Here’s What It Is!!
President Obama on the State of the Union
Once more President Obama demonstrated the power of magnificent oratory in his State of the Union address last night. Like a theatrical performance, its power derives from three sources: The script, the performer and the setting. Last night all three elements blended to perfection and the product was a special verbal alchemy which invests the words of the speaker with the power to touch the souls of the audience and elevate their spirits. Such performances can even drive the listener to act on the orators suggestions: In this case, to go out and vote for him. And when the speaker is a gifted orator with no peer in the race, it is hard to see how he will not get his way.
That’s why the first time I saw Barack Obama speak at the Democratic Convention there was no doubt that he was no ordinary politician, and was destined to do great things. History has since invested that suspicion with the gravitas of prophecy. A close analysis of the content and structure of the president’s speech last night reveals an architecture which I think will prove a blueprint for success. It began with a brilliant use of the military as metaphor; he gave the soldiers props and cited their remarkable ability to work together to solve serious problems under the most trying circumstancs.
This seized a traditional Republican issue away from them at the outset by appealling to the patriotism of the average American. It also put Congress, which sits in the safety of posh offices far from harm’s way, on the spot by contrasting how the dysfunction resulting from partisan bickering puts the nation at risk, while soldiers routinely risk their lives to achieve objectives the government has defined on battlefields around the world.
In the same opening passage the President spun off a series of successful military missions which he ordered as Commander-In-Chief, among them taking out the arch-villain Osama bin Laden, the most hated man in America! The President’s achievements were so heroic the Republicans dare not hesitate to applaud even though it was exposing their campaign narrative, which cast the President as an appeaser, as a baseless lie. It was a brilliant intro.
This was seamlessly followed by a succinct statement of his hopes and dreams for the future of our country that was both visionary and possible:
“Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.” It is a vision that no one who wishes the country well can disagree with. Hence the President was on his way to pitching a shutout!
Then he hit upon yet another winning theme: attaining the American Dream. He defined it as “the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.” And he persuasively argued that “The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important.”
President Obama’s prescription for how America can keep the dream alive was a complex mix of changes in the tax code that would raise the tax rate on millionaires and penalize multi-national corporations that ship jobs overseas; scrapping silly or redundant regulation of business, stringent measures against financial fraud and environmental pollution, government investment in education and Research/ development. He summed his vision up this way:
“As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber…. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place. No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -– an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”
President Obama’s compelling oration was as specific as need be in a State of the Union Address; which is an occasion for stating grand ideas and clarifying one’s philosophical principles. His task was to speak to the hearts of the American people, not carry on a discourse with policy wonks. Barack more than met the challenge, taking on the Republican charge that he is fomenting “class war” and dismissing it as the joke that it is. Like a great blues song, where the singer enumerates and laments the troubles of the world, but ends the song on a note of hope, President Obama concludes with the observation:
“Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team.”
The speech succeeded so well that Mitch Daniels, the latest sacrificial lamb chosen to reply to our silver tongued President, came across like a combination of Mr. Potato Head and Chicken Little, preaching gloom and doom! And to make matters worse for the embattled Republican candidates: all the talk this morning is about another daring raid by Navy Seals in Somalia, that rescued a blond American woman with the improbable name of a soap opera character – Jessica Buchanan – from what seems to be a well armed gang of street thugs! Life is good for the President just now….. and the Grand Obstructionist Party is in deep doo doo.
President Obama and the First Lady
Good News for the Buchanan Family!
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem New York
Janurary 25, 2012