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Jul 28, 2004 4:40 am

If You Missed It ...

I'm amending my comment yesterday that the Democrat's convention in Boston is a"non-event." In case you didn't hear the keynote speech by Barack Obama, it was one of the great speeches of our time. You can read the full text here or watch and listen to it here.

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Robert KC Johnson - 7/29/2004

The Chicago Trib yesterday had an article noting, probably correctly, that Obama has given better speeches than the one he delivered in Boston thus far on the campaign trail--one reason, obviously, why he scored such an amazing victory in the primary and was all but a shoo-in for election even before Jack Ryan's sex scandal. It was the best speech that I could recall at a convention of either party.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/29/2004

Unless 'pundits' is code word for Republicans, actually, it was more, I think, an attack on David Brooks and anyone else who tries to analyze the situation in simplistic terms. True, it seems to me that Republican rhetoric and campaigning is more about the red-blue 'divide' but he didn't, in fact, make that connection.

Timothy James Burke - 7/28/2004

I thought it was a very good speech. Definitely the best part was the central attack on the red state, blue state rhetoric and the use of it by the Republicans.

Manan Ahmed - 7/28/2004

Amazing, uplifting, electrifying. For this immigrant - the best speech. ever.

Derek Charles Catsam - 7/28/2004

Jonathan --
I have to disagree with you, and adamently -- the reason it was on eof the great speeches of our time because it was about many of the things you say it was not -- where he talks about us being the United States of America, when he talks about liberals in red states and conservatives in bue states, and when he talks about hoped and dreams he speaks to Americans, and not just to democrats. It was great precisely because it wasn't just about the Democrats or winning back Congress or getting out the vote (though he may well have helped on those fronts). It was about a vision or dream for what we are as Americans. This, folks, is what a uniter, not a divider, looks like.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/28/2004

Well, when I'm working from home, as I am these days, I only have dial-up speeds, so I tend to avoid video. I did manage to catch it on C-Span, though, and it was well delivered.

But, to be honest, I'm not that moved by personal narrative in a politician. Maybe it's cold of me to say it, but I don't care if their background is 'all American' or whatever it is they're trying to present. That stuff is just too easy to say, to mythologize, to essentialize, to pick and choose and sentimentalize. I want to know what they believe, and sometimes personal history is useful, and I want to know what they can do and I want to know what they will do, and rarely is personal/family history, at least the parts they put in a speech like this, a great predictor of those things. 'Vote for me because I had the right kind of parents' doesn't work for me.

The ending was more effective, for me, because it was about values and missions and goals, and correcting the path which we are lurching down. In other words, it was stuff I agree with (in part because of my own upbringing, with folk music and all) presented with some real energy and flair and eloquence. It was a fine statement of principles and values. It was also a campaign speech, and that wouldn't have bothered me quite as much if it had been just a bit broader: it was about Obama, which was to be expected, and about Kerry/Edwards (again, lots of personal history), which was to be expected; but it wasn't about the Democratic Party, or about winning back Congress, or about state-level elections or getting out the vote.

I realize that there's an effort to appear, in a sense, non-partisan and unifying, focused on the presidential race, but those things make a big difference in what kind of Kerry Presidency we might have, or, for that matter, what kind of Bush Presidency (God forbid) we might have.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/28/2004

Can you not access the link to watch and hear the speech? Why would it being a campaign speech disqualify it? What kind of speech would qualify?
It seemed to me that telling his family's story, as an instance of the American story, was quite powerful. And the embracing of our polarities was crucial to the success of the speech.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/28/2004

Thanks for the link. Without actually seeing it, it's hard to judge for sure, but it reads a bit too much like a campaign speech (which it is) to qualify as "one of the great speeches of our time" in my mind. But there are bits and pieces of it which are indeed quite powerful and elegant.

I think my favorite single line, though was the rather partisan "When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going."

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