Friday, August 29, 2008

Conventional: Watch and Discuss



I watched Obama's acceptance speech the other night...in a bar (200 5th, in Brooklyn). The man has surely intrigued the people of the nation, if he hasn't captured our imaginations outright. I mean, I never thought that a sports bar would shut off the game (NCAA Football's opening day) for a political speech. But it happened! And although the substance of the speech itself was fairly standard, and doesn't approach Jesse Jackson's 1984 DNC address, I think that Obama did connect with people in some significant ways. Jackson set the bar for convention speeches, and it's troubling in the extreme how Obama has turned away from the Reverend(s).

It would be easy to dismiss his speech as boilerplate. It definitely stuck close to the formula. However, I think he did something extremely important--he identified w/ us, the People, in a real and true way. He has recognized that we, the people of this nation, are not "warriors"--we don't relate to being at war in the traditional sense. By that I mean, "war" for most of us is Vietnam. It's that dirty word, that morally repugnant aspect of our nation that we don't want to identify with.

And though we don't identify with war in the way that our parents and grandparents do, we do love our elders and understand that they have been through that hell. And that is strength! Check out what he says about this below:

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great - a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

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