I watched all of Obama’s acceptance speech before over 84,000 people at Invesco Field. My kids were just as interested as my wife and I were. I was almost afraid he wasn’t going to mention the historic symbolism between a Black man accepting the presidential nomination of a major political party 45 years from the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.
Obama never mentioned Dr. King by name, but in retrospect it might have seemed egotistic to suggest a correlation between his monumental achievement and King’s legacy. He really didn’t need to. I think the significance was not lost upon most of the 84,000 present and the 38 million that watched the speech.
There are a few moments in our lives when you know you’ve seen something you may never see again.
I’ve never seen thousands of people fill a football stadium to hear a politician speak. I never dreamed it would be to see a Black man take one more step to changing the way America deals with it’s seemingly intractable race issue.
The heart of Obama speech came for me here:
We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.
I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.
You make a big election about small things.
And you know what it’s worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.
I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.
But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.
This is a big election. It’s the biggest and maybe the most important one I’ve ever participated it.
Whatever a moment of history is, it probably feels a lot like this.