Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

I don't have a great deal to say about this, other than that I think it's the best political speech of my lifetime, so far. The clips I heard of the thing suggested perhaps a slightly lackluster delivery, but the text is amazing. You can read it here, on DailyKos.

...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.

Read the whole thing. He wrote it himself. I think that this is the kind of oratory that, given a sustained, impassioned chance in the marketplace of ideas, really could begin to effect some real change in the way we talk about, and think about, race.

I have been trying not to get to excited about Obama's candidacy, given the serial disappointments of the past eight years. But reading that speech, it's hard not to give in to hope. There is no bullshit in it (well--the Israel pandering is perhaps a tad extreme, but he's got to combat that madrassa nonsense somehow), and the reason, I think, is because Obama is an actual writer. A writer of books that are not total crap, and now a writer of a great speech. You get the sense, with this speech, that you have just heard a politician say exactly what he means, without compromise, for the first time in forty years.

So. Not to get all political, but...vote for a freaking writer this fall. And if you live in Pennsylvania, next month.

12 comments:

Matthew Tiffany said...

Hear, hear.

It's easier to be cynical; to assume that we're not going to get the candidate we really need. It's frightening to hope. (For me, anyway.) Obama, though - ... what I've read about this speech, in various places, suggest that it might not have been the most politically expedient speech to make. But it was the right speech to make.

I hope the best for his candidacy, and fear what will happen if HRC gets the nomination.

jrlennon said...

I liked HRC a lot before this campaign. And I ought to be perfectly happy if she gets the nomination. But she's really let me down.

Also...I think McCain would beat her.

thomas said...

Obama may have my skin but he does not represent me. I do not appreciate his tactics. He is nothing but an appeaser. The reason I say this is simple. If my race does not matter, but my citizenship does matter, I should be treated that way. I was born here to native parents. Therefore, I am a Native American. There is no difference between me and the Indians, just because they could have been here for a few more generations than my ancestors does not make me less a Native than they. I do not appreciate his terms. He is cornering us into black and white against all the other Contients. That is not the way to think of race. Race and Continents are not the same. I should be allowed to call my Race and my Identity the way I want. I do not align myself with the ideas given forth in this speech.

Thomas.

bookfraud said...

i had never thought of a vote for obama as a vote for a "writer," but it makes sense. he actually writes his speeches and books. he actually has original ideas and inspiring rhetoric. fancy that.

from a political standpoint, i don't know how much this will help him, but my admiration for the man grew exponentially. that someone running for president would even attempt to address difficult issues of race -- with such nuance and subtlety, no less -- is pretty amazing.

this kind of speechifying may not change the votes of chuckleheaded bigots or nutjobs, but it is the kind of speech that, however briefly, makes one believe in politicians.

jrlennon said...

thomas, your dissent is welcome, but I'm not sure I'm following your argument. What did he say specifically that you're bothered by? It sounds to me like you have every right to call yourself a Native American.

What I got out of that speech, among other things, is an acknowledgment that both race and citizenship are important to people, and that disagreement on these issues isn't just permissible, but inevitable and necessary.

Thanks for weighing in...

Gloria, Writer Reading said...

"Israel pandering extreme"? All he said was one phrase that Israel was an ally in the Middle East. This is a man who speaks the truth. That was not a madrassa manipulation. He was simply stating the truth. I posted his whole speech today as my choice for the most appropriate response to the fifth anniversay of the Iraq war. He is our only hope for the war to end. And Israel has nothing to do with that war.

jrlennon said...

"...a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."

That's a pander, in my view. The situation he refers to is far, far more complex than "our allies versus bad guys."

AC said...

I am impressed too. A political speech that actually says something.

Ironically, I tend to agree with Rev. Wright when he says that America was asking for it. Not only our foreign policy, but also our inept bureacracy paved the way for 9/11. But of course, a presidential candidate would be committing suicide to entertain such an idea.

I'm a working-class, white woman living through the decay of my urban neighborhood, so maybe I'm just a sucker for a black politician telling me that we are still part of the same community. But I would like to believe it could happen.

Mr. Saflo said...

It's like he's sayin' what we're all thinkin'!

jrlennon said...

Dude: Obama totally knew you were gonna post that.

Gloria, Writer Reading said...

To belabor the point, I agree Obama was oversimplifying about blaming only radical Islam when we are also to blame, but he was only doing so as a corrective response to the oversimplified "view" he was referring to of Reverend Wright's crazy and categorical blaming of Israel for all the conflict in the Middle East. At least that was my understanding of that sentence in the context of the whole paragraph. I think this point was as important as all the other disagreements he had with the Reverend, and a distinction he had to make to correct a common lie: the blaming of Israel for everything. Of course the situation is more complex than he covered in his speech. That was not my point.

jrlennon said...

Fair enough...