Sen. Barack Obama was among the featured guests Friday at Secretary of State Jesse White’s African-American History Month Celebration.

Obama (D-Ill.) has been in the news recently over a well-publicized war of words with Arizona Sen. John McCain, who accused the freshman Democrat in a letter of not wanting to negotiate bipartisan campaign reform on lobbying. They called a “truce” late last week.

Obama spoke briefly about Coretta Scott King who died Jan. 31.

“I had the pleasure to spend a great deal of time with Coretta Scott King before her passing,”Obama said, “and realized that despite her status as a great civil rights leader, she was a woman who had the same fears, desires, dreams and doubts as the rest of us. She was an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things and we are greatly enriched by her contributions.”

Obama was the guest speaker for the event, which took place on Friday at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph.

Obama also had fun with his recent accolades by saying to Secretary White, “Jesse and I are great friends but I do want to point out that he hasn’t won a Grammy yet. My next goal is to win an Emmy…best actor in a drama staring John McCain.”

Obama won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for his readings of the autobiographical “Dreams From My Father,” which was initially published in 1995. It became a best seller during Obama’s 2000 senate campaign, where he became a rising political star, thanks in part to his rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention that year.

White used the event to both recognize such African-Americans as Mrs. King, as well as, spotlight a select group of African-Americans who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

“As we celebrate African-American History Month, we recognize the many contributions that African-Americans have made in both Illinois and in the nation,” White said. “This year, we would especially like to honor these fine individuals, who through their dedication have helped countless others.”

The 90-minute event also included performances by the Jesse White Tumbling Team and the gospel choir “Joshua’s Troop.”

Awards were presented to community activists, such as Willie and Lula Walker of Tabitha House; Warrick L. Carter of Columbia College; Karen Gun of Urban Solutions; and Joan Brown of Creative Arts Foundation.

Suzanne LeMignot from CBS 2 News emceed the event, and had surprise for the event’s host.

“We also have a surprise in store for you as well Secretary White,” said LeMignot. “With your contributions in creating the Jesse White Tumbling Team, which has provided a much desired extra-curricular hobby for dozens of neighborhood children and your assistance with The Prison Satellite Program for Mega Fest 2005, (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections) Roger Walker and I would like to present you with this award for excellence.”

White accepted his award along with the other recipients. The event also included a candle light ceremony honoring African Americans who died last year. Candles were lit for such notables as Luther Vandross, Richard Prior, former U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and Ebony/Jet publisher John H. Johnson.