Last night, on eve of the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, more than 84,000 Democratic Party loyalists gathered at Invesco Field in Denver, CO along with an estimated television audience of more than 38 million to witness an important historical event. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech as the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee was not only momentous, it was near perfect. The occasion provided Obama with the most important opportunity of his life to demonstrate his extraordinary orator y skills – and only a scant few times in his 44 minute speech did he disappoint.
Dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and muted red striped tie, Obama artfully delivered his most comprehensive campaign speech to date. In pointing out a litany of issues currently impacting the country, he stated that this is not all the fault of the government, but of the government to respond. He repeatedly linked John McCain to the Bush administration.
Many of his statements provided poignant and impactful sound bites, such as:
- “It’s not that John McCain doesn’t care, it’s that John McCain doesn’t get it.”
- “What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s about you.”
- “Change doesn’t come from Washington, change goes to Washington.”
On a few occasions, he missed opportunities to drive points home by rushing the lines or not giving them sufficient vocal punch. One example is “We are her because we love this country too much to make the next four years look just like the last eight.” With greater variation of inflection and pace, this could have been powerful.
He did a good job in his attempt to unify the country with this statement, “Let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country and so do you and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red American or a blue America; they have served a United States of America. “And then in one of his stepped up assaults on McCain, he looked directly at camera and said, “So I have news for you John McCain, we all put our America first.”
Referencing Martin Luther King Jr., Obama concluded with one of the most powerful segments of his speech, “We cannot turn back, not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone at this moment in this election. We must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise – that American promise.” He delivered these lines powerfully, passionately and in a MLKingesque style.
Then he added the final sentence of his speech. This should have been the battle cry, the words that lead the troops into the battlefield and on to victory. Instead, he finished with the following uninspiring, confusing line, “And in the words of scripture, hold firmly without wavering to the hope that we confess.” There are two difficulties with this sentence. First, it is a paraphrase of Hebrews 10:23 NIV 23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” So that the sentence makes sense, the last word should have been “profess”, not “confess”. Secondly, the sentence structure didn’t allow Obama to create a sense of finality.
Nonetheless, history will record Barack Obama’s DNC acceptance speech as one of the most important of the modern era, ranking right up there with Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural speeches.
View the speech.