In his victory address, Barack Obama reminded us why he got in four years ago: Hope. Oratory does not do everything and it’s been hidden away for a while, but it can inspire and stir all sorts of good emotions.
What more can you ask for?
Obama starts with a nod to his greatest work, “A More Perfect Union” referencing the colony that over 200 years ago set itself on the path to independence: A jag, a reminder, a nod to the start of both America’s journey and his own journey. He starts “A More Perfect Union” in a nervous silence, but this time he has to wait for the chanting to stop so he might be heard.
Right from the off, with his assertion that “the American family” is as important as the individual we see him, in his assertive manner and his words, setting a stall that is different from the Romney agenda. At times he is aggressive, angry even, in his rhetoric. None of this has seen the light of day in the campaign, apparently deliberately because people were a bit fed up with it, but now he is Commander in Chief for four more years.
Then he does the right thing: many thank you messages to everyone from the door knockers to his opponents. He does this much more graciously than Romney did; Mitt is wooden for sure but in his last big showing for a while he only said he would pray that Obama got it right. Inelegant, clumsy and insincere.
Michelle and the girls get a great minute, delivered with feeling and humour. He flashes his big smile and waits for the laugh; Obama knows how to wait for a laugh. Campaign workers are next and that takes him nicely on to how important politics is, how important they are and how politics deals with the biggest issues: And why elections matter, “It’s not small it’s big. It’s complicated.” What a great, simple line. We then get an elegant explanation for the viciousness, the poison and the partisan fervour of election campaigns. Not an apology, an explanation. And then a list, from good teachers to global warming, of what these big things are. He’s in the zone now after a few early stumbles and has a good rhythm going. The young boy on the street corner in Chicago, after another list, becomes the President of the United States. He is riding the applause now.
Our economy is recovering and he says it like you believe it. He says he has learned from voters and is now inspired. And when he says it here is the thing: you believe him, much more than in the debates. (He is not a fan of debating and is doubtless glad he will never do one again.) The crowd definitely believe him and are now in raptures; again he waits for them, taking it all in. it’s a religious experience now.
Generous, tolerant, compassionate, confident are key adjectives for his forward vision. And back to the beginning, two centuries ago, showing that it is a long journey and there will be setbacks. But a better Union is the aim and we get another long list of what need doing. JFK’s “ask not what you can do…” is paraphrased as Americans are asked to roll up their sleeves and get on with making the country great again.
The best bit? This section, which you will hear more than once in the coming four years. “This country has more wealth than any nation but that’s not what makes us rich; we have the most powerful military in the world but that’s not what makes us strong… universities, culture… envy of the world…what makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth…. Obligations to one another… freedom with responsibilities… love, duty, patriotism… that’s what makes America great.” This is his creed, this is his mantra, this is his passionate belief. This one passage is the America barack Obama sees in his future, much more so than the fearful, divisive, snide, reductive notion of Romney’s extremism.
There are lots of stories, well chosen and mostly well delivered, that illustrate the breadth of American society. In case you never got it, he also lists all the people of America allows to have a shot at the Dream: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native American, young, old, rich, poor, able bodied, disabled, gay or straight. Pretty much the list Republicans need to start talking to from now. He looks you in the eye and says he is for you, terrific delivery again taking the crowd with him and now he’s almost shouting. There is definitely some vitriol, steel and aggression here; and who can blame him. This is the peroration, four years in the making, and they are all going doo lally.
Obama’s oratory is back and it is going to change America.
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