Saturday, August 30, 2008

A President Who Can Think on his Feet

In a speech that reminded me of some of the strongest moments from the film The American President (full script here, I’ll add a sample below), Barack Obama demonstrated that he can inspire, that he can be tough, that he has an open mind, that he values fairness and American values in all their diversity and, most encouragingly, that he can articulate these points without fumbling; that he can give a 45 minute speech without veering off into incoherent sentence structures and without inadvertently flipping what he means to say into its own opposite. George W. Bush can’t do it and I have yet to see John McCain get passionate and stay coherent on any topic.

Some quick quotes (full speech text is online here too):

“This, too, is part of America 's promise -- the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.”

"That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women - students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors - found the courage to keep it alive."

“You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq .”

"I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it."

“ -- that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington . Change comes to Washington ”

Sure, the speech was pre-written and well-rehearsed and not so different from the one I saw months ago in Birmingham (Alabama), but he delivered it with interest, on tempo, with vitality and with sincerity. A President we can believe in.

Here’s a bit of Michael Douglas as Alan Shepherd in The American President:

“Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it. Nobody has ever won an election by talking about what I was just talking about. This is a country made up of people with hard jobs that they're terrified of losing. The roots of freedom are of little or no interest to them at the moment. We are a nation afraid to go out at night. We're a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious men to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, friend, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

I hope we all stay in touch with this inspirational vision and that we elect Obama and reject the continuity offered by John McCain as he has moved closer to George W’s policies of war for oil’s sake and gotten tighter with the closed minds of ultra-conservative religious minorities.

Let’s bring a fresh quick mind with a powerful vision to the Presidency – we should never settle for anything less.

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