The following is a transcript of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's remarks about his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. This speech was delivered in Hickory, N.C., on Tuesday, April 29, one day after Wright appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to address accusations that he had made inflammatory remarks about the United States. The transcript was provided by the Federal News Service.
Before I start taking questions I want to open it up with a couple of comments about what we saw and heard yesterday. I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That's in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That's who I am. That's what I believe. That's what this campaign has been about.
Yesterday, we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.
You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Rev. Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.
They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And, if Rev. Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.
Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He's built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministry's reach beyond the church walls.
But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States' wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced, and that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.
Let me just close by saying this: I — we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided, that, in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old divisive politics of the past.
I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country; that the only way we can deal with critical issues, like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism, is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments.
What we saw yesterday out of Rev. Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign. It is antithetical to what I am about. It is not what I think American stands for.
And I want to be very clear that moving forward, Rev. Wright does not speak for me. He does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks. But what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling. I mean it. It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am.
And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign's about, I think, will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.
Last point: I'm particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It's never been about Sen. Clinton or John McCain. It's not about Rev. Wright.
People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children, and that's what we should be talking about. And the fact that Rev. Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage, for three or four consecutive days, in the midst of this major debate, is something that not only makes me angry but also saddens me.