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Obama's speech springboard for discussions

March 20, 2008 at 8:40 AM

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- Groups across the United States have responded enthusiastically to Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's call for a national dialogue on race.

Already receptive to the plea Obama made Tuesday, universities worked to incorporate issues the U.S. senator from Illinois raised into classroom discussion and coursework, and churches wove them into sermons and religious study groups, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Obama's speech, delivered to address the firestorm surrounding controversial comments made by his pastor, has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube and has been widely distributed.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of a mostly white evangelical church in Florida, said Obama's speech was a "Rorschach inkblot test" for the nation.

"It calls out of you what is already in you," Hunter told the Times.

Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy and social welfare group, said she hoped the speech would help "create a safe space to talk about this, where people aren't threatened or pigeonholed" and feel comfortable discussing tensions "that exist around race and racial politics."

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