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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thoughts on Obama's Speech

Barack Obama's speech was impressive. If nothing else, I feel confident in saying he is the most talented writer running for president since Robert Kennedy in 1968. (Note, I was born in 1983, so maybe you take that with a grain of salt, but I read and I watch old speeches.)

I'm not going to write too much today, leaving the bulk of the post for the section of the speech that was most impressive. Suffice it to say that he hit the speech out of the park, though I think the content of the speech will have zero effect on the primary (see yesterday's realistic scenario).

What might have an effect, however minimal, is the quality of the speech itself. Might America become nostalgic for the prose of Reagan, brilliance of Kennedy, and flourish of King, all wrapped up into one candidate, even if to a lesser degree? It looks much better, of course, coming on the heals of nearly eight years of a president with a thoroughly unimpressive stage presence who almost certainly never wrote large swaths of a major speech of any quality, to say nothing of one with the kind of quality of Obama's yesterday, a speech that will be sent straight to the Smithsonian if Obama is elected.

So I ask why not have the President of the United States be the smartest kid in the class? Why not have the President be a great statesmen, speech-writer, and orator? What's the strength of "plain spoken" and "regular" when dealing with foreign leaders, the national debt, and enormous problems facing this country's and the world's future? Do we not want our President to be one of the most impressively talented, motivated, and intelligent people our country can produce? Is that not a perfect pre-requisite for the leader of the free world?

Anyway, I was impressed and I think everyone, whether Clinton supporter, Obama supporter, Republican, Independent, and the apathetic, should likewise be impressed with a skill that's been lacking in our chief executive. Always vote for the candidate who shares your ideals. Always. That doesn't mean, however, that you cannot respect opponents and be wowed by their talent.

I pulled the following from the text of the speech. It was the fourth fifth of the speech and my favorite section.

"For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle -- as we did in the O.J. trial -- or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina -- or as fodder for the nightly news.

We can play Rev. Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.

This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st Century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care, who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.

This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.

We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for president if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected."


Anonymous said...


Why is a guy who grew up a rich kid with a Kenyan father and Southern White mother (no ties to being a slave whatsoever) lecturing Northern Whites regarding the Civil War when it was our ancestors who fought and died in the Union Army to free the slaves?

Is Obama kidding or what? Yes, Senator Obama, let’s have a discussion about race in America and then maybe you’ll understand why you are in absolute freefall against John McCain in States like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. You ripped a scab off of a wound that we didn’t deserve to have inflicted in the first place.


Shimmy said...

I thought McCain's speech yesterday was amazing. I completely agree with John McCain's repudiation of Glenn Beck for torturing and killing all those dogs (pit bulls). Of course, some pundits are bound to say McCain didn't go far enough, or that he really didn't distance himself from Beck. But I disagree: it was an excellent speech.

Adam said...

Lexi... you either didn't listen to Senator Obama's speech, or you're just completely ignorant.

IC... great post as normal.

The Dude said...

The speech was good, but not Kennedy-esque. Primary season is like regular season college basketball. It is only good for seeding purposes for the big dance. I think Obama would have been smarter to hold onto it for the general election.

As for pulling scabs off wounds, the plethora of bigoted pastors who the McCain camp has gotten on their knees for is long and heart breaking. All this pandering by both political parties for the purveyors of religious intolerance is sick. We should all be ashamed.

Facing up to one’s past is crucial in moving forward, just ask Dr. Drew. I do not see any issue with a political leader calling out the country on its inability to deal with the consequences of the past. Race is still utilized as a tool of oppression, even in my beloved Connecticut. Owning up to our racist past does not desecrate the lives of Union soldiers lost during the Civil War. It is called progress.

IC, it sucks about being born in 1983. Bad break. 1981 is sooo much better….

Most things are Connected at Some Level? said...

==Now that Mr. Barone --of U.S. News & World Report-- has discussed whether Puerto Rico's "all-or-nothing" 63 Delegate Primary might be incredibly decisive in determining the outcome of the primary, will you comment on this related issue that may well impact the result of the PR Primary?

Will you discuss the person often described as the "French Obama" (for better or worse... she even endorsed Obama on her recent trip to America! :|).

Segolene Royal dans Harvard: Endorses independence for the U.S. territory of the United States, Puerto Rico?!

Have you seen this about the French Presidential hopeful, Segolene Royal, which seems to have appeared, among other places, in a page associated to the French ultra-prestigious newspaper, Le Monde Diplomatique?
Will you comment on it to offer a more balanced perspective and the uniquely yours and facinanting analysis that only you know how to offer?


Justin said...

Nice post about Obama's speech. Some of the comments I'm reading here remind me of the cable news reaction, that tended to skim the surface of the content of the speech. I won't offer my critique of what was certainly one of the first times I've heard a politician, especially one in the midst of a campaign, speak openly and honestly about an issue as divisive as race relations in America.

I would rather read and hear more about how this speech, regardless of your affinity or dislike or Senator Obama, should spark a constructive public conversation about an important and fundamental issue in this country. Lord knows we're due for a constructive public dialogue about something.

Also, great blog. I submitted it to stumble upon and linked to you from my website. Hope it helps.

IC said...

I'll have thoughts on several of these comments in the days to come.

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