June 04, 2007
Barack Obama Seattle Speech
(Update 2/8/08: Coverage of Obama's caucus eve speech is here.)
Barack Obama came back to Seattle Friday night, and his speech was fantastic. His hyper-articulate discourse had a pretty centrist message: government, when it's not corrupt and mismanaged, can do certain things better than individuals can do on their own. I've transcribed part of his speech below so you can evaluate it for yourself.
During one moment of rhetorical bliss, I stopped to pray that Hillary doesn't get nominated— not because I don't think she could win, but because so far I find her uninspiring. A Clinton or Bush has been on the ballot since 1980, and Obama represents a chance to "turn the page." And though the latest Washington Post poll puts Hillary at 35% to Barack's 23%, considering the global recognition of the name "Clinton," this just means most people aren't paying attention yet.
And now, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen.... Barack Obama!
The following transcript starts before, and ends after, the portion covered by the video:
"...that idea that we have mutual obligations towards each other
regardless of race or faith or region or station in life
has to express itself
not just in our churches, in our mosques, in our synagogues
not just in our families
it's gotta express itself in our government
because our government allows us to do things together that we can't do on our own
and although we are proud of our individual initiative
we're proud of our self-reliance as a people
we value our liberty
we don't expect government to do everything for us
but there are some things that government does better than we can do on our own
and that idea is what I think people are so hungry for
because for the last six years they have heard an entirely different message
as we've become cynical
you've seen a void filled by lobbyists and special interests
and narrow agendas
and insurance companies write the health care laws
and drug companies decide the prescription drug laws
and oil companies decide our energy policy
and we've had a government that basically has an attitude of can't do, won't do, and won't even try (applause)
a government that says you are on your own
a government that sees a guy who's been laid off of work
or his plant closed up and moved overseas
after working for 20 years has the rug pulled out from under him
and suddenly he's not just lost his job but a pension and he's lost his health care and he's having to compete with his teenage kid for a job at the local Walmart
paying 7 bucks an hour
and what does the government say? the government says "tough luck, you're on your own."
and if you're a single mom like my mom was a single mom
trying to figure out do I have health insurance for my children
the government says, "I'm sorry, that's the breaks, you're on your own"
and if you're a child who's not "wise enough" to choose his or her own parent (laughter)
and is born into a community that doesn't have high property values
and so the schools are underfunded and have dilapidated buildings and outdated textbooks
"pull yourself up by your own bootstraps—you're on your own"
we are here today
to say to America, to say to Washington State, to say to Seattle: you are not on your own (applause)
we are in this together
we rise and fall together
we can pull together
and work together
and organize together
to create a better America
that's the reason that we're here
that's why you turned up
it's not for me
it's for each and every one of you deciding that we can work together to rebuild America
and make this country live up to its ideals and its values
that's why we're here
people are ready to turn the page on that old outdated politics
the politics of division, the politics of fear, a politics that is small and petty and timid
and obsessed with who's up and who's down and who's in power and who's not
we know that that kind of politics is no longer adequate to the challenges we face
we know that it's possible for us to disagree without being disagreeable
we know that it's possible for us to compromise as long as we know those things that cannot be compromised
And we know that we have a set of challenges today that we can't put off any longer..."
P.S. I was glad to get to see the speech this time; when Barack was last in Seattle on a book tour, I couldn't even get tickets from a scalper!
January 22, 2005
Invoking FDR on Soc. Sec.
The Bush Administration has directed the Social Security Administration to run a propaganda campaign whose goal is the diminution of the very service that agency provides.
The conservative group "Progress for America" is using the image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a TV ad which has the same purpose, despite a protest by FDR’s grandson.
These tactics go beyond selling an idea that won’t sell itself – they are designed to twist the knife. They are reminiscent of the criminal who at gunpoint forces his hostage to dig a grave before executing him and kicking his limp body in.
And these tactics serve Wall Street firms who hope to earn billions administering private accounts.
Am I just spouting angry rhetoric? Here’s some rhetoric from someone who would know, speaking at his first inauguration, having just been elected to do what Herbert Hoover had failed to do, with the Great Depression ravaging the country after my great-grandfather and millions of others had lost their retirement savings to the stock market crash:
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.
Read the rest here. Too bad they didn’t play the audio in those TV commercials.
January 19, 2005
Blair and Social Change
Having written about Tony Blair's highly embarrassing Dodgy Dossier incident in the previous post, I’d like to change emphasis and recall what is widely recognized as one of his finest moments. In one of his first speeches as Labour Party leader, given on Oct 4, 1994, he set out a vision that not only distanced his party from the old dogma that was weighing it down, but re-energized Labour, which had been out of power since 1979, and encouraged it to be bold while sticking to its principles. Portions of his speech seem particularly relevant today.
He said, in part:
Market forces cannot educate us or equip us for this world of rapid technological and economic change. We must do it together.
We cannot buy our way to a safe society. We must work for it together.
We cannot purchase an option on whether we grow old. We must plan for it together.
We can't protect the ordinary against the abuse of power by leaving them to it; we must protect each other.
That is our insight.
A belief in society. Working together.
Those most in need of hope deserve the truth.
Hope is not born of false promises; disillusion is.
They are tired of dogma. They are tired of politicians pretending to have a monopoly on the answers. They are tired of glib promises broken as readily in office as they were made on the soap box.
We are not going to win despite our beliefs.
We will only win because of our beliefs.
Blair went on to become “the third youngest prime minister in British history,” in 1997, “and was the most popular prime minister since opinion polls began.”
I found this speech in the Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches, edited by Brian MacArthur (1999), and I quote and paraphrase from the commentary therein.