A black family stood in front of 84,000 people in a stadium last night as the likely next first family. While he understood the historic nature of the event intellectually, my 16 year old, raised in the progressive Bay area and born shortly before Clinton was elected (first black president my ass) doesn’t necessarily understand why I was fighting back the tears for the 40 minutes this amazing man spoke.
He balanced it all – a bit of brilliant number-crunching policy wonk, a bit of stirring orator, a bit of gentlemanly consensus builder and a new trick –fire-breathing populist. He reminded me of the gentle dad who finally blows his lid and everyone stops what they’re doing when he hollered “Enough!” And of course he brought it home in the end with a little MLK action – the elongated vowels, the sing song pitch of the voice the forward propulsion of the speech – an almost necessary homage given it was the anniversary of that famous speech
Obama never acknowledged outright that he was black. I think it was a good move. It’s clear to look at him he’s black but more than that, more than most of us (especially me) he’s American. He’s black and white, a Christian who went briefly to a Muslim school (by the way, Microsoft Word automatically capitalizes Christian but not Muslim) he’s lived in Kansas, Hawaii, Chicago and abroad …this is a nation of people with vastly different experiences from vastly different cultures and who better to represent us than a man who as Whitman would say “contains multitudes.” I listened to him, hoped no crazy man would take a shot at him and felt a little hope start to chip away at my political cynicism.
Back in January my dear friend Lisa and I drove along 80 towards the Bay Bridge and she told me that in one of her bargaining moods she put it out to the universe as a trade: 4 more years of Republicans in exchange for me not having ALS. I know now more than ever I wouldn’t take that trade if it were offered.
It was a damn fine speech.