He’s Got Spine
I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I feel Obama’s speech today was important, not only to me personally, but the country as a whole. And as I’ve been surfing the blogosphere and reading the various opinions, I found a word that pretty much sums it up. And all thanks to a title of one of Andrew Sullivan’s post that’s really only tangentially related to what I’m about to say. Because while one of Sully’s readers argues that Obama’s remarks prove that he will be able to effectively respond to attacks in the general election, I think he showed us is so much more than that.
What Obama demonstrated today is that he’s not afraid to stand up straight and talk about an incredibly difficult issue with the type of candor we almost never see in our collective political conversation. He could’ve gotten up there and simply distanced himself more strenuously from Reverend Jeremiah Wright and moved on. That probably would have quelled many of the chattering class’ concerns about this angry black preacher and his influence on the most viable black presidential candidate in American history. But that’s not what happened.
Obama understood that he had a singular opportunity to talk about race in America, the reasons Wright might be motivated to make such indefensible remarks and how there’s a way to move past this…if we so choose. Folks, say what you want about Obama, but this was no easy task. Not in the least. Again, he could have just thrown Wright under the bus, but he did exactly what we always say we’re looking for from politicians, but very rarely witness first hand.
Few people get opportunities like this, and fewer still decide to answer these calls with the type of openness we’ve seen today. But those who do are remembered for it because they had the bravery to put everything on the line and talk about something exceedingly complex and unendingly painful.
So you see, sometimes speeches do matter, because without strong voices talking honestly about the issues that divide and the subsequent opportunities to unite, the name of this very country rings hollow.
That’s why in Obama I see a person who doesn’t just give pretty speeches. If that’s all there were to this man, today would have exposed him as the fraud many accuse him of being. Instead, the exact opposite occurred, and a new standard for political spine was set.
I hope a get a chance to vote for this man. After today, something tells me that hope may not be a false one.