Obama is articulate and direct. Many people earlier in the race said Obama is all talk, and that speeches don't matter. It's just talk. The ramblings of a politician. I don't remember a single great speech from the president of my lifetime that seemed to address us, the American people. Hence, I've never been strongly moved by any of their ideologies. But Speeches do matter. I am 43 years old. When I was eighteen I naively thought there would be many great presidents in my lifetime delivered to the white house by my voting peers and that those speeches would drive the nation on to better things. Something went wrong. My Generation voted in Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton gave a articulate speeches. George W. delivered speeches with a passion-like emotion. But none truly moved me--either through conviction or intelligence. The presidents of my lifetime were burdened with the taint of the Nixon regime and all of them failed to overcome it (Interestingly, George W. Bush's regime is made up of loyalists and students of the Nixon regime). In them there was deep rooted political agenda, in many cases hidden and subversive, that made them seem not all that distinct from their burden. Presidents seemed to speak out of fear of their constituents. Their "speeches" seemed nothing more than the aggrandizement of their party line. But what about Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" The line and delivery was, no doubt, great. But the speech's real action was to deliver "Star Wars" on an unprepared USSR. The speech delivered results. The wall, and the USSR, came tumbling down. To hear the speech, click here. But it wasn't delivered to us. It couldn't have moved us. It was a FUD missile delivered to another nation. It's a great speech, historically, but it failed to move me.
But now I've seen two great speeches, delivered by someone running for president. Speeches with a level of articulation, intelligence, maturity, and conviction that I have only heard about in the tales of old men talking about presidents from the World War eras and JFK.
Barack Obama's latest speech is here. He has character, as evidenced in his turning of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy into a non-controversy. He shows that he can disagree with a friend or family member, and not feel politically compelled to disavow them. Speeches do matter to Senator Obama. Speeches are his second best weapon. They show his real traits: candor, focus, loyalty, patience, maturity, and honesty. He doesn't just say he's loyal to his family and friends. He uses words as proof of it. He shows that he would never turn his back to his friends. Just like he would not turn his back on America. And if there is anything we learned from Katrina, it's that some presidents will. He has proven to me that speeches matter. An inarticulate and falsely passionate leader represents us poorly on the world stage and on our own stage. I will proud to finally vote for someone I believe in, rather than always voting for the one that will do the least damage.