In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Value, and Values, of Barack: Imperfect Messenger

I wish, at times, that I saw more lengthy excerpts from candidate speeches in newspapers, as opposed to brief quotes. I say this even though my tolerance for political speeches has, as with all of ours likely, begun to wain again recently--but then I listened to Obama's North Carolina victory speech from last week. Below are some extended excerpts that struck me as the most unique parts of it (the first portion of the speech felt a bit like his normal stumping). At one point, he calls himself an "imperfect messenger," highlighting a humility that I find both rare and endearing in a leader. Interestingly, it is less often spoken and more often demonstrated with Obama--demonstrated in the way he often slowly, deliberately chooses his words, in his self-deprecating humor, and in the way he continues to call citizens the most important part of his campaign.

Although I put portions of the speech below, I would encourage interested readers to watch the video at the bottom of this post; because, after all, if we only read speeches, there would be no need for people to give them. It does matter how they are given. Granted, the "how" matters less than the substance generally, but delivery is not unimportant when one considers the uncertainty we all feel about our politicians and their trustworthiness.

Here are the excerpts that especially stuck out to me from the speech:

"The people I've met in small towns and big cities across this country understand that government can't solve all our problems – and we don't expect it to. We believe in hard work. We believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance. But we also believe that we have a larger responsibility to one another as Americans – that America is a place – that America is the place – where you can make it if you try. That no matter how much money you start with or where you come from or who your parents are, opportunity is yours if you're willing to reach for it and work for it. It's the idea that while there are few guarantees in life, you should be able to count on a job that pays the bills; health care for when you need it; a pension for when you retire; an education for your children that will allow them to fulfill their God-given potential. That's the America
we believe in. That's the America I know.

This is the country that gave my grandfather a chance to go to college on the GI Bill when he came home from World War II; a country that gave him and my grandmother the chance to buy
their first home with a loan from the government.

This is the country that made it possible for my mother – a single parent who had to go on food stamps at one point – to send my sister and me to the best schools in the country on scholarships.

This is the country that allowed my father-in-law – a city worker at a South Side water filtration plant – to provide for his wife and two children on a single salary. This is a man who was diagnosed at age thirty with multiple sclerosis – who relied on a walker to get himself to work. And yet, every day he went, and he labored, and he sent my wife and her brother to one of the best colleges in the nation. It was a job that didn't just give him a paycheck, but a sense of dignity and self-worth. It was an America that didn't just reward wealth, but the work and the workers who created it.

Somewhere along the way, between all the bickering and the influence-peddling and the game-
playing of the last few decades, Washington and Wall Street have lost touch with these values. And while I honor John McCain's service to his country, his ideas for America are out of touch with these values. His plans for the future are nothing more than the failed policies of the past. And his plan to win in November appears to come from the very same playbook that his side has used time after time in election after election.

Yes, we know what's coming. We've seen it already. The same names and labels they always pin
on everyone who doesn't agree with all their ideas. The same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy in the hope that the media will play along. The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences to turn us against each other for pure political gain – to slice and dice this country into Red States and Blue States; blue-collar and white-collar; white and black, and brown.

This is the race we expect, no matter if it's myself or Senator Clinton that is the nominee. The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they'll run, it's what kind of campaign we will run. It's what we will do to make this year different. Ya see, I didn't get into race thinking that I could avoid this kind of politics, but I am running for President because this is the time to end it.

We will end it this time not because I'm perfect – I think we know at this phase of the campaign that I am not. We will end it not by duplicating the same tactics and the same strategies as the other side, because that will just lead us down the same path of polarization and gridlock.

We will end it by telling the truth. We will end it by telling the truth forcefully, repeatedly, confidently – and by trusting that the American people will embrace the need for change, even if it's coming from an imperfect messenger. Because that's how we've always changed this country, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. When you the American people decide that the stakes are too high and the challenges are too great.

The other side can label and name call all it wants, but I trust the American people to recognize that it is not surrender to end the war in Iraq so that we can rebuild our military and go after al Qaeda's leaders. I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness but wisdom to talk not just to our friends but to our enemies--like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did. I trust the Ameircan people to realize that while we don't need big government, we do need a government that stands up for families who are being tricked out of their homes by Wall Street predators; a government who stands up for the middle-class by giving them a tax break; a government that ensures that no American will ever lose their life savings just because their child gets sick. Security and opportunity, compassion and prosperity aren't liberal values or conservative values – they're American values, and that is what we are fighting for in this election..."

Here's the video:

Above photo credit: Obama's Flickr page, some rights reserved.

: Since I'm home sick from work today, I was able to catch up on Sunday's Washington Post, which I was too busy to read over the weekend; that phrase "imperfect messenger" from Obama's speech apparently stood out to Post writer David Ignatius as well, as he starts out this article on Obama's demeanor talking about it. Two other recent Post articles are also worth noting: the first is on the potential damage of Clinton's continued campaigning, where the author interestingly points out that "there is still a price to be paid for letting the nomination campaign drag on. At the most personal level, it denies Obama the rest he badly needs. His friends talk with real concern about the fatigue he constantly feels and often shows"; the second article offers a welcome human perspective on Clinton, while also suggesting that she only has the following options left: "To consolidate her gains while repairing the damage to her standing from a bitter contest, she will have to abandon efforts to block Obama's nomination. She can keep fighting, or she can become a powerful figure in the Democratic Party. She cannot do both...Any moves that risk further divisions in the Democratic Party -- Hillary Clinton's comment last week about Obama's weakness among voters who are "hard-working" and "white" didn't help -- will aggravate a problem she wants to go away. So would an orchestrated campaign by Clinton supporters to push Obama hard to make her the vice presidential nominee. An aggressive 'Clinton for vice president' campaign would simply reopen fights that are just ending and offer Obama two bad choices: either to look weak by capitulating to pressure from the defeated wing of the party or to look spiteful by refusing to take Clinton on. "

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