Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama and Confucianism

Barack Obama gave a speech in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008 in response to repeated airing on news broadcasts of Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory damnation of America. The speech is 37 minutes long. You ought to read it or hear it. You can do both at this link to the New York Times, although I suggest you look for a website that allows you to download the speech in its entirety so you can listen to in uninterrupted by data stream buffering.

When he says that he cannot break his relationship with Jeremiah Wright because, "he is like family to me," he is expressing a Confucian quality.

Chang Yun-Shik, in "Mutual Help and Democracy in Korea," says (p. 99):

... a social bond once established is not supposed to be terminated.

Within the uiri network of interpersonal relationships, emphasis on the person is likely to override impersonal concerns of the wider world... should there be a conflict between the two. Shifting loyalty from the person to nonpersonal concerns does not take place easily.

When Barack Obama said he disagrees with Wright on some issues, but cannot disown him because he is like family, he means there is a personal social bond that is not to be broken, as described by Chang in his article about Korean Confucianism.

A lot of Confucian ideas are rooted in our humanity, making them international in nature and applicable to American culture.

By the way, there is a higher density of Confucians in Indonesia than America and Obama spent part of his youth in Indonesia.


The article mentioned is from Confucianism for the Modern World, Edited by Daniel A. Bell and Hahm Chaibong, Cambridge, 2003.

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