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(2008) Senator Barack Obama, "A More Perfect Union"

Controversial remarks drawn from the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, an unpaid campaign advisor to Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, and his pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, emerged as a lingering issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.  On March 18, 2008, Senator Obama delivered a now famous speech on race which his campaign called, “A More Perfect Union” designed to address the pastor’s remarks and his relationship with the minister.  As importantly, the speech also addressed the role race has played in the nation’s history and in the presidential campaign.  The speech, given at Philadelphia’s Constitution Center, appears below. 

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union ... —221 years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched Americas 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 nations 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 20 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 is 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

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