OBAMA'S MAGIC. So, call me crazy, but there's this thing I do when I'm reporting on speeches designed for motivation and inspiration; I've done it while chasing the religious right, the labor movement, and the self-described religious left. What I'm talking about is opening up the emotional core of myself to feel the mojo wafting through a room, allowing changes in those feelings to link to words, rather than the other way around. It's a surefire way of reading dynamic flows, of getting an undulating view of a moving current rather than a snapshot of a river. And so it was -- now here's where all the fellas get to make fun of me, and my favorite commenter, aimai, can accuse me of internalized sexism -- that I found myself weeping during Barack Obama's levitational address, during which I found myself embodying a veritable panoply of cliches, including goosebumps and smeared mascara.
It's not that the junior senator from Illinois said anything that I hadn't already heard him say: it was the way he made use of the energy that was in the room. He took what the crowd so eagerly wanted to give him, channeled it through, and gave it back to them. He became more preacher than politician -- no, make that faith healer -- as he delivered his standard lines about how hope is the reason he is standing here before us, meaning the hope that the civil rights activists had that they could indeed prevail against racism.
I leave it to my colleague and blog-sis, Garance Franke-Ruta, to contextualize the means by which Obama accomplishes this, and how he plays to different audiences. But I sure did feel sorry for John Edwards for having to follow Obama, especially with a speech that would have been received with a good bit of enthusiasm on its own merits, were it not for Edwards's unfortunate placement on the program.
The former senator for North Carolina opened his speech by invoking his wife, Elizabeth, who is widely admired as an inspirational figure, sending the crowd "her love." The rest of his speech, full of good ideas and earnest appeals, fell rather flat, except for at the end, when he asked his audience to look at America through the eyes of the rest of the world, as the genocide continues in Darfur without action from the U.S., or as bodies floated down the streets of New Orleans. Best line: "It is time to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war."
There was, I concede, a hush. Indeed, his words were sobering, as was the knowledge, of which I'm quite certain, that a man who would probably make a decent president doesn't stand a chance. It's just not his time. The moment -- and momentum -- is Obama's. Can he be elected? Sure he can -- he'll just have to walk through hell. By the time an Obama presidency would even begin, we'll have had a very good idea of what he's made of.
--Adele M. Stan