Audacity

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This blog is about words.  It’s about using words to express my ideas, to encourage other people to think about them, and share their own points of view.

A lot of what I write about is political and, nowadays, often critical of this or that candidate.  I comment, based on my life experience, whatever that’s worth, but I make no pretense that I have ever run for office, which I have not, or that, if I did and won, I would be good at it.  I’m in the bleachers, far from the field of play.  My words, however eloquent, clever or moving – which is not to say they are any of those things – do not, simply by virtue of my having written them, make me what I describe.  I may be a writer, and critic.  My ideas may have merit and may be worth pursuing, but I have, at best, accomplished nothing more than the immediate impact of my saying them.

Senator Obama has recently been accused of having copped a speech which was made by Deval Patrick, now Governor of Massachusetts.  Whether or not he plagiarized Mr. Patrick isn’t the point.  What troubles me is what he said in that speech, and at other times, when he has responded to Senator Clinton’s comment that talk is cheap – or, in the parlance of the upcoming Texas primary, “big hat, no cattle.”

Instead of responding to her criticism by describing his accomplishments, he chooses instead to talk about the power of words, evoking the memories of no less than Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King.  These are people whose extraordinary accomplishments, over years of public service, have, in retrospect, made their words so impressive, so memorable.  It is not the other way around.  Their words were expressions of who they were, and important tools in accomplishing their objectives, but little more than condiments to the substance of their many achievements.

“We the People” is not equivalent to “Yes we can,” nor does saying those words make you on a par with any of our founding fathers, Jefferson among them.  Senator Obama may have a dream or two, but it doesn’t make him Reverend King, nor is the reference relevant given that Dr. King wasn’t running for President, wasn’t claiming that he could more effectively manage our federal government bureaucracy than his opponents.

I favor the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, but I have some advice for Senator Obama lest he win now, only to lose to Senator McCain in the Fall.  And this is a topic I know more than a little something about.  It is the temptation and cardinal sin of all great salesmen that, at some point, they begin to believe their own hype.  Sooner or later, the people will catch on, if not before the primaries, certainly by November when the other half of the people who will be voting in the general election get up and go to the polls.

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3 responses to “Audacity

  1. please look at my blog

  2. First off, “We the people” were not the words of Jefferson. When the founders drafted the Constitution, Jefferson was enjoying life in France. Nonetheless, Jefferson’s lasting legacy in the lexicon of historical quotes derives from the Declaration of Independence in the form of “all men are created equal.” I would suggest that these words as well as the Rev. Dr. MLK Jr’s “I have a dream” were more than, as you suggest, just the ketchup on top of the fries. Political leaders and laymen across the world rallied around these phrases, not only in future generations, but in the contemporary moment as well. This is not to say that Obama, when President, can simply flaunt his oratory skills and wait for tidal waves of change. But at the same time don’t underestimate the power of words to exact change. Oftentimes the greatest battles require both the sword AND the pen.

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