Friday, February 23, 2007

Obama soul searching

The Obama hype has been unavoidable for years, especially for a Chicago native such as myself, and until now I've followed my natural tendency to avoid anything so overblown. Working at Borders in December, I was continually blown away by how what seemed like 1 out of 3 customers bought a copy of The Audacity of Hope, and happily offered up their own testimonials of how they saw him speak way back when, and how he was so amazing, changed their lives, walked on water, etc

Katie, Richard, and I were among the huge crowd who saw Barack Obama speak today in Austin. at a highly anticipated rally. It was estimated up to 20,000 people, by far the biggest turn out he's had so far. While I showed up with some healthy cynicism and was grouchy after waiting for over an hour in the rain, I have to admit he is as amazing as promised. With that many people, the audience couldn't have just been hard-core obama supporters, but it never felt like he was trying to win our hearts and minds. It just felt like a more eloquent version of the political commentary we have sitting around with friends - de-escalate responsibly in iraq. why don't americans have healthcare? why are teachers underpaid? etc. Appealing to the common man is always popular, but it rarely seems this natural, and intelligent.

You've probably called me cynical before, and you've probably been right. In particular, I struggle a lot with my cynicism towards politics. Even before the past few years of super divisiveness, I've been so frustrated with the 2 party gridlock in the US. I've always been impressed at the ability of my friends and family who share my frustrations but can be pragmatic - campaigning for the democratic party or devoting their time to political activism. My coping strategy tends to be avoidance.

But then Obama comes along and tells me to suck it up and hope. Yes, I have snickered at his watchword. I figured, the Bush camp has a lock on those other universal ideals - freedom vs fear, so why shouldn't the democrats get in the game? But I have to admit, it's not that touchy feely after all. If it were, I wouldn't feel like he were calling me out when he asks, "Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?"

More than anything, I came away today with the sense that even if Obama doesn't make it anywhere in this election, it's important to be a part of this movement. To make this positive moment in american politics leave as big a mark as it can. Of course, the cynic in me is saying that it all sounds peachy now, but just wait until he has to tow that party line. Quick, hand me that Obama bumper sticker before I lose my nerve.


  1. PS - There's good coverage and pictures etc at the Austin paper's site.
    No transcript of today's speech for me to quote from yet, but you can read previous speeches here.

  2. His speech at the 2006 Democratic Convention was the first time I (probably like many people) heard him speak. I haven't been so inspired by any speaker, let alone a politician, in a long time. And what I found particularly moving was the way he eloquently and (I felt) sincerely called across party lines and other divisions, especially given the venue.

    I've only heard a few other snippets of his speeches since, and I still want to do my research on where the likely 2008 contenders stand on the issues, but I'm definitely impressed.


  3. Of course I meant the 2004 Democratic Convention. But you knew that already.


  4. Yeah, I want to go back and see a video of that speech now. Thanks youtube...