Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Obama's speech - Yes We Can

If you haven't seen Obama's speech after the New Hampshire primary, give yourself a treat and watch.

Part of me wants to say can we just make Obama chief speech-maker regardless of who wins the nomination? That's treating his import too lightly but what a delight to hear someone who sets out his vision and brings us into it.

Jim Sleeper has identified part of the appeal of Obama's speech in his TPMCafe post:

The preacherly cadences in Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech last night in Nashua deepened his two greatest symbolic promises: Domestically, he makes being an American beautiful again because, in him, it makes achievable what is still incredible to many -- a 400-year-old hope that we can untangle the race knot we’ve tied ourselves in since 1607. “It’s not something he’s doing,” Dartmouth Professor Joseph Bafumi told the New York Times; “it’s something he’s being.”

Internationally, therefore, Obama reminds multitudes of what has fascinated them about America – not just its wealth and power, which are trashy and brutal even when irresistible, but a folksy universalism that disposes Americans to say “Hi” to anyone rather than “Heil” to a leader, to give the other person a fair shot, and, out of that kind of strength, to take a shot at the moon.

Our wealth and power often subvert what’s best in us. But because Obama knows human failings make that more complicated than either conservative moralism or leftist anti-capitalism alone could explain, his promise runs deeper than the poetry of campaigning.


Obama says “Yes we can,” arguing that the movement his campaign is building will sustain him as president against countervailing powers...His campaign confirms many Americans' yearning to believe again that, unlike that of almost any other nation in history, the national identity of the United States was founded not on myths of primordial kinship, of “blood and soil,” but on a more universal experiment that enjoins all Americans, “by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government through reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force,” as Alexander Hamilton put it.

Yes We Can. Simple words for a candidate who brings the promise of so much more.

UPDATE: H/T to Populista for this excerpt of the speech transcript.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea

- Yes. We. Can.


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