There are events in history we recall by what we were doing at the time they occurred in our lives.
I just watched (twice) Barack Obama’s victory speech. I can’t recall being so moved by U.S. politics since a day in 1963 when, on returning from tennis,my mother said, “John Kennedy died.”
Obama stood between flags flying behind him and thousands of cheering people in front of him.
And at the end of his speech, a gracious and pretty gripping speech, he tells a story. Not his own story.
One of a 106-year-old woman in Georgia, Ann Nixon Cooper, who voted.
“Born just a generation past slavery but for many years couldn’t vote for two reasons, because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.”
Symbols which punctuated her life: “She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that ‘We shall overcome.’ Yes we can.”
Then he diverted attention from the race issue.
“A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination,'' And then: “And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.”
The president-elect will face problems with the earth, energy, the economy, but at least he knows how to inspire people with stories.
Telling a story can move crowds but repeating keywords can also pull them along with you. Did Barack Obama’s speechwriter increase the keyword count using a cloud tagger? America, campaign, change, hope, nation, people.
And Obama seemed to have learned this victory speech well. No TELETEXT in sight. When did he find time to memorize it? Or was he rehearsing already some months back?