January 21, 2008

Barack Obama's Rhetoric

Senator Obama’s speech yesterday at Ebeneezer Church in Atlanta reads beautifully. In the hands of a skilled public speaker like him, it must have been moving to hear. Make no mistake, it is populism and it suggests some policies that would work to the ultimate detriment of the country. But it also contains a message of hope and unity, of self-examination, of a call to a moral high ground that seems to have been abandoned.

It would be too nice and idealistic to think he is re-casting himself as the next great moral leader of the country, a worthy successor to Martin Luther King, Jr.; but it would also be too cynical to think he is doing nothing more than going through the motions in order to get elected. The truth, I think, is somewhere in between – he’s plying the political trade, but for all the right reasons, the reasons why politicians get into the game in the first place, before they too become cynical and jaded.

It would be easy to be carried away with the promise and the hope he is selling; but it is also worth considering that our long march towards fulfilling our national ideals of equality and liberty is not yet complete, and somebody has to lead us to the next step. I don't have a crush on him, but I can easily understand why Democrats do. (Ah, if only he were a Republican, advocating sensible policies, coupled with that extraordinary charisma.)

Readers, you might consider comparing his remarks to the original speech by Dr. King, unquestionably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, speech delivered in American history. I've made an excerpt of that speech my Quote of the Moment, and included a YouTube video of the speech in the right-hand column. The whole speech is just over fifteen minutes long and if you've only ever read about the speech in history class, it's well worth taking the time to listen to the whole thing. It sends shivers down my spine and puts tears in my eyes -- it is an extraordinary American at his very, very best; indeed, it is America at her very, very best.

1 comment:

zzi said...

I can see you cut it a little short. In the eyes of some he would be viewed as too strident in his religion beliefs.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

Last line.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"