Read more of R & E correspondent Deborah Potter's February 7, 2007 interview in New Orleans with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
Q: Barack Obama calls you his spiritual mentor and role model.
A: He's kind in his use and choice of language. Someone just asked me … about mentoring Barack and I said, you know, Barrack came here like he is now. I can't take credit for that. Barack has always been someone committed to grassroots organization, committed to the poor, committed to all people, committed to trying to find common ground. In fact, when I met him I called him the dreamer, and I'm laughing because the night he was elected he asked me to deliver the opening prayer. And before I led his supporters in prayer I said I just want to say to you publicly -- your dream has come true. And I said that because when I met him he came into my office with all these wonderful ideas. He was a community organizer ... He was the organizer of all the churches in Chicago and got us all working together across the denominational lines. And I listened to him and I said, "Do you know what Joseph's brothers said to him when they saw him coming across the field?' He said, "No." I said, "They said behold the dreamer. You're dreamin'. This ain't going to happen." Well, the night he was elected I said your dream has come true, because he had pulled off bringing together disparate people, ethnicities, interests, from down-state -- I've been in Chicago since '69, and it's always been Chicago versus the rest of the state. He's been down-state and gotten miners, farmers, people in Cairo, Illinois, people who wouldn't even think about Chicago much less a black person voting for them, because he'd shown an interest in them, because six years in the state legislature have show he really cares about people, that he's not waving any banners or flags about my way or the doorway, you know, black power -- no, people power. That we can -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian -- we've got kids to raise, we've got neighborhoods to keep safe, we've got women and children to be concerned [about]. We all have common interests. Well, that kind -- he was like that, he was like that. And, you know, I'd like to take credit and say yes, I made him who he is. No, I didn't. He was like that when I met him. He's been like that 23 years now. And right after he was elected I was at the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. And they said what word of advice would you give to Senator Barack Obama now that he's United States senator? That you please stay the same now that you're in the United States Senate as you've been across the years, because that's very important.
Q: He says that he believes one of your roles in his life today is to make sure he doesn't get lost in the hype.
A: Well, he talks to me about spiritual things. Somebody asked me something about …oh, his first vote. It angered a lot of the African American community who had voted for him. His very first vote was to confirm Condoleezza Rice in her new position. And I said, well, let me answer your question two ways, 'cause they'd jumped on me. I said two ways. First of all, what committee is Barack on? What committee in the Senate? Well, Foreign. I said who's sitting at the table every time they have to meet? Condi. Now, how can he get anything having voted against her? She knows he voted against her. That's going to be -- because his objective is benefiting the people in Africa and foreign countries over which his committee has oversight. That's all going down the toilet because you're mad at me when I walk in here [because] you know I voted against you, right? Now that's just my first answer. I said now that would be my educated guess as an outsider. I'm not a politician. But secondly, I was saying to our members who were upset, Barack doesn't talk to me about political things like that. You know, that's not my role in his life, never been my role. He's six years in the [Illinois] Senate. He never asked me anything about any piece of legislation whatsoever. He talks to me as his pastor, and I talk to him as a member. That's the kind of relationship we have. So, when as he says "as a sounding board" -- we talk about issues of life -- parenting. You said he's about to announce, and I'm laughing because of what I said to him when he came to my home. Right after he was elected, you remember the hype. They said, "You think he'll run for the presidency?" So the news persons were asking me that, and my response up until the day they came to my home several months ago, I said, "Before Barack asks God, he will ask Michelle." What do you mean by that? Barack -- you don't understand how important family is to him. And you don't understand how -- he hated the state legislature -- not "that's what I do for a living," but that "it took me away from my girls" three nights a week. He really gets a kick out of putting them to bed. You know, the hugs and the huggables and all that. That's Barack. And not being with his kids bothers him, alright. And I said -- this is right at the week of his election -- if you think Michelle's moving to D.C. you've got another thing coming. She's not leaving. And I know he's going to have a hard time being down there three days a week and being here two days a week, that kind of thing, you know, four days, four and three. Before he made that kind of decision he would have to talk to her, and he would talk to her, because that's a priority. Family's priority for him.
Q: But I get the impression from what you said that he would also talk to God.
A: When he came to see me and he started talking about the election I said, "I see you've already talked to Michelle because you're here now to hear what God might think about this kind of run." "I'm assuming that's the role I'm fulfilling because I know you wouldn't be here had you not talked with Michelle." And he started laughing, because they had talked about it. Oh yeah… but he's the kind of person, again, whose interest is the people: "If I can't serve the people then why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?" He had said -- I don't know if you know this or not, I think it might be in his book, second book -- that he had made a decision if he didn't win to come out of politics. That he and Michelle had talked about that, had talked that through. After the drubbing with Bobby Rush thing, he said well, I'm going to make this run, but if it doesn't work I'm coming out and just going to, you know, teach and law practice and be home.
Q: I read that when he first came to your church that you actually warned him that it might not be a good idea for him to associate with your church. Can you talk about that?