Video and transcript of Obama's big race speech, delivered in Philadelphia today (no, I wasn't there) is now available from the campaign web-site. I haven't taken time to watch the whole speech, but I read the transcript and watched the highlights that Richard Chapell posted on his blog. His speechwriters deserve to be commended. (I have this foolish hope that perhaps he wrote it himself, but this is not the norm in modern American politics.) It is a fine example of rhetoric in the good sense: the skillful presentation of actual substantive content in a moving and inspirational way. Furthermore, it shows Obama's ability to relate to a wide spectrum of the American electorate. He also deals head-on in a very intelligent and balanced way with Rev. Wright's offensive racist remarks, while explaining why he nevertheless maintains his connection to that church.
In the video, Obama's presentation of the text is quite competent, although after reading the transcript I had hoped for better rhetorical skills on his part. Still I think he pulled it off better than most modern politicians could. The sound-bite culture has all but destroyed the art of rhetoric and, as Richard points out, it is not clear whether this speech, though truly excellent, will actually positively effect the electorate, since no one has the patience to sit through all forty minutes of it.
On the downside, however, Obama merely shows understanding of our problems, not real solutions. Furthermore, of course, I personally happen to disagree with nearly all of his policy positions. However, after watching this speech, my overall respect for him and my estimation of the effect he will have on the next few decades have greatly increased. I recommend that everyone read or watch what he has to say.Posted by Kenny at March 18, 2008 6:25 PM
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