Barack Obama called "active faith" an obligation of religious Americans and a chief agent of societal change in a speech yesterday at the national meeting of a black church group.
Stopping for about two hours in St. Louis, the Democratic presidential nominee implored thousands of members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation's largest and most politically active black denominations, to help fix national and local ills.
He preached individual responsibility, saying he knew he risked criticism for "blaming the victim" by talking about the need for parents to help children with homework and turn off the television to pass on a healthy self-image to daughters, and teach boys both to respect women and "realize that responsibility does not end at conception."
But Obama's main message was the government's duty to address what he said are "moral problems" - such as war, poverty, joblessness, homelessness, violent streets, and crumbling schools - and to employ religious institutions to do it.
"As long as we're not doing everything in our individual and collective power to solve the challenges we face, the conscience of our nation cannot rest," he said.
Obama referred repeatedly to his religious faith in terms that would be familiar to white evangelicals as well as his black audience. He has highlighted faith over the past week as he campaigned in one-time GOP strongholds and talked more about God, country, and service than about his rival, Republican John McCain.
Earlier in the day as he flew from Montana to Missouri, Obama told reporters he was surprised at how the media has "finely calibrated" his recent words on Iraq, and reaffirmed his commitment to ending the war if elected. "I was a little puzzled by the frenzy that I set off by what I thought was a pretty innocuous statement," he said. "I am absolutely committed to ending the war."
Two events are scheduled for Wednesday night - one to raise money for his general election campaign and one to help pay off debts from her primary campaign. A third fund-raiser, for Obama, is a breakfast Thursday morning with female donors that Clinton, a New York senator, will attend. The fund-raisers will be the first joint appearances by the former rivals since their rally in Unity, N.H., on June 27.
Vets for Freedom is spending $1.5 million on ads that will run on national cable television and in five states in July, the first set of ads in a multimillion-dollar campaign in coming months supporting the troop buildup, Pete Hegseth, the 25,000-member group's chairman, said yesterday.
Aimed at "informing the American people about the truth regarding progress in Iraq and Afghanistan," the ads will show veterans describing the accomplishments they have seen since the buildup began in early 2007. The states being initially targeted are Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, and Virginia.