In his blog today, Gideon Rachman, the Financial Times’ chief foreign affairs columnist, argues that Barack Obama is just not such a good speech maker as others insist. Rachman states:
“Exhortation can make for thrilling rhetoric. But the difference between Mr Obama and some of the great speakers he is sometimes compared with is that Churchill, Kennedy and Martin Luther King were genuinely challenging their audiences. Surrendering might have seemed rational in Britain in 1940. King’s “I have a dream” speech was made at a time when racial segregation was still a reality in the southern US. When King coined the phrase the “fierce urgency of now” (borrowed with acknowledgement by Mr Obama), he was explaining why he had come out against the Vietnam war. Even JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” demanded something from the audience.”
I agree with Mister Rachman. I’ve often scratched my head after listening to Obama and thought, “what’s so special about this guy?”
I’ve come to the conclusion much of it is down to age.
Rachman references Churchill, JFK, and Martin Luther King as great orators, but to the majority of Obama’s supporters they are simply names plucked from the history books.
Rachman was born in 1963. I’m just about old enough to be his father. The young people flocking to Obama’s gatherings weren’t born until years after JFK was inaugurated in 1961, or after 1967 when Martin Luther King stirred souls with his speech to end the Vietnam war. Even I wasn’t around when Churchill was telling the British people they would fight the Germans on the beaches.
To many Obama supporters, adult life has meant George W Bush, and possibly a bit of Bill Clinton. Their memories of politics revolve largely around Monica Lewinski and Iraq.
It’s little wonder they won’t pledge allegiance to Hillary Clinton, and prefer to throw their support, with vigor, behind Obama. Compared to their previous political memories, he must seem like the best thing since the invention of MP3 players.
And, who knows, it’s just possible he may be?
Filed under: Political perspectives