Barack the Builder – can we fix it?

During the recent Australian federal election campaign, Herald columnist Annabel Crabb lamented that both party leaders were helping police with their inquiries into the death of political oratory.

I may the last person in the world to have noticed, but the same can not be said for the US elections. A prime example is Barack Obama’s rousing words in New Hampshire last month . . .

We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. And they will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come.

We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

And so, tomorrow, as we take the campaign south and west, as we learn that the struggles of the textile workers in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas, that the hopes of the little girl who goes to the crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A., we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation.

And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.

Or if you have a short attention span, you can watch the Black Eyed Peas’ celebrity-studded music video of the speech. No, for real. And while you’re at it, read the 2,500-odd illiterate, pigheaded, uneducated, self-important ejaculations from the American public in the comments section. Viva Web 2.0!

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3 thoughts on “Barack the Builder – can we fix it?

  1. I dunno. I really dunno.
    Oratory is dead here, for sure, replaced by recitation of key messages.
    What I cannot figure out is if this Obama stuff is really top-drawer speech-making, or just the kind of long-form key message recitation that is in vogue in America, where stirring oratory has a more important place in history than it does here.
    Sure, this speech is kind of moving. But what does it say? If we pull together, we can make stuff change? Is that such a huge idea that this guy is a saviour?

  2. Even though this is about as far as you can get from talking about specifics and policies, at least he is raising issues you’d never hear from George W (or Kevin07, more’s the pity): justice, equality, crumbling schools, organised labour (GASP!), healing the nation – which requires admitting it is sick. (I’m not so keen on his enthusiasm to repair the world, especially considering who broke it in the first place.)
    Talking about these issues is a start. And talking about them in emotive rhetoric is bloody good way to get them on the national agenda. It’s working.

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