In response to my analysis of the Address, my previously quoted learned friend weighs in:

I disagree with Steele. Obama is not merely someone for whom we are settling. It may be true that Obama would not be in the same spot if he were white, but that is tantamount to saying Bill Clinton could not have succeeded if he had not been from Arkansas. I cannot conceive of an un-Southern Clinton any more than I can conceive of an un-Black Obama.

Having said that, lineage is a fundamental part of his makeup. I also think that his ancestry gives him a unique perspective from which to govern. Although whites do not like to hear this, most of us are so far removed from black culture that we sometimes tend to see blacks as two-dimensional characters. Their experiences and cultural assumptions are so different from ours that we have a hard time achieving true empathy with them. We really cannot imagine being in their shoes.

We can hope that Barack, as someone who has lived in both worlds and speaks the language of both cultures, can address the concerns of both groups with empathy. Of course, there I go again with my sincerity and honesty talk.

In my view, Steele is completely wrong in his assertion that Obama has had to trade away his individuality and complexity to play the role of racial peacemaker. In fact, I think Obama's main appeal (even before the speech yesterday) has been his willingness to confront difficult but vital issues head-on—and then discuss them with nuance.

For example: please consider this speech he gave in 2006 concerning the role of religion in American public life. I have never seen a more thoughtful, honest, and nuanced discussion of the topic by anyone in politics.

An Aside: ironically, this consistent ability to examine tough issues with keen insight and uncommon courage often drives his opponents to fits of rhetorical hyperbole.

I agree that Obama did not offer solutions for the problems he identified, but that seems a bit onerous for a single address. Solving over two hundred years of racial problems in a campaign speech may be too much to expect, even for Obama. It is significant and admirable, however, in a political realm where these issues are NEVER confronted honestly, where the other side is routinely dismissed as hateful or un-American, that Barack faced race squarely and with vulnerability—and attempted to start a meaningful conversation.

For the record, I agree with your suggestion that we all need to reject the idea that there are certain things that just may not be discussed. Bumper sticker arguments and racially charged rhetorical landmines are poison to our political culture. We need not agree on all the vital issues of our time, but we should be willing to have civil conversations about everything.

In re his "boilerplate" comments concerning health care, job loss, and getting out of Iraq: these are the issues of the day. Americans have been apathetic about politics because politicians have not been addressing the issues closest to home. If Obama succeeds, it will be because he tackles these issues and forces a conversation about them.
~~A Learned Friend of the Bosque Boys