Of course President Obama gave a great speech. What’d you expect?
And, of course, it lacked specific policy details, just like Mitt Romney’s speech in Tampa last week. But that’s not what these speeches are for.
As many have noted, Democrats have not exactly been, from top to bottom, fired up sufficiently to make the final push toward November 6. And the convention this week was designed to fire up the folks, from Deval Patrick’s “backbone” admonition, to Michelle Obama’s “He’s the same man” reminders, jolting dobber-down Democrats who may have lost a little faith in the President, to Bill Clinton’s personal testimony:
President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me, now: No president — no president—not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.
Last night, Joe Biden, as personable as your favorite neighbor, testified to the character of Barack Obama:
Folks, I’ve watched him. He has never wavered, he never, never backs down. He always steps up and he always asks in every one of those critical meetings the same fundamental question: How is this going to affect the average American? How is this going to affect people’s lives? That’s what is inside this man. That’s what makes him tick.
And the force of Biden’s speech was in this:
Folks, there is one more thing — one more thing that our Republican opponents are just dead wrong about. America is not in decline. America is not in decline! I’ve got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan. Gentlemen, never, ever — it never makes sense, it’s never been a good bet–to bet against the American people. Never.
My fellow Americans, America is coming back, and we’re not going back. And we have no intention of downsizing the American dream.
Mr. Obama finished off the convention with a dose of reality:
You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It’ll require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.
And by the way, those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.
But know this, America: Our problems can be solved.
And how can they be solved? This way:
As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility, and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk- takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.
But we also believe in something called citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.
We don’t think the government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that the government is the source of all our problems, any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
Because — because America, we understand that this democracy is ours.
We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.
Finally, just before Mr. Obama admitted, “I’m far more mindful of my own failings,” he said the following, my favorite part of this speech:
So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change.
You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage.
You did that.
You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance.
You made that possible.
You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home,why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: “Welcome home, welcome home.”
You did that. You did that.
If you turn away now — if you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: the lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election, and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should be making for themselves.
Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.
As always, with Democrats, the power resides in the people, the people in We The People, people who continue to perfect their union.
This week, Democrats refused to give ground on national security issues, once a stronghold of the Republican Party. They rightly rolled the head of Osama bin Laden around on that convention floor like a soccer ball. They refused to back down on defending women’s reproductive rights. They attacked Republicans for their cynical attempts to keep minorities and the poor from voting. And they refused to yield an inch on the economy.
All in all, this week made me proud—proud—to be one of them.