Barack Obama, hoping to be the 2008 US Democratic presidential candidate, marked Martin Luther King Day by calling for tolerance in a moving speech.

Obama took to the pulpit on Sunday in front of over 2500 people at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the same church where civil right hero Martin Luther King was a pastor. The venue was crammed with people, some having to stand outside in the freezing cold.

Speaking on the eve of the public holiday that commemorated the birth of King, Obama made an impassioned plea for unity:

“So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others – all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face – war and poverty; injustice and inequality.“

He also specifically mentioned homophobia, anti-Semitism and the plight of immigrants in the speech:

“We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.”

Obama is in a tight race with Senator Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic Party ticket to contest this year’s US presidential election.

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