March 18th, 2008

A Speech Worth Reading

I already voted for Barack Obama. But if I were in a state where the primary had yet to occur and wavering in my decision, the speech he gave today -- here's the transcript -- would have won me over for good. I don't know whether that means it was the right thing to do politically, since I am hardly the demographic he most needs to court. Still, I want to believe that Americans can be convinced by rhetoric that is more than rhetoric. Long an advocate of heeding the autobiographical impulse in prose, I recognize that it is often used too freely, particularly in political discourse. In this case, though, Obama's first-person singular is not the empty "I" of stump speech boilerplate. It's the "I" of his first book, written long before he was out on the Presidential campaign trail, steeped in the language of Frederick Douglass and Henry David Thoreau alike. I only hope that this strong, clear voice survives the muddy waters ahead.