Monday, March 31, 2008

Raise the Bar

Having been blessed with a four day news hiatus, we drove out of the airport today and noticed that it was exactly five.

"What will the lead story on NPR be," I asked?

Before we could guess, the now well known trumpet intro blared.

It was Iraq.

The second story was the administration's new initiative to place some kind of regulation on the financial folks who are once again privatizing their profits and socializing their losses. Asking an "R" to design new regulations for banking is like asking Willie Sutton to be in charge of bank safe combinations.

Next, was the resignation of Alphonso, who like so many others in his shoes, now sees the wisdom of spending more time with his family.

Curiously, there was not a mention of Clinton or Obama.

Nor, was there a mention of this story:
(it was on 60 Minutes)

Gore launches $300 million climate change campaign
Mon Mar 31, 2008
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Al Gore, former U.S. vice president, Academy Award winner and Nobel peace laureate, on Monday launched a $300 million, three-year campaign to mobilize Americans on climate change.

"We can solve the climate crisis, but it will require a major shift in public opinion and engagement," Gore said in a statement.

"The technologies exist, but our elected leaders don't yet have the political will to take the bold actions required. When politicians hear the American people calling loud and clear for change, they'll listen," he said.

A longtime environmental activist, Gore chairs the Alliance for Climate Protection, which unveiled the "We" campaign with a series of videos, a Web site -- -- and a television advertisement set to air during such programs as "American Idol," "House," and "Law & Order."

The first ad likens the battle against climate change to U.S. troops storming the beaches at Normandy during World War Two, the struggle for civil rights and the drive to send humans to the moon.

"We didn't wait for someone else" to tackle these historic problems, the actor William H. Macy says in the spot. "We can't wait for someone else to solve the global climate crisis. We need to act now."

Future spots are expected to feature such "unlikely allies" as civil rights activist Al Sharpton and conservative preacher Pat Robertson, and country singers Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks speaking together against climate change.

"What's different about this (campaign) is for the first time ever, we're going to be able to reach the general public in their daily lives through television, through media, through community-based organizations ... and online," more

Meanwhile, another study shows a dangerous trend for the American West:

US West Warming Faster Than Rest Of World

LOS ANGELES - The US West is heating up at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the world and is likely to face more drought conditions in many of its fast-growing cities, an environmental group said on Thursday.

By analysing federal government temperature data, the Natural Resources Defence Council concluded that the average temperature in the 11-state Western region from 2003-07 was 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.94 degrees Celsius) higher than the historical average of the 20th century.

The global average increase for the same period was 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit (0.55 degrees Celsius).

In the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to big and fast-growing cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Denver, the average temperature rose 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.21 degrees Celsius), the US group said. (clip)

Study author Stephen Saunders of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization said there were signs of the economic impacts throughout the West.

"Since 2000 we have seen $2.7 billion in crop loss claims due to drought. Global warming is harming valuable commercial salmon fisheries, reducing hunting activity and revenues, and threatening shorter and less profitable seasons for ski resorts," he said.

Like the poet singer of our age once said,

You don't have to be weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Nor, do you need to be a climate scientist.

Maybe Gore can once again raise the bar.

But most of us would rather just belly up to it.

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Oz Note: this first one seems lame to me.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Place of Women

You may remember that Andy Dufresne harbored one dream in “The Shawshank Redemption” -– to open a little beachfront hotel in Zihuatanejo.

I guess the thought had crossed my mind too.

The name Zihuatanejo is from the Nahuatl "Cihuatlán", meaning "place of women" because it was a matriarchal society. In pre-Columbian times, a Tarascan leader with a title of Caltzontzin (that means: He who governs countless houses) frequented the area from the modern day Lake Pátzcuaro region. Legend has it that he constructed the rock barrier on Playa Las Gatas (named for the harmless whiskered sharks that used to be found there) to provide a sheltered swimming area and harbor for the women and children, though the town's official historian says this is a myth.

Nevertheless, that barrier, whether man-made or natural, continues to protect the beach to this day. With the arrival of the Spanish, the name Cihuatlan was transformed first into Cihuatlán and then into Ciguatanejo. Zihuatanejo’s current name form has only been in use for the past couple of centuries.

We are staying in an old hotel that rides downs the steep slope down to the Playa la Ropa.

On one side of us is the truly amazing Casa que Canta. Eating from their terrace provides a killer view of the bay and the city at night. Rooms here, in season, which is ending this week, run at 400.00 and up.

On the other side is the Tides. Their rooms go for about 500.00 dollars.

Much better I think to save your money and just eat there. Both have excellent food. But I think the food and the service at the Tides is as good as is humanly possible.

Yesterday, we went into the village and walked the public beaches and got a sense of the town. We found the Brisas del Mar there. And we liked it a lot. There was a wedding there last night and it looked like a really great place to bring your friends for a boda.

Given the original name,

Perhaps a really good place.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Antarctic Ice Collapse

You may have missed this story.

Probably just as well.

Big chunk of Antarctic ice shelf falling apart

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Antarctica's massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming, satellite images by the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center showed.

The collapse of a substantial section of the shelf was triggered February 28 when an iceberg measuring 41 by 2.4 kilometers (25.5 by 1.5 miles) broke off its southwestern front. That movement led to disintegration of the shelf's interior, of which 414 square kilom eters (160 square miles) have already disappeared, scientists say.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a broad plate of permanent floating ice 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of South America, on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula. Now, as a result of recent losses, a large part of the 12,950-square-kilometer (5,000-square-mile) shelf is supported by a narrow 5.6-kilometer (3.5-mile) strip of ice between two islands, scientists said.

"If there is a little bit more retreat, this last 'ice buttress' could collapse and we'd likely lose about half the total ice shelf area in the next few years," NSIDC lead scientist Ted Scambos said in a statement.

"Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on West Antarctica yet to be threatened. This shelf is hanging by a thread," echoed David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey, which contributed data on the break-up.

Jim Elliott, who was onboard a British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter aircraft sent to video the extent of the damage, said the scene looked like a bomb site.

"I've never seen anything like this before -- it was awesome," he said in a BAS statement. "We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage. "Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble -- it's like an explosion."

Antarctica has suffered unprecedented warming in the last 50 years -- with several ice shelves retreating and six of them collapsing since the 1970s.

"Climate warming in the Antarctic Peninsula has pushed the limit of viability for ice shelves further south, setting some of them that used to be stable on a course of retreat and eventual loss," Vaughan said.

Vaughan said the Wilkins breakout would not affect sea levels because it was already floating when it broke off.

"But it is another indication of the impact that climate change is having on the region."

Over the past half century, the western Antarctic Peninsula has experienced the steepest temperature increase on Earth, 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Farenheit) per decade.

"We believe the Wilkins has been in place for at least a few hundred years, but warm air and exposure to ocean waves are causing a breakup," said Scambos, who first spotted the disintegration in March. (clip)

Ultimately, ice shelf breakup in the Antarctic -- more than 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) have been lost over the past 50 years -- could significantly increase ocean levels around the world. (more)

I had lunch with some folks today who were in the wind business. Somehow I managed to get started on the solid state photonic energy grid that we must develop and adopt.

"How long do you think it will take for this kind of vision to be realized?" one of them asked.

"If we want to have a chance of surviving,

We better hope by Tuesday", I said.

I think she thought I was exaggerating.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Common Sense

In my neighborhood, they are building like cracy right now. The City Council made it easy for developers to build to 60 feet and even higher if they put some affordable units in. Although many of the projects are concrete throughout, most just have three or four levels of concrete parking structure that go pretty deep into the earth. Above that, it's all sticks.

When I was a builder of passive solar homes, the general building height rule of thumb for sticks was three stories. But, these guys are going six and seven floors with standard 2x4s and plywood sheathing. One side of me hates these things, but another side of me realizes that we are going to have to learn to build more and more with carbon (wood) if we are going to begin to stabilize, and ultimately begin to reduce the amount of carbon in the biosphere.

Just reducing our emissions will likely not be good enough. Here's another study that points in that direction:

Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 10, 2008

The task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures may be far more difficult than previous research suggested, say scientists who have just published studies indicating that it would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a matter of decades.

Their findings, published in separate journals over the past few weeks, suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.

Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States,Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.

"The question is, what if we don't want the Earth to warm anymore?" asked Carnegie Institution senior scientist Ken Caldeira, co-author of a paper published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "The answer implies a much more radical change to our energy system than people are thinking about." (clip)

Until now, scientists and policymakers have generally described the problem in terms of halting the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere. The United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change framed the question that way two decades ago, and many experts talk of limiting CO2 concentrations to 450 parts per million (ppm).

But Caldeira and Oregon State University professor Andreas Schmittner now argue that it makes more sense to focus on a temperature threshold as a better marker of when the planet will experience severe climate disruptions.

The Earth has already warmed by 0.76 degrees Celsius (nearly 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Most scientists warn that a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) could have serious consequences. (clip)

European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, in Washington last week for meetings with administration officials, said he and his colleagues are operating on the assumption that developed nations must cut emissions 60 to 80 percent by mid-century, with an overall global reduction of 50 percent. "If that is not enough, common sense is that we would not let the planet be destroyed," he said. (more)

"Common sense is that we would not let the planet be destroyed."

As I stated in the Belief Belief post several years back.

But do we leap into action to protect our family?

our house,
our home,
and our future?


And that's the reason that they don't believe it either.
Because we don't believe it.
If we did.

We would start the water.
We would call for help.
We would fight the fire.
We would build
an Earthfamily.

We would think of nothing else.
Until the danger had passed.
It's called belief belief.

"Common sense is that we would not let the planet be destroyed"

"Common sense is that we would not let the planet be destroyed"

"Common sense is that we would not let the planet be destroyed"

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Eulogy for 4000 Neighborhood Kids

Eulogy for 2000 Neighborhood Kids

(written 10/25/05)
and 30,000 Iraqi citizens

and more –
I have been trying to remember the name
of one of my son’s teenage friends,
one of the polite ones,
earnest, a fast smile, fast tracked
to the Navy
after he lived through Austin High.
I have been trying to remember the name
of the soldier’s mother in DC last summer,
white hair, short cut like a boy,
magenta streaks –
She told us about the back door draft,
how her son joined the Navy
and was transferred to Baghdad.
His letters were terrifying.
Julian Bond had just finished speaking.
The 2000th mother’s son, father’s daughter
has now been killed in Iraq –
little league games, Barbie dolls and
yellow miniature dump trucks,
video games and math books
chewed on by the dog –
or howling neglect,
chocolate chip and pecan cookies baking
on a Saturday night.
I don’t know what it means to be
a good parent, if I can’t make
the world more hospitable
to human beings.
The collective neighborhood aches today.
The neighborhood aches.

Note: I first wrote this for a vigil 10/25/05
to commemorate the death of the 2000th
American soldier in Iraq.

Now the number is 4000, one million
Iraqis killed, and 4,000,000 displaced,
driven from their homes. Half have been
able to leave the country, half are homeless
in their homeland.

Dead in Iraq stats here

©Susan Bright 2005

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

* Video signature chunpan9.


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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stupid Free

On Friday, I spent part of the afternoon with Arjun Makhijani. He is author of Carbon Free and Nuclear Free, A Roadmap of US energy Policy. Arjun is President of the Institute for Energy Environmental Research . And, he’s been around for a long time, going back to S. David Freeman’s days at the TVA.

According to his web site blurb:

The United States can become a global leader against climate change by phasing out nearly all carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2050. Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy demonstrates how the U.S. can eliminate the use of fossil fuels without sacrificing economic growth or building more nuclear power plants.

Among the book's recommendations:

Enact a physical limit on carbon dioxide emissions (a "hard cap") for large users of fossil fuels that steadily declines to zero;

Eliminate all subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels, nuclear power and biofuels from food crops;

Build demonstration energy supply plants including solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, and carbon dioxide capture in microalgae for liquid fuel production;

Leverage government purchasing power to create markets for advanced technologies such as plug-in hybrid vehicles;

Ban new coal-fired plants unless they include reliable carbon capture and storage;

Create and enforce stringent efficiency standards for appliances, transportation and buildings.

These approaches are all technologically feasible, economically viable and environmentally benign," Dr. Makhijani explained. "Nuclear power, on the other hand, entails risks of proliferation, terrorism and serious accidents."

The analysis in Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free shows that a reliable electricity grid can be created entirely from renewable energy sources, despite the intermittency of wind and solar energy. "First of all, wind and solar development should be coordinated, since wind often predominates at night and solar, is, by definition, in the daytime,"

"Then, hydropower resources can be used when neither is available, complemented by natural gas standby."

As we chatted, not having read the book, I realized that Arjun was as well versed in the problems we face and the solutions we must adopt as anyone I know. And it became apparent that we share a great deal in our world views.

I shared my vision of a solid state energy grid,( the unified photonic energy web), speaking about advanced nanomaterials and other strategies. We talked about EESTOR and whether or not they would be able to achieve their stated goals in energy storage.

Seeing that I had a willing, listening mind after these first mental sorties, I sent in the ground troops. “We will need to change everything”, I confided. "These lights will be replaced by OLEDs and other reverse power paints. These walls and our clothes will suck the energy from our bodies, thus revolutionizing the need to provide large amounts of cooling."

Our cars and transportation system in general must be unified with the stationary electric sector. We will imbed inductive charging plates in the roads and parking lots and charge cars in moments while they sit at the red light or during dinner.

I talked about how we must create a new world that is beyond fire. That the fuel in our gas tank must become as relevant to us tomorrow as hay in the barn is today.

I even touched on the notion that our consumer society must be replaced by a greatly improved economic model that does not require the mass consumption of resources or embrace the massive investment of human energy that we presently accept as good, sane socioeconomic architecture.... That we must flip the current model from consumers and corporations to providers and cooperations.

As I escorted him to meet his ride, a sense of understanding seemed to prevail in our dyadic universe. We both knew that we both knew.

Today, I came across this piece from the Daily Mail on the views of James Lovelock, the scientist who popularized the notion that earth is a living organism.

“According to the climate change scientist James Lovelock, this is the beginning of the end of a peaceful phase in evolution.

By 2040, the world population of more than six billion will have been culled by floods, drought and famine.

Lovelock has been proclaiming his Gaia Theory for a generation. It states that the Earth is a living, self-regulating system and that by filling its atmosphere with carbon we have destroyed the balance and overheated the planet. We are in the phase when the thermometer suddenly shoots up.

On this day when much of the world recognizes the miracle of the resurrection, I would rather believe that we are entering the phase where humanity’s intelligence and compassion suddenly shoots up.

Where we not only become Carbon Free, and Nuclear Free,

We recognize the need for another truly marvelous miracle.

And we become Stupid Free.


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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Real News

As we know from Jon Stewart, you often can say more and communicate better if you do it with humor and style. Thanks to Atrios, here are two bits by Fortune and Bird on "Iraq" and "subprime" that will make your good Friday even gooder.

and here is their bit on subprime.

While I'm at it, if you don't go to The Real News, you might want to give them a try. Here is a Guardian report on the true state of the surge.


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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Race for the Sun

It's the first day of spring.

I can always tell when I drive due east up the hill to my west campus office in the morning and the sun is squarely in my eyes. This is a great time to watch the sunrise and the sunsets. The sun literally races to the north during the next few weeks.

Speaking of the sun and races.

GE has made a major announcement that will make for a new generation of electron to photon materials and verse-visa.

Here's the announcement, with thanks to the Energy Blog.

GE Demonstrates World's First ''Roll-to-Roll''
Manufactured Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs)

Newspaper printing-like processing key to making this next generation lighting technology low cost, commercially viable

NISKAYUNA, N.Y.-- March 11, 2008--GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of General Electric (NYSE: GE), and GE Consumer & Industrial, today announced the successful demonstration of the world’s first roll-to-roll manufactured organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lighting devices. This demonstration is a key step toward making OLEDs and other high performance organic electronics products at dramatically lower costs than what is possible today.

OLEDs are thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes, which illuminate when an electrical charge is applied. They represent the next evolution in lighting products. Their widespread design capabilities will provide an entirely different way for people to light their homes or businesses.

Moreover, OLEDs have the potential to deliver dramatically improved levels of efficiency and environmental performance, while achieving the same quality of illumination found in traditional products in the marketplace today with less electrical power.

“Researchers have long dreamed of making OLEDs using a newspaper-printing like roll-to-roll process,” said Anil Duggal, manager of GE’s Advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics. “Now we’ve shown that it is possible." (clip)
Duggal continued, “Beyond OLEDs, this technology also could have broader impact in the manufacturing of other organic electronic devices such as organic photovoltaics for solar energy conversion, sensors, and roll-up displays.” (clip)

Actually, the technology was developed by GE with the help of a solar company.

GE researchers provided the organic electronics technology and were responsible for developing the roll-to-roll processes, while ECD provided its unique roll-to-roll equipment-building expertise to build the machine that manufactures the OLED devices.

ECD Senior Vice President Nancy Bacon said, “This program was a major step in developing high volume roll-to-roll manufacturing for OLEDs and other organic semiconductor devices. (clip) We currently are utilizing this technology to mass produce our flexible, durable and lightweight UNI-SOLAR brand solar laminates.

So, this reverse PV lighting manufacturing breakthrough has come about because of the advances in PV manufacturing.

It demonstrates how a race for the sun,

can bring about a completely new class of materials

in a solid state revolution

that convert light to energy and energy to light.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Put A Little Love In Your Heart

Recalling "Ritual Violence", by Tom Dent

Galveston, TX.
The Hoodoo Festival,
organized by Ahmos ZuBolton

Or maybe it was earlier than that,
late sixties, New Haven, Ct.

The Black Panthers were in New Haven.
Kingman Brewster canceled classes at Yale,
said students and faculty were to gather
in discussion about race and justice
in America. He said he doubted if a
Black Panther could get a fair trail
anywhere in America.

Around then, I remember waking
breathless from a black power dream —
Sly and the Family Stone had detonated
an atomic bomb in a garage in Jersey.

At the Hoodoo Festival
in Galveston, TX Tom Dent produced
his one act play, "Ritual Violence."

It played out in a bar —
a bunch of black people sitting
in a booth, laughing, talking
and then arguing.

One stood up. Pulled a gun.
Shot one of the other players.

Then Dent took stage,
said, "Stop right here.
We have to stop this, stop killing
each other."

The reason this memory is so vivid
these many years later I suppose
is that I was one of three white
people in an audience of maybe sixty —
the only fair skinned blond.

What Dent then said was black people
would be better off if they just
started shooting white people
"at random on the street."

And he pointed at me.

"Thanks a lot, Dent!" I said afterwards.
We both laughed.
"I see what you mean," he said.
And I saw what he meant
and it had zip to do with killing me,
or anybody.

A few years later, at a festival
in New Orleans, I asked Dent
if he could direct us to some real
New Orleans music, not the tourist
stuff. He didn't answer.

A bunch of folks —
poets, publishers, family
and friends were sitting around
the meeting hall after one
of the programs.

Tom Dent, who was later the director
of the New Orleans Jazz
and Heritage Foundation, produced
an elderly black man,
with a guitar, who played and sang —
sitting on a folding chair
a bit to the side of our

It was years before I realized
what he'd done.

Black anger exists,
as does a profound amount of quiet grace.
Anyone who is "shocked" by either
needs to get out more,
read history, pay attention.

©Susan Bright 2008

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Note: Today is the 5th anniversary of the illegal and ill-advised invasion by the Bush administration of Iraq. is organizing vigils all over the country, around the world. Go to their website to find one near you. In Austin, it will be in front of the capitol on 11th at 7pm.


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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A More Perfect Union

*Barak Obama and Mother

Video: on Truthout
Barak Obama’s Speech on Race

NY times

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s 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 nation’s 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 twenty 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 successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. 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 the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

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