Not your granddad's political event: Obama's acceptance speech caps historic convention
Published: Saturday, August 30, 2008 - 4:33pm
Election 2008 Coverage
Posted Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008
Note: Reporter Will Fernandez spent the past week in Denver covering the Democratic National Convention for the Online Gargoyle. Although he had to leave Denver before presidential nominee Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech Thursday night at INVESCO Field, Will was able to watch the speech on TV, along with 38 million other Americans. He offers this analysis, drawing on the insights he gained from his time at the convention.
WOW! THIS WASN'T a speech. It was music.
It was as if will.i.am (the songwriter and arranger of Black-Eyed Peas fame who produced the homage to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama called “Yes We Can”) wove Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” with the best syncopated sounds of hip-hop from the streets. It was both rich and accessible. It was both historical and futuristic.
It was a defense of who Obama is — linking his promise to America’s promise. It was an aggressive take on three years of the same.
“The record’s clear,” said Obama, the first African-American presidential nominee of a major U.S. party. “John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time … but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.”
The speech made for an extraordinary nighttime spectacle. Photos by Jenny Cheeks (used with permission)
It was a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech of 45 years ago, a definition of today’s issues and America’s promise, and a promise of a better tomorrow.
“This moment — this election,” said Obama, “is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive.”
It was a candidate’s acceptance speech, and yet he made the case it was about all of us as a nation.
“America, now is not the time for small plans,” he said.
It was both graceful and artful as he talked of not just what he would do for America but called on the individual and mutual responsibility of all of us.
It was both combative and scrappy as he said to the Republican presumptive nominee: “I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.”
Seeing Obama against the backdrop of Greek columns in INVESCO Field saying “I get it” and taking it to McCain gave one the impression that we might be about to witness a sequel to “Gladiator.”
It made us think. It made us proud. It made us laugh. It made us cry.
Not your typical acceptance speech, and certainly not your granddaddy’s political event — with text messaging on the screen and segues provided by popular musicians. It may have been held in a stadium like John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech 48 years ago, but it was different.
The audience was most assuredly different, with more black and Hispanic delegates than ever. Also it was the most-watched speech by Obama, with 38.4 million people viewing it on TV, beating this year's finale of “American Idol” and the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
The candidate, though invoking words that echoed the past, was very different too. In closing he said:
America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise — that American promise — and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.
It will be interesting to see if this changes the tenor of the next nine weeks. Clearly this campaign has already resonated with a very different tone and beat, featuring two general election candidates who just a year ago seemed improbable.
Video: Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech
Source: BarackObama.com (used with permission)