X hits on this document





5 / 12

work" (p. 4). But Obama would not do that; instead, he would stay and answer the tough questions. Obama (2008b) explained.

For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionallyfiercecritic ofAmerican 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 disagree, (p. 3)

Obama's answers were simple—"of course," "yes/' and "absolutely"—which are uncommon and perhaps refreshing responses from a political rhetor. Obama appeared to fully disclose his knowledge of Wright by bluntly responding to the doubts against himself. It could be argued, though, that Obama's answers were too simple. Perhaps this is why the next part of his speech was devoted to elaborate and detailed responses.

While the next questions were not so simply an- swered, Obama presented himself up to tbat point as someone who frankly replies to tough questions, so his listeners were more likely to trust and believe his longer and more in-depth responses. Put simply, his straight- forward responses to the previous questions boosted his ethos. Now imagining what his inquisitors would like to know, Obama {2008b) queried, "Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church" (p. 3)? Obama (2008b) began his response by building identification with his inquisitors: "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 sets and YouTube, 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" (p. 3). This statement presented the concems of his skeptics as valid and worthy of serious attention, and therefore deserving of thoughtful, honest answers.

Once identification with his audience had been solidified through the construction of his ethos, Obama attempted to transfer positive credibility to Wright. Obama explained that judging Wright based on the media representations of him was a mistake, especially because Wright "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" (Obama, 2008b, p. 3). Obama (2008b) further explained that Wright

is a man who served his country as a United States Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over 30 years has 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, (p. 3)

Obama answered the question—why associate myself with Reverend Wright —by presenting comparable ethos for both men. They associated because they shared the same faith and the same passion for their country and their communities.

Obama's second identification strategy situated Wright within the Obama family, the black community, and the American family. By placing Wright within these groups, Obama reframed the image of Wright as a demagogue into a family man/community member/ typical American. This strategy is characteristically post-racial as Obama attempted to transcend Wright's racial identity into universal terms. Obama (2008b) explained, "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children" (p. 4). Obama expounded in greater detail his familial relationship to Wright: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother" (Obama, 2008b, p. 4). Obama could not disown Wright who was part of the Obama family and an important member of the larger the black community. Obama (2008b) took the next step and rhetorically identified his family, his pastor, and the black community within the larger American public: "These people are a part of me. And they are part of America, this country that I love" (p. 4). Because his audience was also "part of America," Obama could no less disown Wright as he could disown any American.

The third identification strategy Obama utilized in his speech associated Wright with not just a group of people, but with an important period of time in U.S. history. Wright's connection with the American Civil Rights Movement helped Obama (2008b) explain the mindset of a generation who "came of age in the late '50s and early '60s, a time when segregation was still the law ofthe land and opportunity was systematically constricted" (p. 5). Wright was not the only black man to feel angry abtiut injustices such as racism. In fact., "for those blacks who did make it, questions of race and rac- ism continue to define their worldview in fundamental

The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3. 2009 I57

Document info
Document views84
Page views87
Page last viewedMon Jan 23 01:50:01 UTC 2017