Barack Obama’s speech last week at the Democratic National Convention was no doubt a good one. It accomplished what he wanted: inspiring Americans with powerful themes, appealing for noble causes. He demonstrated, once again, how his rhetorical prowess eclipses that of virtually every modern politician, sending the 80,000 in attendance into a frenzy of adoration.
Amid the cheering and the historic nature of the moment, given Obama’s acceptance speech occurring on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, it was easy to get caught up in the master wordsmith’s language. And if you did, you would probably think our country is worse off now than we have been in the last century.
“[O]ur economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more,” Obama said.
Really, in turmoil? The economy grew 3.3 percent from April to June, according to the Department of Commerce. Unemployment rates remain lower than at any time in 2003 and we had record exports. The markets have been recovering since the subprime mortgage crisis bottomed out stocks earlier this year. It doesn’t quite sound like a time of despair, does it?
Of course, these are just statistics that can only give a general snapshot of American prosperity at a particular time, but the point is the economy has seen far worse days.
As far as the American promise goes, what danger is forcing it to the brink of extinction? Is it pro-American governments throughout the world? Are things as bad as the senator says they are when millions of people still flock here to escape their current conditions and seek better lives?
There are people, of course, who are suffering. We’re fighting a war. Gas prices are too high and many have lost their homes or jobs. We may not be in the best economic or political shape in our country’s history, but we’re not that far off either.
The fact is we are better off than any previous generation, better off than our parents were and certainly better off than their parents were.
Consider the thought of our everyday concerns compared to those Americans during the Great Depression or Civil War or those in Darfur or any other wretched place in the world or history. Having to sacrifice some of our pleasantries to pay for $4 gasoline doesn’t seem that bad.
Americans are naturally looking for inspiration, but Obama sees it through radical changes to our entire economy. He sees it through unprecedented spending, higher taxes on business and the nationalization of health care. He sees a nation where we can’t even harvest some of our most precious natural resources and he can speak without preconditions to the most dangerous leaders on the planet. He sees his own grandiose vision as the solution to all of America’s problems.
And because he sees inspiration only in the extraordinary, he ignores a wealth of true encouragement in the everyday acts and sacrifices of ordinary Americans. Those people who work their hardest in hope of a better future for themselves and their children might “cling to guns and religion” in their spare time, as Obama suggested earlier this year.
He sets aside the incredible sacrifices made by the gatekeepers of American promise, our soldiers. Monday they handed over control of Iraq’s largest province to the Iraqi military, one of the greatest achievements since the war began. We haven’t heard much from Obama about how much progress has been made there.
The American promise is alive and well, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to Obama’s speech. If that’s how you judged our nation, we truly are in terrible shape and the only thing that can save us is more of him.
Max Landman is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Uvalde.