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July 28, 2004

Barack Obama

I haven't been watching the Democratic Convention, because I don't really watch TV. But a partial transcript of Barack Obama's speech sent me to the Web for a video of the whole thing. Three-quarters of the way through, I'm wiping tears from my eyes, feeling profound gratitude, and recognizing a basic yearning for really impressive leadership. All kinds of burdens are going to be piled on Obama, because he'll be the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, he's young enough to be a presidential contender, and he enters the national stage with incredible reviews. It won't be possible for him to meet these expectations--but I don't care about unfair pressure. Although I'll defend the American political system, today's politicians just cannot satisfy a fundamental need for inspiring, unifying leadership. Obama can do that; he has the talent, the instincts, the intellect, and the personal integrity for it. So he owes it to his country to spend the rest of his life trying to meet our expectations.

There are people who say that "nothing happens" at a convention, that it's all just an "infomercial" that needn't be covered. But a convention is an opportunity for political leaders to speak without filters to the American people. Doesn't "something happen" when a new national leader emerges?

Posted by peterlevine at July 28, 2004 02:48 PM

Comments

There are some sweet ironies in your post, and in Obama's speech. First, conventions as "unfiltered" is ironic when you consider the "blue pen" they use to make sure that speeches aren't redundent or off-message. Second, Barak's "unifying" comment which implies "there are two kinds of people, those who divide and those who unite and i'm the latter" is a rich way for a unifier to divide the country.

Don't get me wrong: Obama is a talented young leader. But let's see how good he does at persuading those he disagrees, because from his positions I've seen on abortion, Iraq, gay marriage, he is a left-wing ideologue. (On PBS, I was surprised at how well David Brooks received his speech however.) Convention organizers knew full well that network coverage begins at 10pm and yet put him at 9pm.

Posted by: Michael Weiksner at July 29, 2004 01:45 PM

Mike,

There's filtering and then there's filtering. I guess I'd prefer that both parties were less relentless about driving all their speakers to the same "message." I'd rather they did without those blue pens. But it is useful to allow the parties to present themselves to the public as they want to be seen (whether mean or wholesome, disciplined or diverse, moderate or radical). Media filtering bothers me much more because it may confuse our choice about whom to support in the election. Besides, we don't get to vote the media out, either in party primaries or in national elections.

My comments about Obama as a leader depend entirely on Tuesday's speech. I thought it was an extraordinary statement that rested on a lot of serious reflection about national unity--but I can't comment on the rest of Obama's career or style.

Peter

Posted by: Peter Levine at July 29, 2004 02:24 PM

Michael. Obama will probably have time to develop his power to persuade. For the time being, he's running unopposed! (I should probably check the Trib to see if that's true. The Rep's could find a replacement candidate any minute now.)

Posted by: lucia at August 4, 2004 05:24 PM

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