President Barack Obama's former pastor, whose fiery sermons ignited controversy during the election campaign last year, told a local NAACP chapter Friday night to remember the past while continuing to work for change.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright avoided any hint of controversy in his remarks to the Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Wright delivered a speech, spoken in the cadence of a preacher in the pulpit on Sunday, steeped in African-American history and intertwined with family lore, imploring his audience to practice "recognition, remembrance and resolve" in the continuing fight for civil rights.
"We have a glorious past that we can never let our children and our grandchildren forget," Wright said. "We gather tonight to honor those that poured into us a hope that cannot be destroyed."
There were no disturbances during the 35th annual Freedom Fund Dinner in Glen Burnie, despite the organization's receiving about a dozen e-mails complaining about Wright's appearance. Jacqueline Allsup, president of the county chapter, said the group had hired security for the event.
Wright made only passing reference to his former parishioner during the event, mentioning significant events in African-American history that occurred in Springfield, Ill., that Wright described as "the historic site in which President Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency."
Wright, a minister at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, grabbed national attention during the 2008 presidential campaign when Internet videos of old sermons showed him condemning America and saying that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were the country's "chickens coming home to roost."
Obama was a longtime parishioner at the church, and he publicly distanced himself from Wright.
Joseph Madison, a talk-radio host, introduced Wright, saying he "heard this speaker long before the sound bites appeared on Fox or CNN or ABC."
"I want you to see Jeremiah Wright, Mr. and Mrs. Media, in his proper perspective. I want you to understand. ... One minister on one side of Chicago, and the world acts like it's going to come to an end ... over a 30-second sound bite."
Wright, according to NAACP officials, declined interviews. During his remarks, he referred to an article in The Baltimore Sun last month that detailed one award recipient's difficulties in getting friends to attend the dinner because of their dissatisfaction with Wright.
"The Baltimore Sun blessed me to find out about Perry Ealiam," Wright said.
Ealiam, a small-business owner and Republican, said afterward that he had spoken with Wright before his talk and told him, "You can't just throw pie in people's faces."
Of Wright's speech, Ealiam said, "I think what he said here tonight showed his growth and development."