35,000 Philadelphia Supporters Hail Obama’s Speech on Race

35,000 Philadelphia Supporters Hail Obama’s Speech on Race

Barack Obama was greeted by the largest crowd of his campaign on Friday night in Philadelphia.  It was the biggest gathering of Obama supporters that the campaign had ever seen, exceeding the 30,000 who greeted Obama and Oprah Winfrey in December in Columbia, S.C.  An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people pressed into Independence Park to hear the Democratic presidential candidate, four days before Pennsylvania’s crucial presidential primary on April 22nd.

Beyond the stunning fact that more people came out for Obama’s rally in front of Independence Hall than any other event since he announced his candidacy, there was a remarkable spontaneous demonstration of support that occurred when his speech ended.  At least 5,000 people had nowhere to go but up Market Street.  Obama’s charge of the night: “Declare independence!” was with them.  They started with the familiar “O-Bam-A.”  By 7th and Market Streets, they had graduated to “Yes we can!”   By 10th and Market Streets, with hundreds of supporters streaming in between cars on the road, they were just cheering.  At first, a few Philadelphia policemen cops tried to move the surging crowd to the sidewalks, but it didn’t work.  The police finally retreated to the sidewalks, and a full mile away from Independence Park, the Obama crowd was still marching.

Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech is now being hailed as one of the most powerful discourses on race ever given by a politician.  Obama’s speech on race recognized that some blacks and whites still harbor significant anger and resentment.  While condemning their hateful expression, he conceded that these feelings exist.  Obama spoke from the heart, from his true experience of living in both our black and white cultures.  His life, indeed his DNA, embodies a truly American experience.  Obama mapped out his vision for getting beyond the distractions of race toward solving the real problems Americans face: the war, the economy, health, education and the environment.

Obama told the crowd that the United States is at a critical moment in its history, not unlike what the founding fathers faced in Philadelphia.  “It was over 200 years ago that a group of patriots gathered in this city to do something that no one in the world believed they could do,” Obama said.  “After years of a government that didn’t listen to them, or speak for them, or represent their hopes and their dreams, a few humble colonists came to Philadelphia to declare their independence from the tyranny of the British throne.”

The Illinois senator called Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a “tenacious” opponent but said that it was time to move beyond the old politics of the 1990s.   Hillary Clinton “is a tenacious campaigner and is a committed public servant,” he began.   But her message, he said, is “that we can’t really change the say anything, do anything special interest game of so we might as well choose a candidate who knows how to play the game.”  He mocked her “kitchen sink strategy” and then stated, “I’m not running to be the president who plays the same old game. I’m running to end the game.”

Barack Obama: “A More Perfect Union” (Full Speech on Race)

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Hillary: Can Obama Beat McCain? Yes, Yes, Yes!!

With the Pennsylvania primary just six days away, Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia gave Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a last chance to settle old and new scores as they headed into a week that could make or break their presidential aspirations. Clinton wanted to extend her five point lead in Pennsylvania, while Obama was trying to unveil a debate performance that reflects the recent national poll figures that show him surging way past Clinton in the areas of trustworthiness and electability.

During the debate, Obama and Clinton each defended their handling of missteps and misstatements on the campaign trail and directed sharp criticisms toward each other. They began their first head-to-head encounter in nearly two months focused on political disputes, rather than upon their relatively narrow policy differences. Obama, who leads in the number of delegates needed to claim the nomination, fielded tough questions about his relationship with his former pastor, his patriotism and his description of small-town voters as “bitter,” the latter a controversy that has engulfed his campaign for much of the past week.

Obama argued repeatedly that voters are smart enough to differentiate petty issues from important economic matters. “So the problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly typical, is that you take one person’s statement, if it’s not properly phrased, and you just beat it to death,” Obama said. “And that’s what Senator Clinton’s been doing over the last four days. And I understand that. That’s politics. And I expect to have to go through this process. But I do think it’s important to recognize that it’s not helping that person who’s sitting at the kitchen table, who’s trying to figure out how to pay the bills at the end of the month.”

Clinton addressed questions about voters’ deteriorating level of trust in her after her recent false claims to have ducked sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia. In perhaps her fullest explanations of her Bosnia gaffe to date, she noted she had already apologized and said that while she had gotten the details wrong, she was otherwise proud to have taken the trip. “I may be a lot of things, but I’m not dumb,” Clinton said. “I’m embarrassed by it, I have apologized for it, I said it was a mistake. It is, I hope, something you can look over.”

Clinton, who has been quoted as saying in private conversations that she does not think Obama can win the general election, made her clearest statement to date of her confidence in Obama. When asked whether Obama would win against Sen. John McCain, Clinton adamantly replied: “Yes, Yes, Yes.”

Obama responded by saying that he believes he’s better suited to beat McCain, that his ability to unify the electorate would be the key to winning in November. “When we are unified, there is nothing that we cannot tackle,” he said.

Hillary: “Can Obama Beat McCain? Yes, Yes, Yes!

Read an article that is extremely critical of the debate’s moderators, as well as of the entire ABC News coverage of the Philadelphia Democratic debate, in this morning’s edition of The Washington Post here.

And Greg Mitchell calls ABC News’ coverage of the debate A Shameful Night for U.S. Media in today’s Huffington Post here.

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