Friday, August 29, 2008

One of Those Moments

Following is that part of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last night that grabbed my attention. Much of what he said was typical of a politician, but the following came across to me as both inspired and inspiring.


America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices. And Democrats, as well as Republicans, will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past, for part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose, and that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.

The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.

I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.

You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

But this, too, is part of America’s promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer, and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected, because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It’s worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me; it’s about you. It’s about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said, “Enough,” to the politics of the past. You understand that, in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same, old politics with the same, old players and expect a different result.

You have shown what history teaches us, that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.

Change happens – change happens because the American people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

8:00 p.m. Update: It’s being reported that Barack Obama’s audience for his acceptance speech likely topped 40 million people, and the Democratic gathering that nominated him was a more popular television event than any other political convention in history. According to Associated Press writer David Bauder, the Nielsen Media Research group announced earlier today that: “More people watched Obama speak from a packed stadium in Denver on Thursday than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final American Idol or the Academy Awards this year.” What did Obama say about “something stirring”?

Recommended Off-site Links:
Obama Masters His Moment - Roger Simon, (, August 28, 2008).
History Echoes During Obama’s Big Speech - David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers, August 28, 2008).
Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” Returns to Politics - Ted Anthony (Associated Press, August 28, 2008).
Obama’s Speech in Historical Context - Democracy Now!, August 29, 2008.
Obama’s Speech Seen by 38 Million-Plus Viewers - David Bauder (Associated Press, August 29, 2008).

Image 1: Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama waves to the crowd prior to his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, August 28, 2008. (Reuters/Jim Young)
Image 2: Barack Obama pauses while delivering his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Obama gave the biggest speech in a career in Denver’s open-air football stadium before 84,000 supporters. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

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