An Impressive (and Maybe Historic) Speech

I’ve not said much about the US elec­tion to date. I’ll be vot­ing in it, as an Amer­i­can abroad (even though I’m not real­ly ‘abroad’).  Still, being a cit­i­zen, it’s my right to do so, at least up until I give up Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship, which for prac­ti­cal rea­sons I doubt I’ll ever do, no mat­ter how expen­sive the US gov­ern­ment makes it to keep it (but who knows what the future will bring).

It should come as no sur­prise that I’m sup­port­ing the can­di­da­cy of Barack Oba­ma. I was nev­er a fan of Hilary Clin­ton. She was always too stri­dent and nev­er owned up to the mis­take of vot­ing for the Iraq war. A sim­ple apol­o­gy would have been fine for me (like the one Richard Clarke gave to the 9/11 wid­ows). Late­ly she’s struck me as so unpleas­ant and shrill in so many ways (includ­ing more than a whiff of some of the worst intru­sive and med­dle­some self-right­eous­ness that Mod­ern Lib­er­al­ism in the US  can be; It Takes a Vil­lage indeed…) that I can even imag­ine her los­ing to John McCain on pure back­lash, and a McCain in the Oval Office would be far worse then Hilary. I also hat­ed the idea of the Pres­i­den­cy being a tro­phy tossed back and forth between two fam­i­lies that each felt them­selves unique­ly enti­tled to it. After Hilary’s stint, it would be Jeb Bush for two terms, and then it would be Chelsea’s turn, fol­lowed by… the twins? Sure; By that time the US would have been reduced to Third World Nation sta­tus, and it would­n’t mat­ter any more which Dynasty got their four or eight-year Time-share slot in the Pres­i­den­tial Palace.

But I digress…

Oba­ma struck me as far more inspir­ing and inter­est­ing, (although admit­ted­ly not as much as Howard Dean did), but I could­n’t put my fin­ger on why until the speech he gave today. He made the speech because he had to deal with the tox­ic state­ments made by the Pas­tor of his Church,  and why he had­n’t dis­tanced him­self from the man who made it (in addi­tion to leav­ing the Church itself).

That was the rea­son for the speech. What I heard instead, was a clear and elo­quent med­i­ta­tion on why the US is still so divid­ed, how it got to where it is today, and maybe, how it can begin to move forward.

Bush and the Repub­li­cans had been using Race as a way of split­ting up the elec­torate, main­ly to keep the South in their pock­et. It has always been in their best inter­est to keep the dia­log on racial inequal­i­ty a taboo in pub­lic life, or to sim­ply ignore it. With this speech, I think Oba­ma began to open up the dia­log about this top­ic, touch­ing upon one exposed nerve after another:  Slav­ery and the Con­sti­tu­tion, Wel­fare, Affir­ma­tive Action, Immi­gra­tion… He men­tioned them all. In essence, both sides of the debate on race have mer­it, but we have to all move on now, if we have the courage to. It was the kind of speech that a patient, edu­cat­ed, and dare I say it — a wise States­man (rather than mere­ly a politi­cian) would give. Whether or not Oba­ma wins the elec­tion, I have a hunch this speech will be talked about and stud­ied in his­to­ry texts for a long time.

But don’t take my word for it. If you have the time, watch the speech on YouTube. I’ve embed­ded it here, despite the mediocre qual­i­ty of the video and audio. If I find a bet­ter source, I’ll link to it. (I’ve done this, thanks to Al ‘Bokashi-man’ Paster­nak’s pointer.) 

8 Replies to “An Impressive (and Maybe Historic) Speech”

  1. I con­cur. I too can imag­ine Hilary “los­ing to John McCain on pure back­lash.” I’m sure McCain is qui­et­ly cheer­ing Hilary on.

  2. Total­ly agree with you, David. 

    Hillary would not be a good choice for the dems this time around.

    Oba­ma sounds like some­one that US cit­i­zens could actu­al­ly be proud of, for a change .…

  3. A bet­ter link

    from the Oba­ma Channel

    Watch­ing yours now. Wow! My inner cyn­ic is get­ting real pound­ing with this one.

    Some­one showed me Marc Coop­er’s response to the speech:

    I agree with his con­clud­ing paragraphs:

    Instead, we’ve looked around and reached three sim­ple conclusions:

    First, that John McCain, whose per­son­al courage can­not be denied, and who has had some dis­tin­guished moments in pub­lic life, now finds him­self posi­tioned in the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal sys­tem with lit­tle to run on except a plat­form of mil­i­ta­rized jingoism.

    Sec­ond, the elec­tion of Hillary Clin­ton would be an absolute guar­an­tee of the polit­i­cal sta­tus quo. There might be a for­ward shift here or there com­pared to the Bushies, but the sys­tem itself would remain intact. And we are con­vinced that her deci­sion mak­ing would, indeed, con­tin­ue in the well-known Clin­ton­ian tra­di­tion of unmit­i­gat­ed expe­di­en­cy — as has already been more than amply demon­strat­ed dur­ing her lam­en­ta­ble campaign.

    Final­ly, we do not invest naive hope in Barack Oba­ma. We O‑boomers are, I fear, ready to be dis­ap­point­ed by a Pres­i­dent Oba­ma. It’s a well-worn reflex with us. But for the first time, in a very, very long time, we can sense at least the math­e­mat­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ty of some refresh­ing change if he is elect­ed. His speech this week served only as a geo­met­ri­cal multiplier.”

  4. Thanks for the alter­na­tive source, Al. I’ve updat­ed the video to point to that copy, as its qual­i­ty is bet­ter, and it is free of those dis­tract­ing crawls quot­ing sound bytes uttered 2 to 3 min­utes ear­li­er as you watch it.

    I know what Marc Coop­er means about being dis­ap­point­ed so many times. I too have been dis­ap­point­ed, but usu­al­ly it’s more by the Amer­i­can elec­torate than by the can­di­dates. It will be a long time before I for­give the US for their votes of 2000 and 2004 (even if it was mere­ly for not pro­duc­ing a major­i­ty great enough to over­come ‘the cheat fac­tor’ that the the Repub­li­cans employed in order to claim victory).

    The O‑Boomer ref­er­ence remind­ed me that I recent­ly found out ‘Gen­er­a­tion’ I am a part of; I am def­i­nite­ly not a ‘Baby Boomer’ as the expe­ri­ences of the vast major­i­ty of Boomer’s are not mine; I was too young to par­tic­i­pate or even iden­ti­fy with Wood­stock, the Sex­u­al Rev­o­lu­tion, the Bea­t­les or the Viet­nam War, and I don’t quite iden­ti­fy with the cul­tur­al land­marks of Gen­er­a­tion X, as Van­cou­ver’s own Dou­glas Cop­land so apt­ly coined in his book of the same name. Instead, I am a part of Gen­er­a­tion Jones. The Jones part is a com­mon name that evokes the sense of a large, unknown group, but is also a ref­er­ence to hav­ing a “jones,” or crav­ing, for the ideals put forth in the ‘60s. As some­one who came of age in the 1970s, a decade known for Water­gate, bad clothes (poly­ester shirts with busy prints, side-burns) and the Nixon pres­i­den­cy. Gen­er­a­tion Jones (born between 1954 and 1964), I can relate to how it start­ed out opti­mistic like the 60’s, only to see ide­al­ism shat­tered by the finan­cial hard­ships and Sen­ate Hear­ings of the ‘70s. The char­ac­ter of that gen­er­a­tion became a mix­ture of ide­al­is­tic yearn­ing and cyn­i­cal alien­ation. It was the gen­er­a­tion of ‘Whacky Pack­ages’ (Remem­ber those, any­body my age? They were bub­ble gum with sets of stick­ers por­tray­ing dis­gust­ing par­o­dies of pop­u­lar con­sumer items. Instead of Skip­py peanut but­ter, you saw a stick­er for ‘Skimpy’. Instead of Cap’n Crunch cere­al, there was ‘Cap’n Crud’. It was our way of equat­ing every­thing we saw with decay, cor­rup­tion and disappointment).

    So I know what you mean by hav­ing to bat­tle with your ‘inner cyn­ic’. We’ve all got that big-time.

  5. Hap­py East­er David, 

    I’m Gen J too.:-), but I don’t remem­ber Whacky Pack­ages — maybe it was only in Amer­i­ca. My favourite agit­prop was an ad found in Nation­al Lam­poon [a most cyn­i­cal humour mag­a­zine of the times.] It was a stick­er with a pic­ture screw on it. You would peel off the back­ing and put it on the bumper stick­ers that read: “I ‘heart’ my dog.” I’m not sure if it was from the 70’s but match­es the sen­ti­ment. I nev­er bought the pack­age but it made me laugh out loud when I saw it for the first time. 

    Today it would be cheap enough to make them at home but I don’t see many bumper stick­ers like that any­more.… Pity.

  6. It may be too late to start putting those ‘screw’ stick­er over­lays on cur­rent stick­ers. I do remem­ber, how­ev­er, a great stick­er that real­ly ‘stuck it’ to all of those ‘I sup­port the Troops’ yel­low rib­bon stick­ers that you saw in great num­bers, stuck to SUV’s (and ignor­ing the great dis­con­nect between sup­port­ing sol­diers and con­sum­ing large amounts of petro­le­um that had a lot to do with putting them in har­m’s way in the first place) here.

  7. Just stum­bled across your blog, I did. I also not­ed the news of Oba­ma’s speech as extra­or­di­nary. If it was any politi­cian that I know of, they would of denounced the per­son in ques­tion and moved as far away from them as pos­si­ble, but instead of doing what every oth­er suc­cess­ful politi­cian would do, he took a dif­fer­ent path and a truth­ful path. There is no doubt in my mind that Oba­ma is the per­son who can restore the U.S.A. with­in and through­out the world. The obsta­cle I fear the most is the fear tac­tics from the Repub­li­cans. The war on ter­ror­ism will be a huge issue, and I think fear will be a fac­tor play­ing for the Republicans.

    Now about those awe­some bumper stick­ers, where can I get one? 🙂

  8. Thanks for the com­ment. I won­der if Hilary will have worn out the ‘fear’ card for the Repub­li­cans? After enough times, the cry real­ly does sound like ‘Wolf’

    Actu­al­ly, what is wor­ry­ing me more these days is Hilary. With her win in Penn­syl­va­nia, she now has blunt­ed Oba­ma’s momen­tum. She will con­tin­ue to chip away at him. The race for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion has gone on far too long already, and if it con­tin­ues to the con­ven­tion, you can then, indeed, count on McCain to beat whichev­er nom­i­nee comes out of that futile exercise.

    If the Democ­rats do lose to the Repub­li­cans this time because they aren’t able to unite behind the right can­di­date to beat him, then as I’ve said before, it’s time to dis­band the par­ty. There is no place in a 2‑party sys­tem for a par­ty whose sole pur­pose seems to be to lose elec­tions and give the impres­sion of choice. If Democ­rats can’t win after the most hor­ren­dous pres­i­den­cy in his­to­ry led by the oppo­si­tion, then they don’t deserve to exist. Hilary could­n’t beat McCain now, and it’s even less like­ly she could do so after limp­ing to her own fin­ish line — or worse, by get­ting the nom­i­na­tion through the fiat of a smoke-filled room in a bro­kered con­ven­tion that feels like the Supreme Court Flori­da deci­sion of 2000 all over again.

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