Barack Obama in Philadelphia, delivers speech on race at Constitution Center

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addressed race and bigotry, crucial issues in the ongoing Democratic presidential primary.

Senator Barack Obama speaks at the National Constitution Center on March 18, 2008. Photo by Christopher Wink.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addressed race and bigotry, crucial issues in the ongoing Democratic presidential primary of late, during a speech at a private rally in a full second floor hall of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia this morning.

“We’ve been in a racial stalemate for four years,” Obama said to a crowd of several hundred, including a throng of media.

He spoke at length of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., a former pastor of Obama’s in Chicago, who has been accused of promoting black separatism. He chastised Wright’s words, though he would not condemn the man.”These people are part of me,” he said during the 30-minute address.

“They are part of America, the country I love.”

He suggested that forgetting what Wright had done for him would be like forgetting the grandmother who raised him, a white woman whom Obama said occasionally used racial epithets and admitted fear of black men. Obama used Wright to diagnose race in the United States today, recounting 350 years of racism, but declaring we should be in pursuit of common ground.

“We do not need to recite here the injustices that have been done in this country,” he said.The crowd was full of Philadelphia Democratic Party notables, including City Councilwoman Janine L. Blackwell, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., IBEW Local Union 98 Business Manager Johnny Dougherty, who recently announced a campaign for the State Senate, former City Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell, and U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-Pa. Many black clergy from the city were also in attendance.Obama told the invite-only crowd that his candidacy was based on a hope in solving old wounds.

“I chose to run for president in this time,” he said, “because we cannot solve the problems of our time unless we work together.”Still, he acknowledged that it would take time, that this racial divide wouldn’t be solved soon.”Not with one term, not with one candidate,” he said.

Voters in Pennsylvania, registered as either a Republican or Democrat, can vote on April 22 in party primaries. While Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. has surpassed the requisite delegate count to be effectively named the Republican nominee for next November’s presidential election, the battle between Obama and his rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., rages on. By some accounts, Pennsylvania’s 158-pledged delegates could decide who will be the Democratic nominee.

During the speech, Obama spoke of his own past and heritage, noting that he had relatives of every race on three different continents. He addressed white angst about blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups.”Anger over welfare and affirmative action built the Reagan coalition,” Obama said, speaking of the conservative base that developed during the Ronald Reagan presidency in the 1980s. He suggested he would like to reach out to these groups as well.

Obama didn’t invoke the name of Clinton once after stepping in front of the podium a few minutes before 11 a.m., but he did directly address Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton adviser who stepped down after suggesting Obama’s success as a presidential candidate was based on his race. Ferraro was the first female to run as a major pary vice presidential candidate when she was the running mate of Walter Mondale, the unsuccessful Democratic presidential nominee in 1984.The event’s location wasn’t released to the public.

Obama began and closed his speech by describing Philadelphia’s role in the development of the United States, calling for the need of positive leaders and strong activists.”Words on parchment aren’t enough to deliver people from bondage.”

Obama’s opponent in the April 22nd Pennsylvania presidential primary, Hillary Clinton, held a rally in McGonigle Hall last week. Read a review of it in “Clinton stresses job experience at campus rally,” or hear audio and see video. Read about the next presidential debate in “Clinton comes to campus, agrees to second debate.”