Using Obama's Speech on Race in the Classroom

Three new lesson plans for grades 9-12 offer educators fresh, engaging strategies to deepen students' understanding about race and racism throughout history and today.

In March 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama — responding to controversial remarks made by his former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright — gave a speech to outline his own views about race in America. It was perhaps the first time a major presidential candidate took on the issue in so direct or comprehensive a way.

As Obama enters office as our first black president, Teaching Tolerance invites you to explore his history-making speech with your students. The lessons in this package will help your students to:

  • Compare Obama's speech to a past president's speech on race – and discuss students' own differences on racial issues.
  • Dig deeper into Obama's assertions about the racial wealth divide in the U.S.
  • Explore the meaning of Obama's assertion that the white experience is "the immigrant experience" – and take a critical look at how immigration and other narratives are covered in your school's own history textbook.