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After Senator Barack Obama delivered his celebrated speech, "A More Perfect Union," on March 18, 2008, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd noted that only Barack Obama "could alchemize a nuanced 40-minute speech on race into must-see YouTube viewing for 20-year-olds." Pundits established the speech's historical eminence with comparisons to Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divi After Senator Barack Obama delivered his celebrated speech, "A More Perfect Union," on March 18, 2008, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd noted that only Barack Obama "could alchemize a nuanced 40-minute speech on race into must-see YouTube viewing for 20-year-olds." Pundits established the speech's historical eminence with comparisons to Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divided" and Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream." The future president had addressed one of the biggest issues facing his campaign—and our country—with an eloquence and honesty rarely before heard on a national stage. The Speech brings together a distinguished lineup of writers and thinkers—among them Adam Mansbach, Alice Randall, Connie Schultz, and William Julius Wilson —in a multifaceted exploration of Obama's address. Their original essays examine every aspect of the speech—literary, political, social, and cultural—and are punctuated by Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson's reportage on the issue of race in the now historic 2008 campaign. The Speech memorializes and gives full due to a speech that propelled Obama toward the White House, and prompted a nation to evaluate our imperfect but hopeful union.


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After Senator Barack Obama delivered his celebrated speech, "A More Perfect Union," on March 18, 2008, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd noted that only Barack Obama "could alchemize a nuanced 40-minute speech on race into must-see YouTube viewing for 20-year-olds." Pundits established the speech's historical eminence with comparisons to Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divi After Senator Barack Obama delivered his celebrated speech, "A More Perfect Union," on March 18, 2008, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd noted that only Barack Obama "could alchemize a nuanced 40-minute speech on race into must-see YouTube viewing for 20-year-olds." Pundits established the speech's historical eminence with comparisons to Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divided" and Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream." The future president had addressed one of the biggest issues facing his campaign—and our country—with an eloquence and honesty rarely before heard on a national stage. The Speech brings together a distinguished lineup of writers and thinkers—among them Adam Mansbach, Alice Randall, Connie Schultz, and William Julius Wilson —in a multifaceted exploration of Obama's address. Their original essays examine every aspect of the speech—literary, political, social, and cultural—and are punctuated by Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson's reportage on the issue of race in the now historic 2008 campaign. The Speech memorializes and gives full due to a speech that propelled Obama toward the White House, and prompted a nation to evaluate our imperfect but hopeful union.

46 review for The Speech: Race and Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union"

  1. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Rush

    This book shows the power of the media to misrepresent and how, through manipulation, it can bring unnecessary misery to a person's life, in this case, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Reverend Jeremiah Wright had been doing great Church work for many years, with a stellar reputation as a Pastor coming from all sides, a man known for being balanced and tempered. Then, the media got ahold of a sound bite, played it over and over out of its larger context, and did everything that it could to ruin him. Pr This book shows the power of the media to misrepresent and how, through manipulation, it can bring unnecessary misery to a person's life, in this case, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Reverend Jeremiah Wright had been doing great Church work for many years, with a stellar reputation as a Pastor coming from all sides, a man known for being balanced and tempered. Then, the media got ahold of a sound bite, played it over and over out of its larger context, and did everything that it could to ruin him. President Obama, caught in the crossfire of what was going on, decided to make a speech. In that speech, President Obama balanced a number of very difficult things, remaining loyal to his Pastor, and at the same time, not giving into the character assassination he saw going on. He was honest, diplomatic and wise to a fault in dealing with the issue of race head-on. His speech was simply brilliant and will go down in History as such. This book is a collection of critiques of what happened surrounding that situation. It's fair. It's wise. It's balanced and for all of these things, it becomes a great book for reviewing what happened. For all of those who are Barack Obama fans, there is another book that can add to your store of information about him and complement this one. In Thomas D. Rush's “Reality's Pen: Reflections On Family, History & Culture,” you will find a 1989 account of two private conversations between Rush and Obama. In those conversations, Barack reflects on what he envisions in his romantic future, long before he met Michelle. The account is special, in part, because it contains substance that only Rush and Obama heard. It is also special because the comments were made before Obama became famous between he and another guy who were just normal, everyday guys. The interaction is detailed on page 95 of Rush's book in a piece called “You Never Know Who God Wants You To Meet.” The Obama story is just one of the many rich stories from the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Wow! This collection of essays is wonderful. It covers a wide range of topics and perspectives, and it includes lots of what is now historical information about the long campaign season. The entire speech is also printed at the end of the book. This is a fascinating time capsule of attitudes and issues, many of which I encountered as an early Obama supporter in Kansas. I think this is a jewel of a souvenir from a unique period in American history, and hopefully it opens its readers' minds up to Wow! This collection of essays is wonderful. It covers a wide range of topics and perspectives, and it includes lots of what is now historical information about the long campaign season. The entire speech is also printed at the end of the book. This is a fascinating time capsule of attitudes and issues, many of which I encountered as an early Obama supporter in Kansas. I think this is a jewel of a souvenir from a unique period in American history, and hopefully it opens its readers' minds up to other people's experiences.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John Nolan

    the editor is really sharp--good context, historically, especially within the drama of the race

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karie

    I like very much the idea behind “The Speech: Race and Barack Obama’s ‘A More Perfect Union’”. Edited by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, this book brings together 15 very different people with very differing views on then Senator Obama’s speech of March 18th, 2008. As Omar H. Ali puts it, “The fact is that there are at least as many ways to interpret the words contained within this or any other speech as there are people listening to or reading such words. No single interpretation can capture the en I like very much the idea behind “The Speech: Race and Barack Obama’s ‘A More Perfect Union’”. Edited by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, this book brings together 15 very different people with very differing views on then Senator Obama’s speech of March 18th, 2008. As Omar H. Ali puts it, “The fact is that there are at least as many ways to interpret the words contained within this or any other speech as there are people listening to or reading such words. No single interpretation can capture the entirety of what a particular speaker intends, or all the ways in which their speech is received.” As I read each person’s thoughts on that momentous speech, I compared it to my own view. There is a nice balance in this book ranging from extremely favorable opinions to disappointment over a chance missed. The essays are generally written in a very scholarly manner (prompting me to look up a few words) and include a great deal of historical context. I found myself trying to look at the speech through different eyes than my own (which saw the speech as yet another example of our President’s intelligence and talent) – which I suppose, was really the point of his words that day. Was I editing the book, I might have made a few changes, though. First off – I would have let the writers know that the historical context of the speech would be provided at the beginning of the book. Many of them laid the groundwork of what was happening in the country and in the election at that time, and the repetition got tiresome by the third essay or so. Also, I would have either placed the text of the speech at the beginning, so that it was fresh in the reader’s mind prior to reading the essays or would have broken the speech up - then grouping the essays that touched on each of those aspects together. (And then put the full text at the end of the book.) I found myself reading some parts of the speech over and over again when quoted in the essays, without having the text as a whole in the background of my thoughts. It is fascinating, though, to share the same experience with other people whose lives are so different from mine. To know that others – like Alice Randall (as I did) “…first heard The Speech on a car radio. And so it came to me initially as words in air. It came to me as songs often come to me, as disembodied sound that reaches the body with a kind of anonymity that entices one to believe that the voice one hears in one’s own.” To see pointed out very important elements that I missed: “At the center of The Speech are three words separating then from now: Not this time. These three words are Obama’s victory. Not this time. Repeating this phrase twice and repeating the phrase “This time” six times, Obama begins to break with the past.” For me, the most important there of the speech was that “It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.” In our country, where “A recent study conducted at Princeton University revealed that a white felon stands an equal chance of being granted a job interview as a black applicant with no criminal record,”. Because we finally have a black president does not mean that all the inequalities have been swept away. But it also does NOT mean, as pointed out by Obama, that the fulfillment of his dream to become president means that whites have lost their chance to succeed as he has. This speech, this man, is a game changer for our country…in I believe, a wonderful way. Because of who he is, because of what he has done, because of what he will lead this country to become. Closing with an anecdote from Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod: “Obama wrote in the middle of the night for the two nights before this speech. At two A.M on the day of the speech, Axelrod woke up to see that Obama had sent it to him on his BlackBerry. Axelrod read it and e-mailed Obama back to say, “This is why you should be president.” Should be and is.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A must-read for every American of every race. So much to be learned here, both from President Obama's brilliant speech and from the incisive commentary of the writers included in this collection. Just read it. And pass it along.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    This book collects a number of essays on Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech (the race speech from late in the primaries). After a slow start (the first few essays are a bit redundant in context and praise), it gains steam. Bakari Kitwana's consideration of the term "post-racial" is especially useful and insightful, and I enjoyed the essays that were less flattering to Obama (even if I think at least one of them involves some noteworthy misreading). The writers come from a number of discipline This book collects a number of essays on Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech (the race speech from late in the primaries). After a slow start (the first few essays are a bit redundant in context and praise), it gains steam. Bakari Kitwana's consideration of the term "post-racial" is especially useful and insightful, and I enjoyed the essays that were less flattering to Obama (even if I think at least one of them involves some noteworthy misreading). The writers come from a number of disciplines and, not surprisingly, take a variety of approaches. The highlight for me was possibly Geneva Smitherman's examination of the speech in the jeremiad tradition (and the African-American jeremiad in particular). I'm thinking people interested in contemporary politics would find this pretty insightful and enjoyable.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This collection of essays on Obama's speech, "A More Perfect Union" was well compiled and an intriguing read. The inclusion of Obama's speech in the book was important (though I was torn as to whether I should read the speech BEFORE or AFTER reading the essays) and the essayists provided enough variation in their view points to keep this book from feeling like a collection of essays celebrating everything about Obama and the speech. Personally, I found the essays towards the end of the book to b This collection of essays on Obama's speech, "A More Perfect Union" was well compiled and an intriguing read. The inclusion of Obama's speech in the book was important (though I was torn as to whether I should read the speech BEFORE or AFTER reading the essays) and the essayists provided enough variation in their view points to keep this book from feeling like a collection of essays celebrating everything about Obama and the speech. Personally, I found the essays towards the end of the book to be more captivating (though there were great ones at the beginning too) and the only essay I found 'out of place' was Dominic Thomas' regarding the effect of the speech on French culture/policy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I had not listened to the entire speech previous to reading the text of it in the book. I thought that putting the speech at the end of the book was poor organization, as it seems more logical that you should refresh your knowledge of the speech before reading evaluations of it. Most of the articles were positive, though one person thought it was a complete failure. A couple analyzed it as a rhetorical device and it's use of rhetorical devices. It will provided me with an interesting insight to d I had not listened to the entire speech previous to reading the text of it in the book. I thought that putting the speech at the end of the book was poor organization, as it seems more logical that you should refresh your knowledge of the speech before reading evaluations of it. Most of the articles were positive, though one person thought it was a complete failure. A couple analyzed it as a rhetorical device and it's use of rhetorical devices. It will provided me with an interesting insight to different perspectives on Obama's campaign and the speech's influence on the outcome. I think it will offer a unique insight into the racial and political climate of 2008 to future generations.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christos

    An interesting collection of essays on one of the most memorable speeches from the campaign. I enjoyed the variety of perspectives that each of the essayists brought, though some of them were a little uneven in their analysis. Though the speech was prompted by the Rev. Wright controversy, its clear on its face and from the essays, that it resonated far and wide beyond that momentary campaign distraction. I would give the collection of essays 3.5 stars, and the speech itself 5, so call it 4 even.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    Though a couple of the essays near the end of the book did not catch my interest, overall this was an engaging read which examines the impact of "The Speech" from Obama's 2008 presidential campaign from the viewpoint of essayists representing diverse communities. I most enjoyed Joan Morgan's essay on "black" identity from her perspective as a Jamaican immigrant to this country.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Though some of the essays were certainly more interesting than others, overall, I thought this was an interesting read. Several of the essays were quite thought-provoking and really made me think about race relations in our country. I recommend it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liberty Abbott-Sylvester

    I really enjoyed being able to catch up on what I missed during the election. This was not a boring read and I enjoyed it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Well written, nicely paced.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Sullivan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aladdin Elaasar

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marguerite Berger

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kiran Chaudhuri

  19. 5 out of 5

    alex guns

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lloyd-Billington

  21. 5 out of 5

    mychelle morgan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Finn

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tessabreneman

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marcus

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dustin Wax

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Chang

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. stickers and stamps; loose binding inside front cover

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bloomsbury Publishing

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Defoy

  32. 4 out of 5

    Heather S.

  33. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

  34. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

  36. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  37. 4 out of 5

    Ridhi

  38. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  39. 4 out of 5

    Grace Wing-Yuan Toy

  40. 4 out of 5

    Tara

  41. 5 out of 5

    Eugene

  42. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Johnson

  43. 5 out of 5

    James

  44. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  45. 4 out of 5

    Suzette

  46. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Carter

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