He Ripped It.

“Come with me if you want to live.”
Laying the smack down: Barack Obama’s DNC acceptance speech

It was like faceting a diamond in mid-flight.

Barack Obama’s speech last night, accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination as its candidate for President of the United States—the first time a major party has so ensconced an African-American—had to accomplish a set of diverse objectives, without wasted words, in a very short period of time. (His real audience, obviously, was not the nearly 84,000 gathered inside INVESCO Field at Mile High stadium, where he spoke, but the 25,000,000 watching on TV, like I was, plus the other 275,000,000 Americans.)

Obama had to do the following:

a) Prove to Americans voters that he absolutely gets what a crumbling economy is doing to them and their dreams. As fellow party heavyweight Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel said, “It is not about making sure they know Barack. It is about making sure that they know Barack knows them.”

b) Make them understand that he has a specific, workable plan to change their situation by stating details of that plan;

Let freedom ring…c) Punk McCain, firmly, as a Bush clone, but do so without appearing disrespectful to the elderly, white politician and “war hero” (an oxymoron to me, hence quotes). The jabs were, really, to numerous to mention, and they all landed, though maybe the best one: “It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.”

d) Help them believe that, despite his brown face and funny name, he really was just like them:

Obama’s exotic background — his unique melange of Kenya, Kansas, Hawaii and Harvard — makes the job of presenting his biography particularly important. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell made that point bluntly in a Washington Post interview Tuesday, comparing Obama [to] egghead Adlai Stevenson, who twice failed as the Democrats’ nominee.

“With people who have a lot of gifts, it’s hard for people to identify with them,” Rendell said. “Barack Obama is handsome. He’s incredibly bright. He’s incredibly well spoken and he’s incredibly successful — not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with.”

“[sigh]…I *love* you….”Finally, despite Obama senior strategist David Axelrod famously stating he’d let others decide how inspirational the speech had to be, in truth, it most definitely had to soar.

It had to describe what is best about Americans in a way that moved us, but didn’t flatter us. It had to make us see that we’re not what we should be, not by chastening us, but by reminding us of how we’d been great. “America, we are better than these last eight years,” he urged. “We are a better country than this.”

He not only knocked the ball out of the stadium: He shredded it in the process.

Certainly, some part of this ecclesia was achieved via the slick Meet Barack Obama: A Video Tribute EPK that preceded Obama’s talk. (Watching the piece at an “Obama speech party” in Harlem, I heard our host’s living room fill with coos, oos, and aahs as the shot of a naked baby Barack filled the plasma screen. Needless to say, when Michelle Obama told of how she’d fallen in love with him, accompanied by early pictures of the broke in-love couple, that was all she wrote.)

“Mmmmm…I’m going to eat me….”But, after that, it was just Barack, his notes, his mind, and his voice in front of 168,000 ears and eyes, and a seeming mile-wide void of stadium space. I’ve done a lot of public speaking, and a lot of talking in front of crowds, even some large crowds, but I’ve never spoken in front of 84,000 folks, and certainly never spoken under circumstances where every single word, gesture, and nuance would be transcribed, analyzed, critiqued, adored, hated, preserved, and studied for, presumably, decades.

Obama did all of the above and he didn’t even make it look easy. He made it look like he couldn’t wait. As I said yesterday, I sometimes have kinesthetic responses when watching him, and I definitely had one last night, trying to imagine what I would have done under the same circumstances.

Thankfully, I won’t have to find out. In fact, four years ago, when Barack Obama helped close the 2004 DNC with a speech that introduced him to the America beyond Chicago, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Plus, I reasoned, any politician making that many white people that happy was probably somebody I needed to avoid.

“Let’s GO!”Today, I do know what the fuss is all about: Obama inspires Americans with a vision of what’s possible that is not heard elsewhere in politics. For those touched by him, it must be akin to what Sousa brass bands felt when they first heard jazz, or how folks grown on soft, safe rock revolted when they discovered Hendrix.

He is still problematic to me, as the following post notes. That he is the most exciting force to hit American politics in decades is undeniable, particularly after the fireworks in Denver last night.



#1 Larry Fleming on 08.29.08 at 10:18 pm

Being a 69 year old White man, I was moved to tears and joy, hearing and watching this Gifted Black man present himself to an audience who are in a desperate need for leadership toward a New Start. I never thought that I could or would have the chance in my lifetime to see the beginning of the end of Racism. I feel very proud that we are able to finally start to let this happen.

#2 keepitmovin on 09.01.08 at 6:51 pm

It was on this day that I celebrated my 51 bday and my granddaughter her 6th bday. MLK spoke on my 6th bday. obama spoke on my graddaughters 6th bday. History was made again as it was 45 years ago. 828 will forever be an historical time of reflection and inspiration.

#3 z on 09.02.08 at 12:58 pm

No, you ripped it! Exactly.

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