From CBS News' John Bentley
PHILADELPHIA – As the issue of race continues to bubble to the surface of the presidential race, Barack Obama has decided to confront the issue head on by giving a speech called "On Race, Politics, and Unifying Our Country" later today. "I think we've got to talk about it (race), and I think we've got to process it, but we've got to remind ourselves that what we have in common is far more important than what's different," said Obama. "If we're going to solve any of these problems, we've got to come together and bridge our differences in ways that we just have not bridged them before."
The main impetus for the speech is a desire to contain the story about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, according to a campaign adviser. Wright is Obama's controversial pastor from Chicago, who has said that blacks should say "God damn America" because we are a "country and a culture controlled by rich white people," and that the U.S. brought 9/11 on itself because of its foreign policy. Obama has repudiated Wright's statements and removed him from his spiritual advisory council. "Truth is that this is somebody who has been a pastor for 40 years he's said some very offensive remarks I have denounced, he's now in the process of retirement," Obama said. "I had not heard him say those things, I was not in attendance." He added that he doesn't "want to continue to kick [the pastor] when he's down. My feeling is to go forward and the church family continues to be welcoming."
But he did attend Wright's church for nearly 20 years, and the two became close friends. Obama is expected to talk about how he got to know and admire Rev. Wright, and about the unorthodox theology he preaches, according to the adviser. Obama is concerned about Wright being caricatured unfairly, the adviser said, and hopes the speech today will be able to move the discussion forward and past the controversy over his statements.