Thursday, July 2, 2015

History

Finally, Barack Obama speaks! On the 45th anniversay of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Obama makes history, becoming the first nominee for president from a major American party.

History

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"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."

 

Forty-five years later to the day, the son of a Kenyan goat herder and a white mother from Kansas becomes the embodiment of Dr. King's dream. Barack Obama is to accept the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States of America.

We go live....

10:06 p.m. First, a film. A biography, or autobiography. The father he got to meet only once in his life, when he was 10. His grandparents in Kansas: "they weren't complainers. They took life as it came," he says. The mother who would see in him a promise, waking him up at 4:30 to go over his lessons while he was in elementary school.

Michelle Obama tells how she met the young community organizer with a Harvard Law degree. He asked her out four times. Finally she goes with him to a community training session in Chicago. He takes off his coat and delivers what she calls "the most eloquent discussion about the world as it is and the world that it should be. And that was it, really, after that day. That was it. I was in love with him."

The story of Obama turns here to the story of those in need. An economic story. What his family went through -- this is the point, I gather, of the night. Stitch the story of those hurting with his own humble origins.

10:15 p.m. Like clockwork he comes out clapping. To Coldplay?

He's up these great electric blue pyramidic steps, standing at a podium that just made me think he was a contestant on a game show. Note to set designers: no!!!!!!!!!!!!

10:21 p.m. He's done acknowledging those he's got to acknowledge, and begins talking about this 'defining moment." And it's a moment of economic woe he sketches. It's the failure to respond that he sticks in the ribs of George W.Bush.

"America, we are better than these last eight years." He derides a government "that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty. That sits on its hands while a major city drowns before our eyes....

"Enough."

10:27 p.m. McCain praised for wearing the uniform and serving his country, as the chant fades, "eight is enough."

Does some basic math -- if McCain votes with Bush 90 percent of the time, that's only a 10 percent change of change.

10:31 p.m. He's rolling now, one after another.

"It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it."

Right into a turn of phrase that soars from prof to pastor: "In Washington they call this the ownership society, but what it really means is you are own your own."

10:35 p.m. All of this -- the struggling family, the supportive grandmother, the sacrifice and student loans and scholarships -- this, he says ironically, aiming at McCain criticism of his setting and cult of personality, this, he says, is My Celebrity Life.

Time for a defense of liberalism, though not by name. Caring for those who cannot help themselves.

10:38 Change defined.

A tax code that rewards workers and small business owners - not those who wrote the laws.

Reward those employers who keep jobs here.

Cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families.

Set goal: in 10 years "we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Tap natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, safely harness nuclear power and retool Detroit (or wherever) so fuel-efficient cars are built here. He'll invest $150 billion over a decade for alternate sources of fuel and jobs "that pay well and cannot be outsourced."

Now education: invest in early-childhood education, recruit more teachers, pay better, demand more accountability and higher standards in exchange.

And this: "If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education."

Regarding health care: his plan, he says, would lower costs for those with health care. For those without, they'll get the same sort of plan that Congress enjoys. And, having watched his mother argue with insurance companies, while she lay dying of cancer, "I will makes sure those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most."

I just watched that last part again. His voice broke, the anger breaking through the cool.

10:42 p.m. The other side of the ledger. How he'll pay. Ridding corporate loopholes that don't benefit the country. Going through the budget like my father. Ok, I just made that last part up.

Zings fathers who don't take the responsibility to love, provide for and guide their children.

Then he zings his opponent.

"If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to be commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have."

Compares the two on Afghanistan. McCain, he says, would muddle through. He would press the fight. Then this, which is a basic calling-out:

"John McCain likes to say that he'll follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives."

Calls him out.

10:46 p.m. He talks of repairing alliances, advancing diplomacy, only sending soldiers to fight when the mission is clear and they are taken care of during and afterward. If he does all he says he'll do, he'll never be able to sleep.

Now, he pulls back from his attacks, saying one cannot challenge another's patriotism. And that he will not resort to that. This is quite the rhetorical switchback, because he has just finished skewering his opponent. But not his patriotism. Deal?

But back to the tough guy: "So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first."

His voice is softening again, and maybe we're near the end. He acknowledges how we have deep divides, over abortions and AK-47s. He proposes middle grounds. Same sex marriage, too. This is a play for the vast middle.

Happy talk? he says. A Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values?

"If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things. And you know what, it's worked before..."

10:50 p.m. Ok, I'm not your conventional candidate, he concedes. But the election "isn't about me. It's about you....

"In times like this, change doesn’t come from Washington . Change comes to Washington ."

He winds up talking about the American promise, the spirit which drives immigrants to our shores, which brought so many people flock to Washington 45 years ago to hear a preacher from Georgia tell his dream.

"We cannot walk alone, the preacher cried, and as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. America we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. ...

And he ends on a country song! the words, "Sun coming up over New York City..." as his family gathers around him. That's "Only in America," by Brooks and Dunn. What a country.

 

 

 

Inquirer Columnist
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