The Real Reverend Jeremiah Wright
By Ronald Kessler
his speech on race, Sen. Barack Obama
tried to explain away his longtime minister's denunciations of
But an examination by Newsmax.com of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.'s background reveals that Obama's characterization of his former pastor's upbringing is mythology.
Described by Obama as his sounding board and mentor for more than two
decades, Wright was born in
For 62 years,
Wright's father, the Rev. Jeremiah Alvesta Wright,
was pastor at Grace Baptist Church of Germantown. He was one of the first
blacks to receive a degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in
mother, Mary Elizabeth Henderson Wright, was a schoolteacher. She was the first
black to teach an academic subject at Roosevelt Junior High, the first to teach
at Germantown High, and the first to teach at the
attend the more racially mixed
When Wright attended Central High, the student body was 90 percent white, according to students who attended around the same time. At least three-quarters of the students were Jewish. Former students of the period say racial tension did not exist. Bill Cosby, who attended the school until transferring to Germantown High, has referred to Central as a "wonderful" school. In contrast to Wright, Cosby has denounced blacks who take refuge in self-pitying victimhood and seek to blame whites for problems in the black community.
"Central High was a marvelous academic environment," says Tod Mammuth, who graduated in 1965 and is now a Philadelphia-area lawyer. "You had to have high academic credentials to be accepted and a high IQ score. Many later said it was more rigorous than college. We had no racial friction."
"I was so far advanced from the normal kids, it was almost unbelievable,"
says H. Yale Gutnick, who graduated from Central High
in 1960 and is a
The 211th class yearbook described Wright as a respected member of the class.
"Always ready with a kind word, Jerry is one of the most congenial members of the 211," the yearbook said. "His record in Central is a model for lower class (younger) members to emulate."
Saying Wright can be compared to the school handbook's description of "an educated man," the description said Wright was "the epitome of what Central endeavors to imbue in its students."
Next to a photo of Wright wearing black-rimmed glasses, the yearbook listed seven extracurricular activities, including junior varsity football, band, school orchestra and swing band.
In contrast to
Wright's comfortable upbringing, Morton A. Klein, who also attended Central
High around the same time, lived in a poor, virtually all-black section called
"Four times a year, we would go to get big boxes of used clothing that was our wardrobe for the year. I never resented it. I was thrilled with my clothes," says Klein, who was an economist in the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations and is now president of the Zionist Organization of America.
went out to eat," says Klein. "We had no car. We did not go to summer
camp or take vacations. I had dozens of black friends. We played in the street
every day. I remember my childhood as wonderful, and it certainly did not breed
In contrast, the
man Obama describes as being like an uncle has blamed
government gives them drugs, builds bigger prisons,
passes a three-strike law, and then wants to sing 'God Bless
In a similar
vein, Michelle Obama has said she is proud of
In his speech on race, Obama sought to evoke sympathy for the Rev. Wright. He described a "lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family. ..."
Obama said this was "the reality in which Rev. Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late '50s and early '60s, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. ... Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Rev. Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years."
Wright will continue a life of privilege that dates back to Central High. As a
retirement gift, Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ is building him a
million-dollar home abutting Odyssey Country Club and Golf Course in the nearly
Wright's new home has 10,340 square feet of space, about four times the size of a typical suburban house. It includes four bedrooms, an elevator, an exercise room and a four-car garage.
Rather than being a victim of oppression of blacks, as Obama has claimed, Wright is a symbol of the American dream. Rather than meriting sympathy, he exemplifies what my friend Fox News contributor Juan Williams describes as black leaders who orchestrate support for themselves by manipulating blacks into seeing themselves as victims, creating a black "culture of failure."
Obama's attempt to excuse Wright's hate-America rhetoric by deceptively describing his personal history and his failure to condemn him as a bigot speak volumes about the candidate's own character and fitness to lead the country.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com