Obama: life is more than “a long road toward nothingness”

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was this morning’s keynote speaker at the United Church of Christ State Convention in Fort Dodge.  As the 271 delegates from churches throughout the state waited for some adjustment to the arrangement of the stage — and waited for Obama to arrive, a few in the crowd started to sing “Rise and Shine, and Give God the Glory” then most of the crowd joined in.  Their second selection was “This Little Light of Mine.”

Here’s the Radio Iowa story of the event, with an audio link at the bottom if you care to listen to Obama’s 23 minute speech.

Here are some highlights if you don’t want to listen:

According to Obama, America’s main challenges are “moral problems” that won’t be fixed by “a 10-point” plan.” He listed Iraq, poverty, lack of health care insurance, the genocide in Darfur and AIDS in Africa as “moral” problems.

“Doing the Lord’s work is a thread that runs through our politics since the very beginning and it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America means, somehow, that faith should have no role in public life,” he said..

“…My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I go out and do the Lord’s work,” Obama said, to applause from the crowd.

Obama talked about his adult conversion to Christianity, describing it as a choice rather than an epiphany. “I learned that my sins could be redeemed and I learned that there were those things that I was too weak to accomplish myself but that he would accomplish them for me or with me if I placed my trust in him,” Obama said.  “In time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death but rather as an active, palpable agent for good in the world and in my own life.”

Obama closed by mentioning “one of my favorite theologians” Reinhold Niebuhr, the author of the Serenity Prayer. Obama pronounced it “NY-ber” while several people sitting in front of me spoke out loud, saying “NEE-ber” instead.

“In May of 1943 at the height of World War II when Allied victory was far from certain…he scrawled onto a pad a simple prayer.  ‘God,’ he prayed, ‘give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other,'” Obama said to the delegates.  “A few months later a friend got his permission to reprint that prayer in pamphlets that were about to be sent to American GIs serving overseas, so before it became the popular ‘Hallmark’ prayer that many of us know today, it brought hope to the greatest generation when they needed it most and it’s call to serenity, courage, and sound judgement is one that we need to pray on ourselves as we face our own challenges in the years and months to come.”

The delegates stood to applaud at the end of Obama’s speech, then patiently waited in a long line to go into a nearby cafeteria to shake Obama’s hand.  The event was closed to the press.  Through the glass windows, as I stood talking with some of the delegates outside the cafeteria, I saw a television.  It was tuned to CNN — and Obama’s face was on the screen with the words “Faith and Politics” on the bottom of the screen.

Obama’s next public appearance was in a park in Webster City.  His entourage arrived, Obama jumped out and bought lemonade from a group of four kids ranging in age from 8 to four-and-a-half.  The kids were standing in the back of a pick-up.


“How much is a glass of lemonade?” Obama said as he approached.

“Twenty-five cents,” replied one of the three girls.

Obama ordered four — giving three of his staffers glasses first. A few moments later, Obama had his own plastic cup in hand.

“This is the moment of truth,” he told the kids.

He took a swallow, then grasped his neck and gasped out loud.  The kids giggled.  Obama thanked the kids and moved on toward a crowd of about 300, most of whom were sitting on folding chairs.

“I was just talking to Kyle over there.  He’s going to be playing soccer and so were trading stories about our summer plans,” Obama said as he began his 10-minute speech to the assembled picnic-goers.  “It sounds like his are more fun than mine.”

“…I stayed in Webster City last night, doin’ somethin’ for the local economy.  I was staying at the Super 8,” Obama said and the crowd laughed.  “It was outstanding.  I had a great time.”

Obama briefly returned to the religious theme of his Fort Dodge appearance: “There are some things that we all agree to, some common values that we share and we’ve got to express those not just in our churches or our families, but we’ve also got to express them through our government,” Obama said in Webster City.

Obama’s campaign had cameras at the event.  His staff said images from Webster City would be used in a campaign mailing.  Just so you recognize ’em if you see ’em, Obama’s wearing a white shirt, open collar with the sleeves rolled up.  He’s holding a microphone and standing on a patch of grass in front of a picnic shelter.  People are gathered around him, sitting on an array of folding chairs they brought themselves.  An American flag, flying on a flagpole in front of a home across the street from the park, flops occasionally as a breeze stirs through.  The flag is directly over Obama’s right shoulder from the perspective of the area roped off for the cameras.

A final observation from the Webster City event:  Obama took a shot at Edwards by mentionining “hedge funds” during his discussion of worrisome things in the economy.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.