Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Obama reassures ministers he's still on their side

Today's Mary Mitchell column. She starts off with this...

Sen. Barack Obama's private breakfast meeting with a group of local ministers on Monday morning showed why a lot of people are hoping the freshman senator will seek a higher office sooner rather than later. His ability to feel comfortable in any setting, and to put others at ease while wading through the muck of partisan politics, has made Obama an attractive candidate to a broad base of voters.

Yet, Obama knows it's important to assure his base that they haven't been left behind -- that his broad appeal won't rob them of an advocate in Washington.

He also senses that this is the right time to preach his style of black empowerment.
He met with some ministers on the west side of Chicago at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on Washington Avenue. This church is right in the heart of redevelopment on the west side according to this column. This was who attended that meeting...

Powerful clergymen crossed denominational as well as geographical boundaries to hear Obama's comments. Among them were the Revs. Clay Evans, Leon Finney, Mildred Harris, Willie Barrow, Tyrone Crider, Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright, Al Sampson, Michael Pfleger and Bishops Larry Trotter and Claude Porter, founder of the Proviso-Leyden for Community Action Inc.
She alludes to the fact that his appearance there will do more to bring south side and west side leaders together than the hollow call for unity by elected officials still reeling from the appointment of Todd Stroger to replace his father for County Board President. As for the persistent rumors of him running for President in 2008, he still has a long way to go. Here's a little of what he said...
"I'm firmly convinced we cannot accomplish the goals that we hear about in the
newspaper every day if the church and organizations aren't mobilizing around that agenda," Obama said. "If parents inside the pews don't feel invested in their child's education, those children will not be educated."
Sticking to a political ideology that puts him a lot closer to the center than some liberals would like, Obama touched upon the issues that black churches are uniquely equipped to tackle. For instance, he suggested that the alliance of ministers could approach companies like FedEx and offer to sponsor ex-felons for employment.

"Sponsor them and train them," he said. "Maybe we could get some government money to the churches to help with the training system
While holding government accountable for its role in the dynamics that created stressed urban cores like Chicago's West and South sides, Obama is clear that African Americans must organize around the issues that impact their communities the most.

"In 14 years of marriage, my wife and I have never argued over two gay men," Obama said, sharing how he reconciled his position on the proposed anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment (he doesn't support it) with his religious beliefs.

The church's focus has to be economic development, Obama said, acknowledging that he may have stepped on a few toes when he pointed out that more and more churches are raising money to build bigger churches.

"All the assets of all the churches represented in this room is about $100 million," he said. "I know most of the money gets spent on big churches and that is all good. But I also was thinking that if we just put one-tenth, a tithe, into a fund -- you wouldn't have to touch the capital -- you'd have a revolving fund to help finance businesses within your own church.

"Sometimes I hear people complaining about, 'Why are these people opening up stores in our community?' It's because they pool their resources to buy the equipment. But we've got more assets in this room and we don't use it. That doesn't make much sense," Obama said.
I'm not a big fan of his but I'm with him on economic development. That's been a very important thing to me. This was an interesting column this morning.

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