Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Amazing Grace

It was an evening of impressive speeches, Wednesday at the DNC.  Joe Biden wowed the crowd; at least a couple of commentators thought it was the best speech of the night.

 Independent businessman and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg went at Trump with a scalpel.  He called Trump a demagogue and a con man.

  Tim Kaine zeroed in on Trump's refrain that substitutes for policy: "Believe me."  And he counted out  the ways no one should believe Trump.

And before them, Martin O'Malley and Jessie Jackson, Gabby Giffords and parents of gun violence victims.

But the evening ended with President Obama, whose speech brought his political career and his presidency full circle.  He was alive to every moment of it, in the convention hall.  He'll make other speeches for Hillary, statements as President, and one more State of the Union.  But this was the speech that took him from his first convention speech in 2004 that electrified the hall and started his quick march to the presidency, to the final days of that presidency.

Recently we've seen him saddened, angry, bearing up under emotion.  On Wednesday night he was brimming with energy as he hasn't seemingly in years.  A smile was behind his words.  He not only spoke of optimism.  He was optimism.

But of a particular kind--as the New York Times editorial board noted that in what it called his "beautiful and emotional" speech, he could look back on his long march--and say, in effect, this is what I've been telling you to expect.  From at least his speech in Grant Park on 2008 election night, he's said that change isn't easy and doesn't necessarily come fast.  And that it often requires compromise, and entails disappointments.  But it rewards steadfast effort.

It was a speech structured as a call for continuation, from Barack to Hillary.  But it was also a speech of vindication--not so much in details of accomplishments, but in political faith--and hope.

It's no accident that for the first time in a long time he repeated his most famous words "Yes, We Can."  And he wove it into another theme, of democracy versus the autocracy of Trump--it's yes, we can, he repeated, not yes I can, or even yes, she can.

And he returned to another signature--and book title--the audacity of hope.  By now, people must know what audacity really means: "Hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; the audacity of hope!"

The Times wrote: "His presence on the podium was also a valedictory for an exceptional man and president who will be remembered for eloquently defending the founding precepts of the country — even as he used those precepts to expand the mandate of inclusiveness and broaden the definition of what it means to be an American. From that standpoint, the Obama presidency has been transformative — perhaps even miraculous."

That was the heart of this speech--Obama's America, his American Dream.  That's especially what will make this speech live for a long time.

It’s hard to overstate the effect that Barack Obama can have on an audience, wrote Lucia Graves in the Guardian-- and when he took the stage of a packed Democratic national convention on Wednesday night, he entered not just to music but to the sound of his party’s collective swoon.With Obama on it, the stage had a newfound glamour. This wasn’t just another beige politician. This was America’s first and last love, it’s one-and-only preacher-in-chief.

Obama's speech was preceded by a powerful video which included his heartfelt singing of Amazing Grace in Charleston, which reportedly was joined by the chorus of conventioneers as the video was shown.

Here's a transcript and another video of the speech.

The Democratic Convention has been getting pretty high TV ratings, with bigger audiences than the RNC.  This night ended with Hillary Clinton on stage with President Obama.  Tomorrow it's her night.  Although I wouldn't be surprised to see Barack and Michelle one more time.

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