Monday, March 05, 2007

a tale of two speeches

yesterday I was flipping the channels and came across the tail end of Obama's keynote speech at Selma, AL. While he stepped on some of his applause lines, it was a good speech. He talked about civil rights leaders as the "Moses generation" who got us to edge of the promised land but couldn't go there themselves. And he hinted that he was part of the "Joshua generation" of unworthies who who lead the people the last 10% home. This was part of his theme, that he represents a new generation of leadership, one that is not reliving the battles of the 1960s but building upon it. "Don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Ala. Don't tell me I'm not coming home to Selma, Ala. I'm here because somebody marched. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants," he said.

Obama also talked about the problems facing Black America today. "We have too many children in poverty in this country, and everybody should be ashamed, but don't tell me it doesn't have a little to do with the fact that we got too many daddies not acting like daddies. Don't think that fatherhood ends at conception. I know something about that because my father wasn't around when I was young, and I struggled." He went on to note that if you read his book, you saw he got in trouble because he didn't have a real father figure and it took him a while to get his life on track. Barack spoke about how his greatest fear is that he is becoming one of those fathers by spending so much time campaigning and being away from his daughters.

And it made me think that if someone as brilliant and talented as Obama had brushes with the law and was on a path of self-destruction, what about all those other young Black men who don't have his gifts? It was a profound moment that can get white people of privilege to realize that the project began by Abraham Lincoln and restarted by Martin Luther King, Jr. is still unfinished.

Immediately after his speech, C-SPAN switched to Hillary Clinton's. I was struck by how harsh her tone was, not the words but her manner of speaking. When she turns up the volume to arouse the crowd, she seems to be yelling at them. Obama seems like he is evoking righteous anger, like a preacher. She seems like an angry parent at a PTA meeting that everyone wishes would be quiet. Hillary's trouble is that she married the most gifted politician of our times and is running against another charismatic brilliant orator.

Against lessors, her speeches wouldn't seem so terrible. I remember in 2002, I heard her speak at the DLC National Conversation (their annual convention). She was far and away the best speaker there, compared to John Edwards, John Kerry, Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, Greg Meeks, Blanche Lincoln, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Jim McGreevey, and Mark Warner. She spoke off the cuff and was both funny and good.

These days, Hillary is looking desperate and afraid. She Peppermint Patty-ed herself to a church across the street from Obama's, and even brought down Bill Clinton to march on the bridge with her. I wasn't the only one who thought Obama is having the better of the Clinton's"
In the crowd, one dad who came from Atlanta was sure he was seeing history being made.

"Look at Obama, he's going to be the first black President," said Kenneth Byrd, who proudly took turns hoisting his son, Myles Byrd, 10, and daughter, Erin, up for a look.

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