Wednesday, November 5, 2008

McCain's and Obama's speeches

It's late (I'm starting it at 2:15 AM)., so please excuse me if this isn't well written or thought out. Tomorrow (ie, "later today") or Thursday I'll follow up with some more reflections, but for now, I'd like to scratch out a quick note on my take on McCain's concession speech and Obama's victory speech.
I thought Obama's speech was very, very good. It was definitely celebratory (especially near the beginning, where, as my mom pointed out, it was even somewhat self-aggrandizing), but especially towards the end, had some very good points. His call to arms, as it were, was not as succinct or powerful as Kennedy's "ask not," but it resonated strongly with me. And while I usually dislike personal anecdotes, I (begrudgingly) liked his story of Ann Nixon Cooper. It drove through the message that the world has changed over the last 100 years in literally unimaginable and unpredictable ways, and it's up to us to make sure that the world 100 years from now will be better, even if we know we cannot begin to predict how it'll look. The big challenge will be to get people to actually commit to that commitment.

I also thought McCain's speech was very good. It was disturbing, of course, to hear the boos and taunts, but I can't be sure Obama's supporters wouldn't have done the same had they lost. And although I was a bit torn at first about McCain's focus on Obama's ethnicity, I now think it was appropriate. Clearly, this is a huge leap forward for the black community, and it's important that we have an official voice (not just the media) declare it as such explicitly. Obama say that, though; it would make it look like he really had been running as a black candidate, not just a candidate, and would strongly undermine and alienate his broad-based support. McCain had the grace to say what nobody else could: everything else aside, the fact that America was able to elect a black president is a huge deal and represents phenominal progress from a dark past.

Finally, a thought on cheers. I've never been one for the 1-2-3 cheers. But as I was listening to the speech in my car, it occurred to me that if you have to have one, "yes we can" isn't bad at all. It carries no jingoist message (c.f. "U S A!"), nor does it mindlessly focus on any one issue (I'm looking at you, "drill baby drill"). But most importantly, it's a very versatile message. The "we" can be practically any subset of the group that cheered it at the various Obama rallies -- youth, blacks, optimists, liberals, the elderly, whites, etc -- and the things "we" can do are just as mutable. The scariest part of unified cheers, to me, is that they dehuminize the cheerers and unify them into a mob; but "yes we can" inherently counteracts that tendency.

And now, enough ramblings. It's bed time.

1 comment:

Spelunker said...

You're wicked smaht. I haven't gotten to listen to the entirety of either speech yet, but I'm sure I agree with you.

Also, your blog entries are resulting in a my having a huge crush on you. ;o)