Reflections on Barak Obama and Pastor Jeremiah Wright

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The statements made and recorded by Pastor Jeremiah Wright, friend of Presidential hopeful, Senator Barak Obama are now the subject of intense public debate and serious concern. It is clear that Pastor Wright has serious issues against White America. And these issues and the statements he made cannot be ignored. Not by Senator Obama and certainly not by the voting public.

There is no doubt that Senator Obama is a voice for change. He is a talented, forward thinking, and highly intelligent man. He knows (as we all do) that this nation is in dire need of a new vision. And it is my solid conviction that he could be an excellent President.

In our hearts we all want to trust him. However, in trusting him, we want to make sure that his vision for change, includes all people. Two months ago I was in a Doctor’s office for a routine checkup. There was a TV in the waiting area. There were about six people in the waiting room. All except for me were White Americans. We were all watching Barak Obama doing a televised interview. I was amazed to hear everyone in the waiting area (all white people) support the Senator. One woman stated that “she might vote for him.” There was a man who told me that, “Barak reminded him of Bobby Kennedy.” I wonder how these same people feel now.

As a black man, I am not happy with the statements made by Pastor Jeremiah Wright. And if those statements are the views held by Senator Obama, then he is certainly not the President we need and I will not and cannot vote for him.

Certainly racism is not dead. But it has been mortally wounded. Just look at the incredible success black people enjoy in almost every field. The highest paid entertainers and sports figures in the world are black! One of the top scientists in the world (the brilliant Neil Degrasse Tyson) is black.

We have great military and political leaders like Colon Powell and Connie Rice. And we should be proud of the efforts of white Americans, who fought and struggled to make sure that people of color enjoy the freedoms and prosperity so evident in our modern society. 

I would like to say to Pastor Wright that he is wrong. There are wonderful white people in this country. And my life is a perfect example of their kindness and altruism.

During a big part my youth (although black) I was practically raised by an Italian American family. My mentor (Ike Grassano) was one of the kindest, most incredible men I have ever known. I have yet to meet any man (including my biological father) who made such an impact on my life.

Mr. Grassano and my mother taught me everything good that I know. Mr.Grassano instilled in me a strong work ethic and an insatiable desire to be the best in whatever I do. He taught me to be tough and to never give up. He taught me how to dress like a gentleman. He instilled in my mind the importance of honesty and loyalty to my family and friends. And in my home town I may be the only black man that speaks Italian! I also love soccer, classical music, and Italian food.

My point is; I may be black, but my thinking and way of life was molded by a wonderful European culture—a culture that I love and embrace. My life has been interesting beyond words. How different things might have been, had I isolated myself to the confines of one culture. How boring! I am the product of both my White and Black American families. And I love them both equally.

Last night my Mom and I laughed as we discussed Pastor Wright’s statements and the possible response by Senator Obama. We laughed because for fifty-two years, I have lived the change that so many Americans are waiting for. I stepped over the racial dividing line decades ago and I have never looked back. Senator Obama is correct. This country is divided. We do need change. And not just in the political arena.

I would hope that Senator Obama distance himself from the rhetoric and highly racial comments made by his friend, Pastor Jeremiah Wright. And perhaps Pastor Wright is a symbol of a big segment of our society—a segment that is still highly divided along racial lines. As for Jeremiah Hodge, I will continue to live my life loving both my white and black brethren. And I would urge Senator Obama to do the same if he wants to become our first Black President. Not because it is politically correct, but because it is the right thing to do. He must choose. There is no middle ground on this issue. I made my choice. And I hope that one day my life will be an example of the wisdom of loving all people.


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