The Eclectic Quill

August 29, 2008

“It’s About Us”

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 9:18 am

At 41 years old I’m young enough to have missed the great speeches of our time such as King’s "I have a dream" speech, or Kennedy’s "Ask what you can do for your country." Those were speeches which defined a generation, which embodied thoughts and ideals of a nation and propelled it forward to a greater future. Those speeches changed the world because they captured an audience who was ready to change it. American history holds some great speeches, but my generation has never heard one of those speeches, that is until last night, when I was reminded, it’s not about the President, it’s about the nation.

For too long we’ve been fed the lines about how we need to fear change, how we need to fear communism, socialism, terrorism, taxation, government, assaults on gun ownership etcetera and so on. We’ve been instructed so much in pessimism that we’ve given up on improvement as a nation. As a nation we’ve begun to consider "pessimism" and "realism" as synonymous so when we hear about "change" we pass it off as "wild eyed optimism" as with a self satisfied we grunt affirm our dismissive judgment. That’s why we’ve become a nation that comes out every four years to vote against something. Truth be told in ’04 there were probably far more votes cast against George W. Bush than there were for John Kerry as the Democrats too have often started to sound like a different kind of party of fears. Last night Barrack Obama changed that. He gave us something to vote for.

Not to be confused there were definitely attacks directed John McCain’s way. In fact I believe that the McCain camp is reeling this morning as they try to devise ways to respond to last night’s onslaught as they saw every grenade they’d launched Senator Obama’s way, suddenly in their own camp. Obama was brilliant in rebutting the attacks on his "elitism" by pointing out his own history (in a very sharp contrast to McCain’s very elite upbringing), in his response to energy (drilling is just a stop-gap, and by the way, you’ve been there for 26 years making this mess John McCain!), in his response to the attacks on his judgment (do we really want 90 percent of Bush?) and on his attacks on his patriotism (patriotism knows no party). Definitely there was some well placed and much needed return fire going on. But that was not the theme of the night. There were also some much needed specifics that were delivered, 29 in all, including such things as 150 billion to explore alternative sources of energy or tax cuts to over 100 million Americans. These things might not be new to those who get their news off the internet, but they might be to a good number of Americans who were getting their information off of John McCain’s commercials, or pundits who keep insisting that Obama is short on specifics. While this too was powerful, this was not what made the night historic either.

One thing that I noticed was two nights ago when Hillary was giving her speech (and what a speech it was!) and in the moment when she asked her supporters what they were in this for the camera panned to the stereotypical Hillary supporter, a member of the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits. The realization that washed over her face was obviously unrehearsed and genuine as she was reminded that this campaign was about the things that Hillary stood for, not about Hillary. During Obama’s speech he said, "I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you." Pundits have been talking a lot about what this election is about, and how McCain has made it about Obama and how this is a referendum on Obama, and how Obama needs to make it about McCain. What Obama did went so far beyond that that I believe a good many of them missed it. He reminded us as Americans what this election is really about. It’s about us. When he said this they again panned to one of those members of the sisterhood and on her face was a recognition, a realization of the true unity that exists between Clinton and Obama. They want to bring the same changes to the nation, they just have different ways of doing it. As the woman came to this realization, in her eyes you could see it, the determination to vote for Obama, then you saw the hope start to alight again. That is what made the night historic; what made this a generation defining speech.

Barrack Obama dared the nation to hope in itself, in its ability to reclaim Washington, to even be once again a nation that is governed by the people ¸ and not just one where the people are ruled by the government. Obama gave a message that Senator McCain simply cannot give because it’s not a message he believes in. Obama believes in a future that is better and McCain is hoping for a future that just isn’t worse. The nation needs to and wants to believe it can get better, it can improve and it can get better. We, as a nation need to and can get better. We can once again be that nation which can, with our national conscience void of offense, tell China when they’ve violated basic civil liberties, or Russian when it illegally invades another nation, that they cannot do that. We can once again be a nation that universally declares that torture is just wrong and that’s why we won’t torture people. That fundamental nature of being American where we don’t just say we are better, but where we stand up and display the better things, the better virtues of government, we can reclaim. You see, this is the hope of being American, of the Red, White and the Blue. This is what we were stirred to believe in again last night, and this is what made that speech the greatest I’ve seen in my lifetime.



  1. These speeches mean more to me now than then. Sad but true, have we as a nation lost that much focus?

    Comment by Stan Earl — August 30, 2008 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  2. Well said. Very passionate and articulate. Obama has doen well for himself during the convention. We’ll see if McCain can do the same. I sort of doubt it at this point.

    Comment by Ryan — August 31, 2008 @ 6:59 am | Reply

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