It’s hard to even write anything in reaction to Barack Obama’s speech tonight. He’s a tough act to follow and words seem inadequate for the task of describing what he accomplished tonight. I don’t envy the Republicans as they seek to compete with the Democratic convention.
I’ve seen Obama give many speeches…several of them I saw in person. He has probably given better speeches before, but never a better political speech. He’s never blended so many parts into a seamless whole like this before. He gave red-meat at the beginning, and post-partisan inspiration at the end. He blasted McCain’s record and judgment and then challenged us all not to question each other’s character. He was personal, bringing his family and life experience into his policy discussion, but then he said this election is all about us. And, yet, none of this seemed to be contradictory or discordant. It was a masterpiece.
And it was much more than just a political speech. It was a galvanizing and motivational speech. Perhaps it wasn’t quite as soaring as JFK’s New Frontier speech. I don’t know…maybe it was. Obama absolutely filled the space. He filled it as none of the other speakers, not even the musicians, could fill it. He had a complete presence. Politicians and leaders like this do not come along often. I get the feeling that if Obama were on the outside of government, petitioning the government, that he could be as effective there as he may be as the president.
I was surprised in the beginning at how political he was making the speech. But that was exactly what he needed to do. Obama offers a totally unapologetic and self-confident message. He has made compromises along the way, as all aspiring politicians must. But he will lead and others will follow. Those that thought they could control him will discover that he will get what he wants. And what he wants is better than what he’s been offering us. All you have to do is look at his positions on the issues. Give this man large congressional majorities and he will give us progressive change.
One of the most significant moments of the night occurred just prior to Obama’s speech. Several ordinary Americans were provided primetime airtime to discuss the reasons why they are supporting Barack Obama. Take Barney Smith:
The idea that Barney Smith would get a slot in primetime is staggering. But it speaks volumes about the kind of party that Barack Obama intends to create. Putting Barney Smith before Smith-Barney is what it’s all about. Symbolically, that means everything. In reality, it will be a struggle.
It’s going to be up to us to use the tools that Obama creates for us. Obama wants to do the right thing. It’s up to us to get him elected and then make him to do the right thing.