Thursday, January 03, 2008

Obama Wins Iowa!


Many years ago I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. King's speeches on TV, his poetic use of words the images that he seemed to effortlessly spin out and his command of tempo and pace always silenced the fear in my heart. I say fortunate because I heard them in context That is to say in the context of the struggle to transform the United States. My father was born and raised a few miles from Selma site of the of bloody Sunday Edmund Pettus bridge crossing. In college I listened to bits of many of the seminal speeches that were part of the sixties movement. Voices of hope raised to challenge the unacceptable status-quo, voices raised for peace, voices calling for an end for poverty in the richest land in the world. Beyond the rhetoric, the polemic and the emotional appeal, here was the gut wrenching feeling that the speakers were a vessel of my inner thoughts.

On the night of the Iowa Caucuses I drove home through the streets of Oakland after watching Francis Coppola's new film "Youth About Youth." We were trying to figure out where the film went wrong. It is a sprawling film that takes on a grand sweep of history that floods the viewer with ever changing shifts in historic, political, social, philosophical landscapes. It is rich and dense and in many ways challenging. It is the work of an older man mulling over life not the speculation of a young person. My conclusion was that maybe Coppola had taken on too much (writer, producer and director) instead of building a team around himself. The traditional master of a discipline was put into conflict with the other members of the production team. Especially on a project of this scope and a tale this hard to tell.

When I got home I turned on my computer going straight to Barack Obama's campaign web site. I was greeted by the You Tube video that is posted above. My plan was to just see how the results came out. From the beginning I knew that this was going to be one of those speeches that I remembered from my youth. This was a middle aged man filled with the hope of youth. He has the best of idealism that is grounded by ideas. He was clear that this stunning victory was the product of time and the energy of a growing movement that had sprung up around him. People who want to see the nation heal after years of division. People who want to focus on the needs of not only the American people but of the world's people. His campaign is fueled not just by like minded folks but by people who originated in different political camps, who have come together under one umbrella.

This is going to be an interesting campaign season. As I clicked through the different political news sites and blogs that night one thing became clearer and clearer. Mr Obama had not just captured the hearts and minds of young people, he had taken every major demographic in Iowa. If the other candidates who are now trying to pick up the mantel of "change" miss this fact it is to their peril. Mr. Obama is truly trying to build a movement for change that intrinsically seeks to build a consensus for change. He is also willing to listen as well as lead, his stump speeches are picking up bits and pieces of the daily news constantly refreshed and in touch.

We will see now as the campaign progresses to the other states with secret ballot elections whether he will be affected by the "Bradley Effect", in which people affirm they will vote for an African American candidate and change their minds in the quiet of the polling place. Iowa has shown us that it is possible for people in the light of day to adhere to their higher principals and not their basest fears. If anyone can help us to overcome our deepest fears and appeal to our greatest sensibilities, it is people like Barack and Michelle Obama. They are staking everything on building a movement for change. That is what has given Mr. Obama this wonderful opportunity the audacity to believe that we all can foment change the belief that hope is still alive and well.

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