David Rodeback's Blog

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The 2008 Campaign's Second Great Speech

Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech yesterday did not change my vote, but it was a great speech, worth reading and remembering. It was a lot like Mitt Romney's speech in December.

Whatever else may be good or bad about the current presidential campaign cycle, it has given us two great speeches. They deserve to be read, pondered, discussed, and remembered for years to come. The first was on religious faith in American politics; this was Mitt Romney's famous speech of December 2007. The second was mostly about race in America; Barack Obama delivered it yesterday in Philadelphia. Obama's may be slightly the better of the two; I'm not sure how to measure such things precisely.

If you go looking for commentary on Obama's speech, you'll find a lot of it right now, just as there was a lot in the aftermath of Romney's speech in December. I haven't yet seen any commentary that finds the two speeches similar, but they are. They resemble each other in some tactical ways, such as their roles in their respective campaigns, and in the political contexts which made them necessary. But there is a more important similarity.

Both speeches are the sort of talk Americans deserve but rarely get from their presidential candidates. They speak to us intelligently of shared, high principles and shared heritage, much like Abraham Lincoln's classic speeches from a time of even greater division. They draw from these a vision of who we are and where we should go, and lift us both to greater hope and to higher understanding.

Do with the commentary as you will, but read the speeches themselves. (Links are above.)

The right conservative Republican could have given 80 to 90 percent of Obama's speech. In the remaining 10 to 20 percent, Obama's liberal politics shine through. So I'm still voting in November for a guy from whom I have yet to hear a memorable speech, let alone a profound one. This doesn't diminish the greatness of yesterday's offering in the least.

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