On Mar. 18 Sen. Barack Obama’s gave a speech in Philadelphia in response to the growing public awareness of the anti-Americanism and racism of his close friend and pastor of almost twenty years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Before and after the speech, some pundits compared the challenge Obama faced to that Sen. John Kennedy faced during the 1960 presidential campaign when he answered questions before the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance about his Catholicism and how it would impact his fitness to serve as President.
A few hours after Obama’s speech I posted: Obama’s speech was no Houston. Here are the key grafs:
… John Kennedy knew what he had to do in Houston was answer tough questions.So that you’ll have the clear idea of what I’m talking about and because many of you are history buffs, I want to provide the following:
So he went before a not very friendly audience of mostly Protestant ministers, made a brief speech and then answered their questions about his Catholicism.
Obama had to answer tough and important questions today and he ducked them.
He arranged to deliver a lengthy speech to a very friendly, invited audience and talked around the tough questions. ...
This link to the text and You Tube video of Obama’s speech.
This link is to the text of Kennedy’s speech, and this one to an audio of it.
This link is to a fairly good quality video of the Q&A which followed Kennedy’s speech.
Kennedy’s speech is about 11 minutes long; the Q&A lasts almost 30 minutes.
At one point in the Q&A (about 12 minutes into it), it seems the video is about to end. Let it play through. It continues.
I found the Q&A riverting.
Kennedy was extraordinarily calm, focused, informed and respectful but firm with his questioners.
Two questions concerned “the four chaplains chapel” and Rev. Poling. He was the father of one of the chaplains, Lt. Clark Poling, who, with the other three, was aboard a troopship, U. S. A. T. Dorchester, torpedoed and sunk off Greenland during WWII.
There were not enough life-jackets for all hands and the chaplains gave theirs to others. The four perished before they could be rescued.
After the war, Rev. Poling, a prominent Philadelphia clergyman, led a campaign to build a chapel as a memorial to the four clerics – two Protestant ministers, one a Rabbi, and one a Catholic priest.
In 1947 Kennedy, serving his first term as a Representative in Congress, was invited to attend a fund-raiser for the chapel. He he first accepted the invitation, but subsequently declined when he learned he would be there as the representative of the Catholic faith.
Rev. Poling always maintained Kennedy declined to attend because the Catholic Cardinal of Philadelphia told him not to attend.
You'll see Kennedy was asked two questions concerning the matter. It could reasonably be thought that the questions were set as an ambush, since the first is a “softball” and the second, later in the Q&A, has a “gotcha” quality.
Watch and listen to how Kennedy responds; and judge for yourselves.
If you scroll below the video screen, you’ll see a transcript of the Q&A.
For more about the four heroic chaplains, visit this site.
I’ll be interested in your responses.
I plan to post again on differences between Kennedy in Houston and Obama in Philadelphia.