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

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Value, and Values, of Barack: Why He Gave That Speech On Race

As a part of PBS' Frontline piece "The Choice 2008" (which I hear is a good look at the candidates), they interviewed Obama's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod. At one point they asked him: "When the Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright comments came out and the whole hubbub happened, what were your thoughts? How did you decide to deal with it?" This is how he responded, and it blows me away to see the depth of value in Obama that it reflects:

"The Rev. Wright episode was one of those episodes in which I began to see a president in real stark terms, because the stories broke; it was a feeding frenzy in the media. He was in Washington voting until 1:00 in the morning. We had set up some editorial board interviews the next day in Chicago on a different, also challenging subject. So he flew back into the city in the middle of the day on Friday, and he issued a statement on Rev. Wright -- we had written one; he rewrote it. Went off to his editorial boards for three hours, went on television, sat for three or four different interviews on Rev. Wright, and then said that night, 'I want to do a speech on race; I want to put this in context.'

He had mentioned the desire to make a speech like this before, but this seemed like the right time. And he said, 'And I want to do it on Monday or Tuesday.' He said, 'But I have to write it.'

So he went off campaigning on Saturday and came home. At 9:30 Saturday night he dictated an outline to one of his speechwriters, who shot it back to him on Sunday. Sunday night at 10:00, he started working on it again, and worked until 3:00 in the morning. We took off at 8:00 in the morning the next day, on Monday. The speech was Tuesday. Campaigned all day in Pennsylvania, and then from 9:30 till 2:00 in the morning on Monday, he finished the speech.

Knowing his habits, I just went to sleep, thinking I'd wake up in the middle of the night because the speech would be there in the middle of the night. And that's what happened. And I read that speech, and I just e-mailed him back and said, "This is why you should be president," because it was so filled with wisdom and so profound in many ways that it just blew me away that a guy in the midst of all this chaos, with no sleep and in the middle of the night, could produce that kind of thought and that kind of work." (emphasis added)

Take a look at the speech he came up with, below, that offers a glimpse of the hopeful--yes hopeful--perspective that Obama has to offer our country on this issue (in addition to the undoubtedly important approaches he has to foreign policy, energy, civic engagement, health care, etc., etc.). By the way, I wrote a piece on this speech when he gave it back in March that highlights some of the parts that struck me the most. Here's the speech (with 5,056,568 views on You Tube so far, and that's only for this version of it):

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