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 08, 2006
Back to Seattle
Before I left Paris, I wondered how I would re-adjust to the United States. After spending the first five years of the Bush presidency in London and Paris, I was worried I wouldn’t recognize my own country.
On a local level, I was wrong to worry. Seattle is a great place to be, even from the perspective of the recently Parisian. First of all, the food is really spectacular. Our sushi-eating, latte-sipping needs have never been more satisfactorily sated.
Then, there’s the progressive social and environmental policy. Kyoto Protocol? Seattle follows it:
On February 16, 2005, the historic day when the Kyoto Protocol takes effect, Mayor Greg Nickels announced the City of Seattle’s 2005 Environmental Action Agenda to protect our air quality, the health of our community and our environment. The cornerstone of this agenda is a new goal for the City to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions across our community and region, seeking to meet or beat the Kyoto target.
The local power utility, Seattle City Light, reached a target of emitting zero net greenhouse gases. It is the only utility in the country to have done so. For our part, we are now the proud owners of a Toyota Prius, which is super fun to drive—and it seems like every fifth car on the road here is one, too. We’re trying to make do with one car, which has so far been feasible thanks to Flexcar, a Seattle-based company that parks “hundreds of cars in cities across the country and let members use them by the hour.” We also enjoy the free downtown bus service.
As for health care, it’s still a nightmare here, but at least the poor are covered by the state government. And the minimum wage in Washington is the highest rate in the nation with the exception of San Francisco, at $7.35/hr.
But all these crazy social programs must be ruining the economy here, right? Not quite. The Washington State poverty level is lower than the national average, and the per-capita income is higher than average. The unemployment rate in King County in November, 2005 was 4.9%, slightly below the national rate.
Plus, thanks to a voter-sponsored ballot initiative that was recently approved by a margin of 63% to 37%, all workplaces in Washington state are now smoke-free, including restaurants, bars, etc. That is certainly a welcome change from Paris.
In addition to progressive social policy, Seattle has expanded culturally over the past 5 years. The incredible Seattle Public Library is the best example of this trend, but there is also a new opera house, a relatively new home for the Seattle Symphony, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has built a new sci-fi museum. The Seattle Art museum is undergoing a major expansion, including a large outdoor sculpture garden.
So though there are of course many things I miss about Paris, especially our family and our wonderful friends there, it’s good to be back in Seattle.