inappropriate. But, I will admit, they failed to pass the information up the chain to a sufficiently high level.”

Former White South African Praises Obama's Speech on Race


Here's a white man who grew up in a wealthy family with black servants under highly privileged circumstances in Apartheid South Africa (which outside of Nazi Germany was the most oppressive and racist society in the world for over a century), and even HE fully understands and acknowledges what millions of white, Latino, and Asian Americans in this country fail or simply refuse to grasp: That what Barack Obama said in his speech three days ago is the most clear-eyed, profound, and honest public meditation by an American politician on racism and its ongoing impact on American life in half a century.

It is a measure of just how appallingly ignorant and full of fear, hatred, jealousy, and cruelty far too many 'other' Americans are with respect to their fellow African American citizens that Mr. Roger Cohen can come to this country with a self admittedly 'shameful' historical background as a wealthy white South African and eventual compassionate witness to the horrors, stupidities, and severely oppressive consequences of Apartheid on his fellow South Africans--both black and white--and yet testify so intelligently and eloquently on precisely WHY Obama's already legendary speech of March 17, 2008 was so important, accurate, and necessary to any realistic and HONEST appraisal of what America actually happens to be both historically and in contemporary terms as opposed to the endless self-serving, fantasy ridden, and egomaniacal myths and lies that it habitually tells itself it is.

It just goes to show once again that Truth and Justice in society is only acquired, found useful, and made an integral part of our daily lives when one is consciously willing and able to recognize, defend, and honor the humanity of 'all others' no matter what the price (the late, great James Baldwin called it "the price of the ticket") because one's own human existence is not worth anything at all if it fails to acknowledge and embrace this fundamental reality. The following iconic figures from the endless pantheon of African Americans's highly complex political, cultural, and intellectual legacy have spent CENTURIES telling this truth out loud in public and demanding that ALL Americans take complete and immediate moral, ethical, and ideological responsibility for it. Their (last) names are legion throughout the world: DuBois, King, X, Baldwin, Tubman, Douglass, Wells-Barnett, Truth, Hamer, Baker, Baraka, Morrison, Reed, Powell, Williams, Himes, Hurston, Moses, Newton, A. Davis, Monroe Trotter, Hughes, Brooks, Wideman, Wilson, Coltrane, Hendrix, Dolphy, Ayler, Gaye, Holiday, Young, Wright, Fitzgerald, Ellington, Strayhorn, Basie, Monk, M.Davis, Parker, Mingus, Roach, Jones, F. Hampton, Cherry, Henderson, Cole, and too many others to mention.

What Mr. Cohen hasn't forgotten--like these African American icons--is that genuine freedom and self determination is the result of an often agonizing process that courageously insists on struggling with, and painfully acting on, what one knows and subsequently embraces as truth whether one is "understood", "accepted" or considered "popular" or not. What matters is whether one is mentally and spiritually prepared to pay the price of consciousness with engaged commitment and a dedication to purposeful action. Then and only then can one truly be free and thus a real member of the human community. Clearly, Cohen and Obama really do 'get it'. It's completely up to the rest of us to do the same.



Beyond America’s Original Sin
New York Times

Published: March 20, 2008

There are things you come to believe and things you carry in your blood. In my case, having spent part of my childhood in apartheid South Africa, I bear my measure of shame.

Roger Cohen

As a child, experience is wordless but no less powerful for that. How vast, how shimmering, was Muizenberg beach, near Cape Town, with all that glistening white skin spread across the golden sand!

The scrawny blacks were elsewhere, swimming off the rocks in a filthy harbor, and I watched from my grandfather’s house and I wondered.

Once, a black nanny took me out across the road to a parapet above a rail track beside that harbor. “You wouldn’t want me to drop you,” she said.

The fear I felt lingered. I returned recently to measure how far I would have fallen. In memory, the abyss plunged 100 feet. Reality revealed a drop of 10. That discrepancy measures a child’s panic.

A “For Sale” sign was up on what had been the family house. I inquired if I might visit and received a surly rebuff. But not before I glimpsed the mountain behind where my father hiked and where I feared the snakes among the thorn bushes.

Fear, shadowy as the sharks beyond the nets at Muizenberg, was never quite absent from our sunlit African sojourns. My own was formed of disorientation: I was not quite of the system because my parents had emigrated from Johannesburg to London. So, on return visits, I wandered into blacks-only public toilet or sat on a blacks-only bench.

Blacks only — and I was white. Apartheid entered my consciousness as a kind of self-humiliation. The black women who bathed me as an infant touched my skin, but their world was untouchable.

Only later did a cruel system come into focus. I see white men, gin and tonics on their breath, red meat on their plates, beneath the jacarandas of Johannesburg, sneering at the impossibility of desiring a black woman.

A racial divide, once lived, dwells in the deepest parts of the psyche. This is what was captured by Barack Obama’s pitch-perfect speech on race. Slavery was indeed America’s “original sin.” Of course, “the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow” lives on in forms of African-American humiliation and anger that smolder in ways incommunicable to whites.

Segregation placed American blacks in the U.S. equivalent of that filthy African harbor.

It takes bravery, and perhaps an unusual black-white vantage point, to navigate these places where hurt is profound, incomprehension the rule, just as it takes courage to say, as Obama did, that black “anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.”

Progress, since the Civil Rights Movement, or since apartheid, has assuaged the wounds of race but not closed them. To carry my part of shame is also to carry a clue to the vortexes of rancor for which Obama has uncovered words.

I understand the rage of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, however abhorrent its expression at times. I admire Obama for saying: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.”

Honesty feels heady right now. For seven years, we have lived with the arid, us-against-them formulas of Bush’s menial mind, with the result that the nuanced exploration of America’s hardest subject is almost giddying. Can it be that a human being, like Wright, or like Obama’s grandmother, is actually inhabited by ambiguities? Can an inquiring mind actually explore the half-shades of truth?

Yes. It. Can.

The unimaginable South African transition that Nelson Mandela made possible is a reminder that leadership matters. Words matter. The clamoring now in the United States for a presidency that uplifts rather than demeans is a reflection of the intellectual desert of the Bush years.

Hillary Clinton said in January that: “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” Wrong. America’s had its fill of the prosaic.

The unthinkable can come to pass. When I was a teenager, my relatives advised me to enjoy the swimming pools of Johannesburg because “next year they will be red with blood.”

But the inevitable bloodbath never came. Mandela walked out of prison and sought reconciliation, not revenge. Later Mandela would say: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Like countless others, I came to America because possibility is broader here than in Europe’s narrower confines. Perhaps it’s my African “original sin,” but when Obama says he “will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible,” I feel fear slipping away, like a shadow receding before the still riveting idea that “out of many we are truly one.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Iraq War - Five Years Later

It's hard to believe that five years have passed since the U.S. invaded Iraq. I was reminded of this fact by the protests I encountered on my way into work this morning and around lunchtime. In San Francisco's Financial District, various people were holding signs saying this was a nonviolent direct action marking the fifth year (anniversary seems such an inappropriate term) of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Buses were rerouted this morning to avoid protesters. Around 1 pm I ventured out to the intersection of Market and Montgomery Street and saw a phalanx of police wearing riot helmets and holding long wood batons on Market St. This San Francisco Chronicle photo is taken looking west on Market St. Montgomery St. is to the left of the police.

From what I could see peering over the shoulders of onlookers on the sidewalk there were two groups of protesters in the street -- one group (just west of Montgomery St.) was wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods -- à la Guantanamo -- and people in the other group (some were holding flowers), were completely surrounded by police and were sitting/laying down on Market St. about 30 feet away from the protesters in orange. A Muni bus (the public transportation system in SF) was parked on Market St. and it said POLICE instead of the usual bus route and number on the front. I guess this was transportation for eventual arrests.

What I saw seemed quite polite and rather low energy. The protesters on the sidewalks were the ones with the microphones and bullhorns. The people sitting/laying in the street were quiet and the police were standing around looking bored. I don't know what the protestors intended to accomplish but if they wanted to end the war, this so-called direct action seemed ineffective and lackluster. I went back to work and by mid-afternoon, the protesters were gone, and traffic was once again going down Montgomery St. Here's the SF Chronicle's take on the protest.

To date more than 3,990 Americans have been killed in Iraq and more than 29,000 have been injured. To see the names and faces of those killed, you can visit this CNN page. It's quite sobering to scroll down and see the names, faces, and ages of all those men and women who have been killed by roadside bombs, helicopter crashes, grenades, ambushes, "friendly" fire, and so on.

But let's not forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have died since 2003. According to a 2006 Washington Post article, American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimated that "655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred." These are deaths by violence, disease, and other causes. According to Iraq Body Count, which is often quoted by the media, there have been more than 89,000 documented Iraqi civilian deaths from violence from 2003 to 2007. IBC's figures are low because they only include documented deaths and many deaths go unreported by the media, government, etc.

How long will this war continue and how many more thousands will die before it's over?


Venus and Serena Williams: Inspiring Pioneers Both On and Off the Court

Editor's Note:

Venus and Serena Williams are two of the most prominent athletes in the world and since the late 1990s have dominated the international sport of women's tennis. Winner of 14 Grand Slam singles titles between them, with an additional eight Grand slam titles in doubles as well, the sisters (who were born in Compton, California and have lived in Florida for many years) have also won Olympic gold medals in both singles and doubles competitions in the Olympic games. Known for their extraordinary technical prowess in the sport as well as their patented speed, power, grace, and fierce determination to win, the sisters have inspired young women and men alike around the world to take up the game--especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where, as in the United States and Europe, they have reached iconic 'living legend' status. They are especially revered by African Americans in general not only because of their pioneering contributions in sports but also because of their many high profile charitable and community-centered educational activities.

Beautiful, stylish, dynamic, witty, well rounded, and business savvy 27 year old Venus and her 26 year old 'baby sister' Serena have captured the attention of the fashion and interior design worlds as well because of their ongoing interest and professional involvement in these industries. In December, 2007 Venus received a professional degree in fashion and design and both she and Serena have not only participated in many fashion events as designers and models but Venus has also designed the interiors for a number of prominent public and private companies. In fact Tavis Smiley's PBS talk show's set was designed by Venus's design company V Starr Interiors out of Jupiter, Florida.

The video above features the sisters promoting their joint appearance on the cover of the new March 2008 issue of ESPN, The Magazine where they also share space with nine other prominent American athletes in the special 10th anniversary issue of the magazine.

I must admit a personal bias here because the sisters--and especially Venus--are my favorite athletes on the planet and I have been a devoted fan of them and their game since both sisters formally began their professional careers in the sport in 1997 and 1998. So here's to the truly great Venus and Serena Williams, charismatic African American revolutionaries armed with tennis racquets and a powerful commitment to excellence--both on and off the court.


Williamses Grace ESPN The Magazine Cover

To commemorate its 10th anniversary this week, 'ESPN The Magazine' has released 10 different covers of their latest publication and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour stars Serena and Venus Williams will take pride of place on one of them. As two of the most iconic sports personalities of the past decade it is fitting the American siblings have been honored with a place as one of the celebratory coverpieces.

"We're both really excited to be on one of the 10 covers," Serena said. "I think we owe so much of our success to each other. I mean Venus was the first African American to become world No.1 and all her successes motivated me to be the best."

"I wouldn't have been able to make it without her either," Venus concurred. "She inspired me to be a better player and to achieve so many of my goals. I think the Olympics [Venus won the singles title before teaming up with her sister to take gold in the doubles at Sydney in 2000] were one of the high points. Winning gold was an amazing feeling and something we can look back on as a massive achievement."

Since bursting onto the scene in the late 1990s, Serena and Venus rapidly established themselves as two of the biggest names in not only tennis, but world sport as a whole. The sisters have accumulated a staggering 65 Tour singles titles between them and spent a combined total of 68 weeks at world No.1. With eight and six Grand Slam singles titles respectively, Serena and Venus sit at sixth and 10th in the all-time list of major winners and with their unrivalled all-court game few would bet against them adding to this tally in the years to come.

'ESPN The Magazine' is a bi-weekly sports magazine published by the world-renowned ESPN sports network and was launched 10 years ago on March 11, 1998.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama Calls for 'Racial Unity' in America


It's hard to know where to begin today with the endless blizzard of stuff on Obama, his speech on "Race" in America, and the hysterical racist slander, lies, smears, and libelous misrepresentations of fact and truth in the so-called "controversy" over Obama's spiritual advisor Dr. Jeremiah Wright. However I must and will carry on regardless. Please click on the following links for the various articles dealing with these and related issues today:

Obama's speech was extraordinary and confirms that he is in fact one of the very few politicians in this country with the very rare mark of a true Statesman's poise, insight, clarity, intelligence and VISION. What distinguishes Obama and his campaign is that he realizes that the real fight for Democracy lies ultimately not with him (or Clinton or McCain) but with US--the citizens of this Nation. He also articulates the much deeper and profound understanding that without this mass consciousness and committment to far greater goals and desires than merely electing people like himself to office we cannot possibly change the society in which we live. Obama also expresses that this struggle and his role within it is ENTIRELY DEPENDENT ON WHAT WE THE PEOPLE DO AND/OR DON'T DO. This is of course obvious on many levels but it can't be said or acknowledged too many times in a society where so many people are too often lost in the wilderness of fear, hatred, ignorance, confusion, bitterness, cynicism, and despair. It's crucial and necessary that our 'leadership' be mature and humble enough to realize that it can't possibly accomplish anything of lasting value and importance without OUR ongoing dedication to change.

So is Barack Obama perfect? Hardly. Is he flawless? Of course not. Is he the be all and end all of all our most precious dreams and desires? Don't be ridiculous. Is he without contradictions? Not in a million years. But there is tremendous potential for greatness in this man and what he represents and publicly stands for that gives us far more than mere "hope" or "belief." He gives us all an opportunity to grow and change as politically and socially engaged citizens in a context that is fundamentally rooted in who we are and not merely in who Obama represents himself to be. That is the mark of a true leader and if we take that particular quality for granted we do so at our own peril.


Friend --

Barack Obama just finished a major speech on race in America and building a more perfect union.

You should see it and read it for yourself.

Here's the video and full text:

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: 'A More Perfect Union'

Philadelphia, PA | March 18, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

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. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

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, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and 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.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside 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. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

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 in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

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 then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.