March 18, 2008
I waited with anticipation to hear Barack Obama's address to the nation about race, brought about by the unsettling clips and sound bytes of Jeremiah Wright, said to be Obama's spiritual advisor. The fact is, this is the speech Obama had to make; it is the reason for his being in the position he is in. It is the first real test of his ability to articulate the issues that continue to divide the country and to bridge that chasm with wisdom and calm.
I said to myself, "If he can't do this, he doesn't belong where he is." In fact, I've heard the man enough times that I knew in my heart that he could. I couldn't wait to hear what he would say.
He was able to remind us of the beauty of our Constitution and to explain our own flaws in its interpretation without sounding pedantic or preachy. His speech was historic in its elegance and its insistence on the perfectibility of our nation's goals. He was at his best, and his best is as good as we've seen in many generations.
The speech will be jawboned to death by the talking heads who are called upon to interpret all the political minutia of this extraordinary campaign. It's not for me to add more to that pile of -- shall I say minutia again? -- so I'll refrain. I for one am grateful that we have such a man to address this and other issues that divide this country in the kind of way to make those issues comprehensible. It is not an easy task in this day of obfuscation, prevarication and outright mendacity. It may not meet with universal approval, and it may not effect any particular change. This speech was a a beautiful first step in his long road to imbuing the electorate itself with the courage to change.
When all is said and done, it was just a speech. But it was a speech given by the only one on earth entitled and equipped to make it. I wish him many such platforms in the future, to make other such speeches, to articulate his unique and inspirational vision. I actually hope he'll get the bulliest pulpit of all -- but if not, this one time at bat has proved him worthy of an important position in the country and the world.
And on another subject, let me say this: I am so grateful that the politicians this year have universally put aside the ending that has been used for that last few political campaigns to end every single speech: "God Bless America!" I'm glad I haven't heard that one lately, and I hope I don't hear it any time in the near future.
But just between us, I often find myself saying "God bless you," when I hear Barack Obama speak.