We are living history. Last night, more than 80,000 Democrats gathered to listen to Senator Barrack Obama accept the nomination for the presidency of the United States of America.
It was a historic moment because Senator Obama becomes the first African American to lead a major political party into presidential elections. Forty-five years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic speech, calling on all Americans to unite to overcome hate and bigotry and fight for equal rights among all U.S. citizens.
Last night, Barack Obama delivered a phenomenal speech, invoking the promise of Martin Luther King in a pledge to end "the broken politics in Washington and the failed presidency of George W. Bush."
In doing so, Obama stuck to the facts and hit McCain on all the issues, emphasizing the following:
It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.
For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.
Well it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.
You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.
We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.
We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job – an economy that honors the dignity of work.
The speech was so formidable that afterward, CNN's David Gergen (former counselor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and, yes, Clinton) called it a "masterpiece."
The Republicans scrambled to quickly respond:
"Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama," spokesman Tucker Bounds said. "When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm's way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be President."
The fact is that Americans are sick and tired of the Bush/Cheney policies that have wreaked financial and moral damage over the last eight years. The mess is so huge that no matter who wins the elections come November, they will be inheriting a fiscal, environmental, energy, health care and educational disaster.
Critics of Obama claim his all "fluff" and "no substance", stating that he will pander to every political interest. I beg to differ. I think Obama is the real deal and despite the unprecedented obstacles, if elected, he will restore some sense of confidence in the American dream and restore the much tarnished image of the United States around the world.
Finally, there was another phenomenal speech last night, delivered by Vice-President Al Gore, one that in my opinion, delivered more poignant blows than Obama's great speech:
So why is this election so close? Well, I know something about close elections, so let me offer you my opinion. I believe this election is close today mainly because the forces of the status quo are desperately afraid of the change Barack Obama represents.
There is no better example than the climate crisis. As I have said for many years throughout this land, were borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the future of human civilization. Every bit of that has to change. Oil company profits have soared to record levels, gasoline prices have gone through the roof and we are more dependent than ever on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.
Many scientists predict that the entire north polar ice cap may be completely gone during summer months in the first term of the next president. Sea levels are rising, fires are raging, storms are stronger. Military experts warn us our national security is threatened by massive waves of climate refugees destabilizing countries around the world, and scientists tell us the very web of life is endangered by unprecedented extinctions.
We are facing a planetary emergency which, if not solved, would exceed anything we've ever experienced in the history of humankind. In spite of John McCain's past record of open mindedness on the climate crisis, he has apparently now allowed his party to browbeat him into abandoning his support of mandatory caps on global warming pollution.
And it just so happens that the climate crisis is intertwined with the other two great challenges facing our nation: reviving our economy and strengthening our national security. The solutions to all three require us to end our dependence on carbon-based fuels.
Instead of letting lobbyists and polluters control our destiny, we need to invest in American innovation. Almost a hundred years ago, Thomas Edison said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"
I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. We already have everything we need to use the sun, the wind, geothermal power, conservation and efficiency to solve the climate crisis,everything, that is, except a president who inspires us to believe,
"Yes we can."
So how did this no-brainer become a brain-twister? Because the carbon fuels industry "big oil and coal" have a 50-year lease on the Republican Party and they are drilling it for everything it's worth. And this same industry has spent a half a billion dollars this year alone trying to convince the public they are actually solving the problem, when they are in fact making it worse every single day.
This administration and the special interests who control it lock, stock and barrel after barrel, have performed this same sleight-of-hand on issue after issue. Some of the best marketers have the worst products; and this is certainly true of today's Republican Party. The party itself has on its rolls men and women of great quality. But the last eight years demonstrate that the special interests who have come to control the Republican Party are so powerful that serving them and serving the national well-being are now irreconcilable choices.
So what can we do about it? We can carry Barack Obama's message of hope and change to every family in America. And pledge that we will be there for Barack Obama, not only in the heat of this election, but in the aftermath as we put his agenda to work for our country.
As I carefully listened to Al Gore, I couldn't help wonder "what if?", "what if the U.S. Supreme Court did not hijack the elections of 2000?" The United States (and the world) could have had a great leader back then, one who "gets it" on all the major issues.
Let's all hope the same mistakes will not be repeated in 2008.
God speed and enjoy the long weekend.