Noam Scheiber at The New Republic noted Obama's affinity for the conservative critique of welfare and then notes re the choice Obama put before us at the end (with a lengthy quote), concluding:
Andrew Sullivan posts a fascinating bit of background on the quote from Faulkner about "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past," provides contexts and unfolds what Obama was saying:
There are clearly lots of people still weirded out by those Wright videos. There aren't many people who, when told you believe they're open-minded and reasonable and big-hearted, will respond by thinking, "You're wrong. I'm actually a petty and cynical SOB."
"That's what Obama was doing. His speech was accepts Faulkner's opinion of the past -- that it is a part of us, and we must live with it -- but rejects the fear most of his characters have of confronting it."(Thanks to Libby who brought this jewel to my attention)
Hendrik Hertzberg, of The New Yorker, from Thomas Hardy land observes -
In many ways, Barack Obama’s speech on race was momentous and edifying.
You could tell it was personal, that he had worked hard on it, all weekend and into the wee hours Tuesday. Overriding aides who objected to putting race center stage, he addressed a painful, difficult subject straightforwardly with a subtlety and decency rare in American politics.
The speech has the intellectual and emotional acuity which readers of “Dreams from My Father” are already familiar. Ditto the honesty, straightforwardness, and empathy.
Especially impressive here is his treatment of two kinds of volatile parochialism, black anger and white-working-class resentment: he explains their origins without making excuses for their destructive forms, and he hints at the positive potential of their commonalities.
If you've not yet, read Obama's books!