Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Audacity of Hope


I think this is a good time to re-visit Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention:
I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, awarethat my parents' dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand hereknowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owea debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no othercountry on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather toaffirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of ourskyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy.Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in adeclaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths tobe self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowedby their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these arelife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams ofits people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in ourchildren at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe fromharm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, withouthearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and startour own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. Thatwe can participate in the political process without fear ofretribution, and that our votes will be counted--or at least, most ofthe time.
This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values andcommitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we aremeasuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise offuture generations. And fellow Americans--Democrats, Republicans,Independents--I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More todo for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing theirunion jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now arehaving to compete with their own children for jobs that pay sevenbucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his joband choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month forthe drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on.More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands morelike her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn'thave the money to go to college.
Don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities,in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve alltheir problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and theywant to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people willtell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency orthe Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tellyou that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know thatparents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raisetheir expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate theslander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No,people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But theysense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, wecan make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life,and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we cando better. And they want that choice [...]
A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child onthe south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even ifit's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't payfor her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent,that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there'san Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of anattorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's thatfundamental belief--I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters'keeper--that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursueour individual dreams, yet still come together as a single Americanfamily. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us,the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics ofanything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberalAmerica and a conservative America--there's the United States ofAmerica. There's not a black America and white America and LatinoAmerica and Asian America; there's the United States of America. Thepundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and BlueStates; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. ButI've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the BlueStates, and we don't like federal agents poking around our librariesin the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and havegay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the warin Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of uspledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending theUnited States of America [...]
In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of thisnation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there arebetter days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief andprovide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we canprovide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim youngpeople in cities across America from violence and despair. I believethat as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the rightchoices, and meet the challenges that face us. America

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