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Barack Obama: The First Great Orator of the 21st Century

30-Mar-08 03:14 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve been watching, intrigued by the way this man, Obama, speaks.  My grandmother, God rest her, felt that toward the end of her life (just under 10 years ago) that the age of great orators – like Churchill, Kennedy and Pearson had truly gone from the world.  Everything had been distilled down into sound bites and nobody paid attention to lengthy speeches, it had seemed. But in listening to a number of speeches by U.S. Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama, we could be witnessing a return to that lost art to it’s most natural home, The White House.  And I, for one, hope it happens.

This isn’t me just playing favorites because of my respect for great orators.  Although perhaps not many were great orators, many a silver-tongued devil in my lifetime have wooed there way into elected office only to turn out to be less than model citizens once in office.  Why such interest in Obama then?  Is it is considerable legislative experience?  Many videos sponsored by "the right" on the Internet have cited this question as being foremost on their minds in trying to understand the spellbinding power of Obama.  Typically, its a weakness to not have some legislative experience before becoming president.  But this too is just political rhetoric (does the right know nothing else) as the likes of Tucker Carlson and Pat Buchanan both readily know that experience is often neither helpful or necessary toward getting elected.  Obama’s main excuse on this point, and it’s one that’s readily apparent, is that he’s young.  On one You Tube clip (I lost the link, unfortunately, but it was on an episode of Tucker’s show on MSNBC last year) an Obama supporter – some Senator – couldn’t name a single legislative accomplishment.

The main reason many people have for electing Obama is because he either has people around him brokering really great ideas around which he can construct convincing speeches, or he himself is great at presenting his own great ideas, leveraging the media, etc. In short, he’s just a great communicator.  And my grandma was right – that’s a rare thing these days.  But the combination of his (or his team’s) ideas and communication skills comes at a critical time when the policies he’s espousing are what much of the electorate (and I) think are needed for the world at this point in history.  Ordinarily that would still leave the question about how he’s able to so effectively counter criticism – but again, people both respect and admire his ability to respond to criticism in such a forthright fashion in the speeches he’s given thus far.

Does all of this qualify him to be President.  Running a campaign on the scale necessary to win the White House is itself a test of leadership ability, no question.  I think Obama has shown a capacity to do that job effectively, at least.  He’s been described as a consensus-builder; as someone who can make an honest effort to bring minds together to form an active approach.  I myself have been to leadership and teamwork workshops (gratis my current employer) which outline a number of great, and may I say, effective approaches toward cultivating those skills.  I expect Obama has has a few such experiences; but I can see qualities in his tone and in the content of his public discourse that suggest he may well be a truly "great" leader.

And now the question everyone’s asking these days: what about Hillary?  Her campaign has truly run into more than a few snags along the way.  She hasn’t had the gaffes Obama has had, but the frustration of competing what Obama’s silver tongue is definitely showing.  To me, she’s sounded desperate at times.  And I wouldn’t blame her in the least if she really were.  But she’s gotta know by now that any favouritism toward Obama (whatever his political rhetoric may be) is not coming at the expense of her own personal popularity.  She’s just lacking what every politician wants, that quality as an orator that can convince an audience with such apparent ease.  But that gift is extremely rare and if my grandmother, who herself only saw it but a few time in all her life (given that she lived into her 90s), surely it’s not a quality accessible to all.

Hopefully, any differences between these two will ultimately be reconciled so that a "dream ticket" with both Clinton’s and Obama’s name can go forward.  That might be jeapordized if too much division occurs, however.  Obama’s camp hasn’t yet said whether it would accept Clinton in the nomination for Vice-Presidential candidate.  Still something tells me McCain might be more difficult to beat than anyone thinks and the world simply can’t stomach yet another Republican administration.

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