John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it's not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.(Transcript at washingtonpost.com; my quoting cuts out the many breaks for applause.)
If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent. If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?
The audio feed on NPR and the video on C-SPAN both have trouble buffering the speech (it's probably a matter of too many people trying to view/listen to the speech), but even reading the transcript gives me chills: Obama put together so well and so effortlessly what makes America a special place.
I don't know if it's because I am about to become a father or if it is because the aims and policies of the current administration and its allies are so wrongheaded, but this election does feel like the most important one since I came of voting age. We need people like Barack Obama, Tony Knowles and Nancy Farmer in the Senate; Al Weed, Ginny Schrader, and Jim Stork in the House; and John Kerry in the White House.
I don't agree with all of them on all of the issues, but they (and many other candidates -- and not all of them Democrats) do have a grand vision for the country that promises a greater future.
I was recently rereading Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" address, which outlines his the vision of a good society where free nations cooperate to ensure freedom of speech and worship and freedom from want and fear. This is the world I want for my child, and the first step to attaining it is ensuring that people like Barack Obama are leading the United States of America.