“But neither Pastor Wright nor I -- a candidate for the presidency of the United States -- can afford to find refuge in any of these relativist explanations. To do so would not merely exempt the statements of Rev. Wright from proper censure, but also would have the effect of offering endorsement to them. Here is why we must not and will not do that:
“First, today’s America has evolved into a multiracial society unlike anytime in our long history. Each of America’s groups has unique grievances, based on their own past ordeals.
“So now more than ever in American history, there is need to establish a universal, absolute standard of public discourse in which no individual or group claims extenuating circumstances to demonize other Americans. Otherwise, the bar will have been lowered -- and Rev. Wright will be followed by merchants of hate of every sort, each citing his allowance as a pass for his own hate speech.
“Second, we are in our fifth decade since the landmark civil-rights legislation of the 1960s. And while the African-American community has made enormous strides, it still has not achieved parity with either the white majority or some other minorities. The reasons are complex, but they cannot be simply reduced to white racism or the purported pathologies of the United States as Rev. Wright supposed. We African-Americans must be as vigilant in demanding an equality of opportunity for all Americans as in ensuring that crime, illegitimacy, drug use and the failure to finish high school are no higher in the African-American community than in others.
“Third, Americans were appalled, as was I, at my minister cursing the United States. But we must always appreciate the unique nature of America, an experiment that unites a multiplicity of religions, races and ethnicities, and endures only to the degree we all adhere to a common set of values. We must never think that because the United States has sometimes not been perfect, it is not good.
“The hard work of creating and improving the United States required centuries; the easier task of tearing apart America can be done in a generation. But neither you nor I can or will allow that to happen. Thank you, and God bless the United States.”
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