If you haven’t read the transcript of his victory speech, you should. If not for pro-forma requirements (thanking Joe Biden, etc.) and gratuitous insertion of campaign slogans (“Yes we can”) this is a speech — at least in written form (I’ve only heard clips) for the ages, Gettysburg Address quality (and of course, pretty much no-one heard the Gettysburg Address).
But, of course. the Gettysburg Address is nothing without context. Had it not been uttered at that time and place it would not be significant. If Obama’s speech is merely the prelude to epic failure, it will not be well-remembered, or remembered at all.
Still, it’s a great speech. It’s not terribly long, and manages to draw together threads of societal and technological change (the way he uses the changes in the life of a 106 year old voter is brilliant), put our current situation in an historical context, transcend political divisions, begin the all important task of expectations management, and even manages to be pretty humble.
Perhaps even more remarkable, Obama appears to draw his oratorical rhythm from the secular 19th century rather than the increasingly liturgical 20th century. Unlike Clinton or Martin Luther King (two excellent speakers of recent memory) he doesn’t sound like a Southern Baptist preacher (of course, MLK actually was one).
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.
Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
Great stuff. I just never like it when a speaker tells me he’s being humble. It’s ok to say we “must be humble” but it’s simply not humble to say you “are being humble”.
Anyhow, having run the best election campaign in living memory, the easy part is done.