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Farrakhan finally speaks on Obama
Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan said Sunday that God's divine plan for the world explains why President-elect Barack Obama won the election and that God will make sure Obama has the vision needed to guide the country through current economic and social woes.
Speaking at Mosque Maryam, the movement's national headquarters on Chicago's South Side, Farrakhan gave a speech titled "America's New Beginning: President-elect Barack Obama" and warned the packed audience that having a black president will not mean the end of racial inequity in the U.S.
"Even with this remarkable event, the country remains divided and polarized," Farrakhan said.
Farrakhan said many of Sen. John McCain's voters are older whites living below the Mason-Dixon Line and said it pains those people to see a black person in power. He praised McCain's concession speech but said it was not enough to heal the anger of people who want to see a black person in the White House only if they are "a baker, a cook."
Farrakhan urged the crowd to reach out to people who may not like seeing blacks succeed and help them change their views. "We can change laws, but it's difficult to change attitudes," he said.
The comments were the first public statements from Farrakhan about Obama since the election. He said during the speech that he avoided discussing Obama publicly for nine months because he feared his words were being taken out of context and could hurt Obama's campaign.
In February, Farrakhan praised Obama, saying he was the nation's best hope for healing racial divisions. Obama later distanced himself from those comments and said he did not seek Farrakhan's support because of other comments the minister has made that are considered anti-Semitic.
"I decided it would be better to keep quiet," Farrakhan said.
But on Sunday, dressed in crimson and gold, the 75-year-old minster was far from quiet. Several times, he received a standing ovation from a joyful capacity crowd.
During his 90-minute address, which was simultaneously broadcast on the Internet, Farrakhan also talked extensively about the country's economic problems and his fear of the collapse of the U.S. financial system.
As exciting as Obama's win may be, Farrakhan cautioned that the crowd of about 2,500 people should not only be rejoicing. "There's nothing funny about what this young man has to face," Farrakhan said.
He urged the audience to protect Obama and to become personally responsible for helping the country improve.
"Don't do this young man harm," Farrakhan said. "This man not only needs our protection and divine protection, he needs all of us . . . to ask, 'What can I do to make him a successful president?' "