Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Acceptance Speeches

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Tonight, Barack Obama will accept the Democratic nomination for President of these United States at Invesco Field in Denver. A simple sentence.

Here at DCW, we broke the story that the speech would be at Invesco, and not at the Pepsi Center. We, and many others, are interested in the historical nature of the event and its venue. The first outdoor acceptance speech since Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1960. Potentially the largest worldwide audience ever for such an event. The singular uniqueness of the candidate himself.

Pundits will undoubtedly spend today commenting on what Obama is going to say, and how he is going to say it, and whether he says “what he needs to.” That’s political punditry for you.

Speeches get written. Often by professional speechwriters who know how to turn phrases in such a way as to reframe candidates. (Remember Peggy Noonan’s line? “Read my lips: no new taxes.”) Some people can write, but put front of several hundred people, they lack that spark which electrifies. If you’ve ever spoken before several hundred people, you know in that first moment that you look out whether this is something you have to do, or something you want to do.

Other people are actors: they can read the words others have written, and deliver them in such a mesmerizing way that simple words become unforgettable, maybe even part of our vernacular. (Remember? “Play it, Sam.”)

Sometimes there is that rare individual who can write his own words, and then speak with clarity from the heart, soul and mind simultaneously, with true authenticity. Sometimes, you know the words are so genuine that they express the essence of what an individual is at base.

It has been reported in the past that Senator Obama writes his own speeches. On the first page of yesterday’s USA Today they say that he wrote this one in a hotel room 15 minutes from home. And amazingly to those of us who are residents of ObamaNation, for many people, this may be the first time they hear how well the Senator writes.

He will do what he does: speak the truth, in potentially nuanced terms. Senator Obama will not dumb down his words, he honours his audience by expecting them to rise to his level. He will give us all his very best.

And on this cusp between the dénouement of the Democratic Convention, and the soon to begin dual Republican conventions in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, we should also look at the speech that John McCain will be giving next Thursday. Most likely in competition with a football game. (Same kind of planning that was involved in invading a sovereign nation, but I digress.)

McCain’s speech was written by Mark Salter. According to Newsweek (September 1, page 10) McCain has been practicing since last weekend. Someone else’s words. Someone else’s view of the world.

While others will compare and contrast the speeches on political grounds, or on strategic grounds, my comparison is much more simplistic. If one puts himself up to lead the greatest country in the world, and one will make the most important speech of his campaign, ostensibly laying out his vision, his policies, his plans, and his definition of himself, and he cannot even find his own words: what does that mean for his ability to say anything by himself?