Sunday, November 02, 2008

Quote Of The Day

Here's Cornel West, a professor at Princeton, on Obama's likely ascension to the Presidency:
The empire is in decline, the culture is in decay, the democracy is in trouble, financial markets near collapse. It's almost Biblical. And you can imagine what the black brothers and sisters in the barbershops and beauty salons say: 'Right when the thing is about to go under, they hand it over to the black man.'

As someone who is non-American, I find myself strangely transfixed by the idea of a President Obama. I'm the most cynical of cynics, but I'd be lying to you (and myself) if I told you I don't feel a little extra something at the thought of him becoming President (and no, I'm not referring to anything like Rich Lowry-like little starbursts).

Rather than try to explain myself, I want you to take 17 minutes out - and I know you can, because it's Sunday - and watch Obama's speech from the convention in 2004. This was before he was a nationally and internationally recognized politician, and so is a little more free-wheeling than anything he's said since then. It is easily the most powerful speech I've heard in my entire life. Even if you've seen it before, see it again. I want you to pay attention to a couple of things:

1. Pay attention to the rapt attention with which people listen to the man. Watch out, in particular, for people with their mouths left gaping as he speaks. And that's not a metaphor: people's jaws actually drop.

2. Pay attention to the way he speaks. I've never been inside a black church, but I have a feeling that the cadence of his speech - the rhythm, the up-and-downness of his tone, the baritone voice - is a fair reflection of what black preachers sound like. If they were Ivy-league educated and one of the sharpest legal and political minds in the country, that is.

3. Pay attention, most of all, to the reaction of the black members of the audience. Watch out, in particular, for the young woman who can barely contain herself when Obama brings out the "acting white" line.

Look, I can't pretend to know what the hell is going through black people's minds and hearts as Obama inches closer. I can only imagine. And sometimes, pictures help tell the story. Here are some shots a photographer named Callie Shell took for Aurora/Time. The captions are hers.

These two boys waited as a long line of adults greeted Senator Obama before a rally on Martin Luther King Day in Columbia, S.C. They never took their eyes off of him. Their grandmother told me, "Our young men have waited a long time to have someone to look up to, to make them believe Dr. King's words can be true for them." Jan. 21, 2008.

Young supporters listen to Obama speak during a rally at South Carolina State College, Orangeburg, S.C., 1/22/2008.


humaira said...

I got goosebumps lookign at the video and the pictures. That really was a great speech

AKS said...

I googled "Obama 2004 democratic convention" and came across an article by Rich Lowry, editor of National Review Online in which he's literally gushing over Obama. That was one awesome speech.

Read Lowry's comments here: