THE PROPHETIC VOICE AND THE FACE OF THE OTHER IN BARACK OBAMA’S “A MORE PERFECT UNION” ADDRESS, MARCH 18, 2008
Frank, David A.
Barack Obama’s address of March 18, 2008, sought to quell the controversy sparked by YouTube clips of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ, condemning values and actions of the United States government. In this address, Obama crosses over the color line with a rhetorical strategy designed to preserve his viability as a presidential candidate and in so doing, delivered a rhetorical masterpiece that advances the cause of racial dialogue and rapprochement. Because of his mixed racial heritage, he could bring perceptions and misperceptions in black and white “hush harbors” into the light of critical reason. The address succeeds, I argue, because Obama sounds the prophetic voice of Africentric theology that merges the Hebrew and Jewish faith traditions with African American experience, assumes theological consilience (that different religious traditions share a commitment to caring for others), and enacts the rhetorical counterpart to Lévinas’s philosophy featuring the “face of the other.”