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Obama Campaigns at King's Atlanta Church

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Obama Campaigns at King's Atlanta Church

Election 2008

Obama Campaigns at King's Atlanta Church

Obama Campaigns at King's Atlanta Church

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Illinois Sen. Barack Obama delivered a message of unity and hope at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Sunday. The Democratic presidential hopeful spoke on what's known as "King Sunday" — the eve of the holiday that commemorates the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama brought his message of unity and hope to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta today. He spoke on what's known as King Sunday, on the eve of the holiday that commemorates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

NPR's Kathy Lohr reports.

KATHY LOHR: Obama's appearance at Ebenezer Baptist Church conveys a great deal of symbolism, especially this weekend. Reverend Raphael Warnock told more than 1,800 churchgoers that Obama is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream realized.

(Soundbite of music)

Reverend RAPHAEL WARNOCK (Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church): Because of Dr. King he is here. Because of Dr. King he is here. And that ought to make all Americans, all Americans proud.

LOHR: Invoking Dr. King's legacy, Obama saysthe legendary civil rights leader inspired people all over the country, not with words of anger but with a fierce urgency. He said unity is what will bring about change.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Not because it sounds pleasant, not because it makes us feel good but because it's the only we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

Unidentified Group: Yeah.

Sen. OBAMA: I'm not talking about the budget deficit. I'm not talking about the trade deficit. I'm talking about the moral deficit in this country.

(Soundbite of applause)

LOHR: Obama did not directly mentioned the sparring over the past few weeks with Hillary Clinton over a statement she made that suggested Dr. King needed President Lyndon Johnson to help realize his dream of civil rights. But Obama noted division has crept into the race for president, saying none of our hands are clean.

Sen. OBAMA: We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing each other down.

Unidentified Group: Yeah.

Sen. OBAMA: We can no longer afford to traffic lies or fear or hate because the ploy what we must purge from our politics, the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late. Because if Dr. King could love his jail room, if he could call on the faithful who once said who are you to forgive those who had set dogs and fire hoses upon them, and surely we can look past what divides us in our time than bind up our wounds.

LOHR: The crowd at Ebenezer Baptist was supportive, giving Obama several standing ovations. They also stood outside the church in bone-chilling temperatures and watched as the candidate placed a wreath at the tomb of both Martin and Coretta Scott King.

Curtis Bratton(ph) from Atlanta said Obama has his vote.

Mr. CURTIS BRATTON: After I've listened to all the candidates, his message really stands out with me. It really resonates. And I feel that he's a candidate that really can take the country in a new direction, in a better direction that he's been going in as far.

LOHR: Several others talked about how Obama inspires them, including Angel Knight(ph) of Atlanta.

Ms. ANGEL KNIGHT: It's the first time I feel like my vote matters, really. I'm - if I have a 7-year-old, I'm a single parent. He's the one, I mean, he's just - I can't even say it deeper than that. He's the one.

LOHR: Obama now looks to Saturday's primary in South Carolina, where more than 50 percent of the Democratic electorate is African-American.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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