Conventional Thoughts

/ 29 August 2008

On the last night of the convention we discovered the DNC’s own stream of the proceedings. I had just bought a cable to connect Mary’s laptop to our projector in the attic, so we bought pizza, pulled up the screen, installed Silverlight (gasp, I’d refused during the Olympics, but could not resist it for the convention), and turned on the stream. It turned out to be an amazing DVD-quality feed with zero commercials and zero talking heads. I can hardly believe how different this felt from the usual broadcast.

Here we had super high-quality video projected on our screen without any filtering other than someone who was selecting camera angles to show. No voiceover, no titles, not even the names of presenters put up on the screen. We just saw and heard what folks there saw and heard. It felt like we had a box seat at Invesco field. We rolled out the pizza, settled in, and enjoyed the evening.

What an evening it was, too. We were amazed as we watched the stadium fill. Amused by the wave that started going around the stands. Impressed by speaker after speaker, from Al Gore to Barney Smith. The sun slowly set and the setting became more and more dramatic.

It was getting late when Barack took the stage. By now the colors of the set had become a rich glowing complement to the color of his skin. What an incredible image. I was worried that the bar had been set too high, how could anyone satisfy expectations after all this buildup? Obama’s just a person at a podium, he has to be nervous. Look at the crowd. Understand the moment in history. How could he not be frozen by this?


But of course, he wasn’t. He was steely, devastating in his critique, exquisite in his call, carrying the banner we have all handed him with such grace and elegance that my fears melted away. Can anyone really watch Obama in action and not know that he is ready to hold this office in trust for us all? I have never seen anyone more “presidential.”

Again it struck me how consistently Obama treats this as our campaign. Again the references were to “this campaign,” as they have been from the beginning. The chant repeated over and over was not much “Oh-Ba-Ma” but more often “Yes We Can!” Think of that, “we” can. Bill Clinton gave a terrific speech at the convention the night before, but there was a small moment that illuminated the political gap between he and Obama for me with a floodlight. Take a look at this video of Clinton’s speech, jump to just before the 15 minute mark on the clock. From the transcript:

AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

CLINTON: Yes, he can, but, first, we have to elect him.

For Clinton and most politicians it is about what they can do for us, it is “my campaign” and “my qualifications.” McCain is stuck there in his critique of Obama as unqualified and a celebrity. But Obama rarely makes it about himself, he makes it about all of us. The celebrity of this campaign is not Barack, it is the movement that is audacious enough to believe we can elect him as our voice in the highest office of the land.

Last night Barack was my voice. He expressed my hope, he showed some of my anger, he named some of my dreams, he showed he cares for my people. I want my country back, I want my government to serve the people of this land, not the corporations. Barack has offered himself as a tool of that transformation. May the task not crush him because, God help us all, I intend to take him up on that offer.

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