Words do count. Occasionally a speech can affect the course of history. One is reminded of the speech made by the unknown and obscure mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert Humphrey to the 1948 Democratic Convention, wherein he called for the end of segregation in the South, calling it unconscionable and evil. His speech caused the walk out of the Dixiecrats, threatening Truman’s election, but tweaked the conscience of the Democratic Party and sent it on the long road that ended up in the Civil Rights Act, signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The South was lost to the Democrats forever for this principled stand.
Barack Obama’s speech marking an historic nomination of the first African American may not be that significant, but his stirring a call for change with the repeated assertion that “This is the moment,” was spell-binding.
In the cacophony of pundits with too much air time to fill, the basic story of Barack Obama might be lost. Think back six months before the Iowa Caucus when this obscure, first term senator from Illinois, apparently lacking any experience, announced his candidacy. He was proposing to take on the Clinton machine that had run numerous national campaigns, had long relationships with each state party and access to all of the traditional money sources.
Barack Obama had no apparent experience, no money, and had never participated in a national campaign. Yet, he is the nominee. He somehow put together an organization that reached into all 50 states, was disciplined, enthusiastic and smart. Maybe hard work and brains trump experience on occasion.
In addition, Barack Obama has done something that is truly revolutionary. He is the first presidential candidate in memory who has avoided the need to finance the campaign with special interest and corporate money. The vast majority of his money has come through Internet appeals to small donors. Barack Obama does not need special interest or corporate America to finance his run for the presidency. Think of the freedom that this will give him, if elected.
Will Barack Obama be an effective, great, or even good president? Will he really be able to change how Washington operates and the direction of the country? †Who knows. What we do know is that Barack Obama’s campaign is revolutionary because he has a chance to be a different sort of politician. We should give him that chance.