RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Barack Obama's former pastor has begun speaking out since he found himself at the center of national attention for some opinions he's expressed in the past. Today the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is speaking at the National Press Club in Washington. Last night he got a standing ovation from the NAACP in Detroit.
Jerome Vaughn of Detroit Public Radio reports.
JEROME VAUGHN: The topic of Reverend Wright's address was a change is going to come. It's a theme picked by the NAACP's Detroit branch for its Freedom Fund Dinner, an annual event bringing together 10,000 members for what's touted as the world's largest sit-down dinner. Celebrities like Morris Chestnut, Vivica Fox and Soledad O'Brien flew in to Detroit for the weekend's festivities.
Past keynote speakers at the dinner include both President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. But this year the huge crowd gathered to hear Reverend Wright, who's been pilloried in the media. Wright let the audience know within a few minutes that he hasn't been silenced by the controversy, publicly correcting a local Republican politician who called him divisive.
Reverend JEREMIAH WRIGHT: I am not one of the most divisive. Tell him the word is descriptive. I describe the conditions in this country. Conditions divide, not my description. Somebody say amen.
VAUGHN: Reverend Wright became a controversial figure when his remarks on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and race relations hit the media. They've been played nearly nonstop, generating sufficient furor to prompt Barack Obama to repudiate the remarks and distance himself from Reverend Wright.
During last night's speech, Wright threw a few jabs at conservative political pundits but spent most of his time talking about the differences between black and white culture, including the historical role of race in the church.
Rev. WRIGHT: I come from a religious tradition that did not hold slaves but preached against slavery and worked to end slavery. I come from a religious tradition that fought against lynching - like the NAACP - fought against discrimination - like the NAACP.
VAUGHN: But Wright also talked about the changes needed to heal the nation.
Rev. WRIGHT: And many of us finally are committed to changing this world that we live in so our children and our grandchildren will have a world in which to live in, to grow in, to learn in, to love in, and to pass on to their children.
VAUGHN: As the crowd filed out of the convention center, support for Wright was strong. Detroiter Marvin Cook hasn't decided who he'll support for president but says he has heard enough about Reverend Wright's remarks.
Mr. MARVIN COOK: It's almost like when you're eating fish, you know, are you looking for bones or are you looking for meat, you know. Of course, there was more meat than bones tonight, but, you know, it's depends on what you're looking for.
VAUGHN: And that's a sentiment echoed by Delicia Coleman(ph), who wore her Sunday best to watch Reverend Wright's speech.
Ms. DELICIA COLEMAN: When you look for something negative, you will find it. And if they wanted to look for something different they've had plenty of opportunity. And even in this speech they have plenty of opportunity to look for the good. I just don't believe certain parts of America is willing or ready for that change.
VAUGHN: For NPR News I'm Jerome Vaughn in Detroit.
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