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Opinion: Revisiting Obama's Rev. Wright Controversy

The Right Politics

Many believe that President Barack Obama’s past connection to Reverend Jeremiah Wright – and the influence the reverend may have had on the president’s way of thinking – should be dropped from presidential campaign discussions in 2012. However, it is still a viable topic.

Obama admittedly sat in Wright’s Trinity Church for twenty years and then claimed that the dramatic sermons spewed from the outspoken and controversial pastor weren’t absorbed by his mind and soul.

However, this is not true.

Anyone who has read Obama’s autobiography - “Dreams from My Father” - knows this isn’t true. Those who have followed the president’s literary career in the 2000s know it isn’t true.

When Obama came to Chicago for the first time, he came to do his community service job. Being a Chicago-outsider, he had a lot to learn. The job taught him a great deal about politics and the importance of making the right connections.

Ultimately, for Obama, some of the connections he made were nearly his downfall. People have heard the names of the relationships that have discredited him - Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers are the names most-often heard negatively.

As Obama is now, he was a determined man who worked extremely hard. He worked to make a difference in the African-American community via his community work back in the 1980s. While many have scoffed at his resume highlighting his time spent as being an organizer, he was atypical. To him, it was a passion much beyond a paycheck.

According to “Dreams from My Father”, when Obama was an organizer, he was advised that the active citizens would be found in the churches. Therefore, Obama set out to meet church leaders. Many of them strongly suggested that Reverend Jeremiah Wright was a church leader that he must meet. He was told that Wright had an extremely strong following.

Obama eventually met Wright at the Trinity Church on Chicago’s South Side. Unlike most Black church leaders in the African-American community, Wright was receptive to Obama’s community organization efforts. He wasn’t skeptical of a political connection to his church as many others were.

As Obama continually tried to involve his community organization job with the churches, it was also suggested that he become a church member – regardless of which one – so that the churches he was dealing with would know where his own faith lies.

In time, Obama became a follower of Reverend Wright and a part of the Trinity Church family.

Concerning Rev. Wright, the now 70-year-old pastor was hired by his church in 1971. He took the congregation’s membership from a mere couple hundred to a massive several thousand. He was undoubtedly the powerhouse he was said to be.

Rev. Wright was found on Trinity Church recordings to have stirred up his congregation by claiming that the 9/11 attacks on America were “America’s chickens coming home to roost” as he blamed the U.S. for the travesty. His most famous quote was when he told his congregation: “…not God bless America. God damn America.”

Obama claimed that such controversial and powerful words from Wright escaped him. Even though he sat through such sermons given by the man he chose to marry him and his wife – and also to bless his two daughters when born – he denies being influenced by Wright’s teachings and opinions.

Logically, it would have better for Obama to claim that he did hear what the pastor had said but that he rejected some Wright’s fiery views.

Besides, in “Dreams from My Father,” Obama claims just the opposite. He very powerfully wrote that during his first experience as part of a Reverend Wright church service, he wept. A child next to him, he wrote, had handed him a tissue to dry the tears streaming down his cheeks.

Obama did hear Reverend Wright, and he emotionally reacted to him.

More than simply react to Wright’s words, he embraced them. Obama remembered the name of the first sermon he ever heard Reverend Wright preach and even titled a book after the name of that first Wright sermon: The Audacity of Hope.

When confronted, Obama should have admitted that he remembered Wright’s words. He obviously heard them and many of them stuck to his inner being. Obama’s honesty is what comes in to question here - and honesty needs to be a part of a presidential candidacy.

About Scott Paulson

Scott Paulson writes political commentary for and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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