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2004-07-28

Brilliant speech 

Barack Obama, the new star of the Democrats, a 42-year old African-American law professor and candidate for the Senate, delivered a breathtaking keynote speech yesterday at the Convention (which I inconsistently claimed doesn't interest me). It's the stuff that can bring tears to one's eyes if one is a bit of the sentimental kind, go and read the full text. Otherwise, here is the emotional peak close to the end (maybe it doesn't work so well if the tension hasn't been built up by the material before):
In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here-the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America!
And here is my question to you, dear readers. Why is it that this kind of speech that works on an almost existential level cannot be given in Austria, and possibly not in any other European country either? Is there a flaw in European political systems that detaches politics and political rhetoric from what is really important to each individual? Or could this detachment even be a good thing, a sign of political maturity that shields against fundamentalisms? After reading such a speech, I do feel a sense of loss, of being left behind in the cynical old world. I am suddenly reminded of the Polish emigrants in Susan Sontag's novel 'In America'.


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