Obama’s Victory Speech

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

I put it up here not because it’s topical and of historical significance, but because it really is a good speech.

It reminds me of why I was drawn to the guy in the first place.

FYI — Here’s what I posted on June 14, 2004:

President Obama

Sounds like the leader of some distant "third-world" country, no?

Nope. We might be talking about "U.S. President Barack Obama" 20 years from now (or less). The bright new wunderkind of the Democratic Party is getting all kinds of good press, and deservedly so.

Starting in November, and until he decides to move onward and upward, you’ll be hearing much about Senator Obama.

Ezra Klein, who is not Obama’s biggest fan, summed up the reactions of many of us to Obama’s speechifying abilities:

Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I’ve heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence. […] [S]o much as I like to speak of white papers and scored proposals, politics is not generally experienced in terms of policies. It’s more often experienced in terms of self-interest, and broken promises, and base fears, and half-truths. But, very rarely, it’s experienced as a call to create something better, bigger, grander, and more just than the world we have. When that happens, as it did with Robert F. Kennedy, the inspired remember those moments for the rest of their lives.

The tens of thousands of new voters Obama brought to the polls tonight came because he wrapped them in that experience, because he let them touch politics as it could be, rather than merely as it is. And for that, he deserved to win. And he deserves our thanks. The politician who gets the most votes merits our congratulations. But the politician who enlarges our politics and empowers more Americans to step forward into the public square deserves our gratitude. And we, in turn, deserve to permit ourselves to feel inspired, if only for a night.

It’s true.  Now, I don’t think a candidate’s rhetorical gifts stand as a good reason to vote for him/her.  And I’m still uncommitted, myself.  But even if Obama isn’t one’s first choice, there IS something terribly exciting — and hopeful — about the fact that a black man named "Barack Hussein Obama" was the first choice of a predominantly white population in a flyover state in a post-9/11 world.