Wednesday, July 28, 2004
"America's First Black President" Missing On Network TV
For the first time in the TV age, a convention keynote speech was not broadcast on network TV--a symptom of all that's wrong with our media system, writes  John Nichols at The Online Beat.  

And what a speech it was! [Full text here][Video available here].  The consensus is that it was the best keynote speech since Mario Cuomo in 1984--20 years ago.  Barak Obama, an Illinois State Senator, is positioned to become the next U.S. Senator from Illinois, as the Illinois GOP flounders to find a candidate willing to run against him after their millionaire primary winner withdrew in a sex scandal.  There is already buzz about his potential to become America's first African-American President--even from conservatives.

Nichol's writes:

      "The failure to broadcast the speech by a man many believe could
      be the country's first African-American president struck even some
      media veterans as troubling. On ABC's 'The View,' co-host Meredith
      Vieira spoke of how, 'After (Obama) got done speaking, I had chills'
      and complained about the decision of the networks to neglect the
      keynote address. 'He is a man that America needed to see,' she said.

      "By any measure, Vieira is right.

      "But don't expect broadcast television to get the message. The
      networks have replaced  the civil and democratic values that once 
      played a role in decisions about what to  cover with commercial
      and entertainment values that dictate a denial of seriousness or 
      perspective when it comes to political stories."

Obama gave a brilliant speech that used his own family story as a gateway into a powerful re-articulation of the liberal vision of America as a land of justice and inclusion, as well as opportunity.  In contrast to the way today's military and veterans are being treated, Obama recalled the social contract that his mothers parents had:

      "The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton's
      army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother
      raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line.
      After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through
      FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity."

Then, toward the end, he said:

      "[A]longside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient
      in the American saga.  A belief that we are connected as one people.
      If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that
      matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen
      somewhere who can't pay for 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's an Arab American family being
      rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that
      threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief -- I am my
      brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper -- that makes this country
      work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still
      come together as a single American family. '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
      of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal
      America and a conservative America -- there's the United States of
      America.  There's not a black America and white America and Latino
      America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.
      The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and
      Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.
      But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the
      Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our
      libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States
      and have gay friends in the Red States.  There are patriots who
      opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one
      people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of
      us defending the United States of America."

The speech--like the speaker--was so impecable, that in response, conservatives can only attempt, vainly, to claim that Obama's liberal vision is actually a conservative one.  Markos at the Daily Kos debunks them.

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