I Love a Good Speech

   30 July 2004, late at night

For the past few days I’ve been watching the Democratic National Convention whenever I have some free time. I was pretty impressed with all the speeches I heard during the convention. I suppose, liberal that I am, that isn’t much of an accomplishment.

I just watched Kerry’s speech tonight and thought it was great. I haven’t really heard him speak much, and since he is usually called a robot in the media, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think he did a good job at presenting himself to America. Kerry was on Bush’s ass pretty hard in the speech, basically summing up what Micheal Moore expounds on in great detail in Fahrenheit 9/11. However, I would say all the not-so-subtle jabs at the current administration were done with tact. Well, except when he called out the Saudi royal family. I wish they had people behind Kerry giving gun shots at that point.

I find when I hear Kerry speak I want to believe everything he says. The cynic in me vanishes. I agree with all the positions he brought up in his speech. I get sucked in when he talks about taxing the rich and helping out the middle class, when he goes on about improving social security and health care, when he goes on about not trying to be the biggest ass-hole country on the planet. And I’m not even a damn American. I really want him to win in November. I can’t stress how much. Another 4 years of Bush would make me crazy. I don’t know how you people living in the US can wake up in the morning.

Now, Kerry’s speech was good, but I thought Al Sharpton’s was the best I heard. There is a passion to Sharpton that I find impressive. I think it may have something to do with him being a reverend. Apparently the speech he delivered was quite different then the one he said he would, running much longer then it should have. I missed Barack Obama’s speech, which I was told he delivered brilliantly. If you like speeches as much as I do, I recommend you check out American Rhetoric. The site features some of the best American speeches in history.



  1. i think it’d be bad manners to give gunshots at the democratic convention. we don’t all live in scarlom! :P

  2. I read over Sharpton’s speech again. I want to find it on Mp3. I think it by far the best one of the convention because it struck me as the least scripted. It isn’t a ringing endorsement of Kerry, but more a ringing endorsement of the Democratic party. I thought this quote was perfect:

    Mr. President, you said would we have more leverage if both parties got our votes, but we didn’t come this far playing political games. It was those that earned our vote that got our vote. We got the Civil Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the Voting Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the right to organize under Democrats.

    I will never for the life of my understand Republican’s who aren’t rich, old and white. As far as I can tell, unless you fall into that demographic the party doesn’t give a fuck about you. If you are deeply religious, is that enough reason to vote for the Republicans? If you hate gay people, is that enough reason to vote for the Republicans? I mean, really now, what exactly have they done for the good majority of the US?
  3. In that token, one can say what have the Democrats done for Blacks? Where are Black senators and representatives? How many Blacks were in Clinton’s administration? Who appointed the only Black Supreme court judge and has nominated the first Latino to the bench?

    Also the insinuation that Republicans are somehow against gay rights is not true. California, one of the more liberal states in the US doesn’t support gay marriage. Hawaii which is a Republican state supports gay marriages. The reality is that a majority of americans regardless of their political affiliation are against gay marriages.

    If Republicans only cater to the rich and white, your views would suggest that half of America is rich, old and white. Thats ridiculous.

    No sometimes it is about policy, it is about a view. Surely there are moderate Republicans. Not all of them are bible-toting, born again christians. For every Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, there is a John McCain, and a Rudy Giuliani.

    The major ideology clash that supposedly separates both parties is the “big business” capitalism vs. “working class” issues. Even you have to admit that both parties adequately cater and make promises to both sides. How can you just blame one party?

    If you look at the traditional Republican party ideology, they were for smaller govt, and less intervention. This mould gave Lincoln, who just abolished slavery. Now it would be disingineous if I did’t mention that in American politics there have been two major re-alignements in which both parties have basically switched allegiances. One was post Lincoln and one was closer to the Civil Rights movement when Democrats who opposed Civil Rights Legislation joined the Republican party which supported the Civil Rights Act (these Democrats were also the reason why JFK could never muster enough votes for the Act). Strom Thurmond delivered the longest filibuster against the Civil Rights Act as a Democrat. Although Ronald Reagan was far from the “true” Republican, he was responsible for unparalled economic growth, and won the Cold War winning the most women votes in history. He left behind a trail of abhorrent misdeeds but was responsible for American supremacy in the world.

    You see both parties are equally to be blamed. The malaise that is American politics today afflicts both parties, because either way you cut it, they are same. There is virtually no difference. Kerry is a centrist, who voted for the war. What is different abt that?

    Every major war, bar the First Gulf War and the current one, in the last century have been initiated by Democrats. Now will you call them war-mongers? No, you will not because that is deceptive.

    Ram, its fair to ask what the Republicans have really done. And we should ask that because lately they haven’t done much. But its only fair to pose the same to Democrats because as far as diversity, minority rights are concerned, collectively they haven’t done much. Heck, America will again elect a white, christian, man for president come november.

    Compare that to India (my homeland), which in 50+ years of democracy has accomplished much in terms of diversity in political leaders. The president is a muslim, and the prime minister is a sikh.

    Democracy’s true worth lies in diversity—diversity of opinions, ideas, and culture. In America today, this doesn’t exist in the political system.

    Now, sincere apologies for the rant.

    I also enjoy good speeches. During the napster days I had downloaded some recordings of JFK, MLK, even Nehru! Lately, I haven’t done much in this regard. By the looks of it sounds like a nice project for you Ram! You can occasionally point us to excerpts from some interesting speeches that you come across.

    Although, I saw some of the bits of the Kerry speech, he doesn’t look as robotic as Al Gore. I heard Gore speak when he visited my school in Los Angeles, the man was a bore. I have heard Clinton speak as well. A master orator and a politician. His speech at the last convention stole the show, even eclipsing Gore’s speech (whose only highlight, by the way, was “the kiss”). I followed polictics intensely that year because of my AP Govt class at school. Now only if they wrote their own speeches!

    In Adelaide I have been lucky to attend a luncheon with John Howard, who was a bit disappointing. His minister of Foreign Affairs—Alexander Downer—is a very good speaker.

    I would love to hear Colin Powell. And of course Atal Behari Vajapayee, who waxes poetry. I have heard that APJ Abdul Kalam is a very good speaker as well.

  4. I caught Ron Reagan’s speach on CNN a few days ago. I thought it was really well done. NPR has a bunch on their site: http://www.npr.org/politics/convention2004/schedule.html

    It seems to me, Sunny, that during the Clinton administration the Republicans were always trying to block things like extending the federal hate crimes law to include gays and the disabled, nominating Hormel as a US ambassador, and cracking down on racial profiling. I can’t remember much about Bush, Sr.’s time, but W. certainly has impressed me as someone interested in equal rights platform.

  5. Sunny, you raise good points. I’m not one to pretend the Democrats are perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I would say both of the US parties are too far to the right for my liking.

    However, the fact remains that the Republicans are a party have been co-opted by special interests groups to a degree the democrats can never compete with. I was trying to raise the point, in a over simplified manner, that regardless of what end of the political spectrum you find yourself on, voting in a Republican is probably not going to be in your best interest. Unless you are old, rich and white. Right now, I think that is quite clear. Bush has done nothing for anyone who isn’t old, rich and white.

    I love John McCain, but he is not representative of the Republican right now. If he was, I would have a lot more faith in the party.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. speech at the Lincoln Memorial is probably my favourite speech.

  6. Definitive source for transcripts, mp3 files, quicktime, etc:

    Damn, I just wrote a long-ass comment that didn’t take. Anyway, here’s the short version: I just wanted to say that I thought I was the only geek whose been excitedly watching the DNC speeches all week :)

    I agree that Kerry was good last night – not in the same league as Clinton’s famously great oratory skills, but very good, especially for him. Edwards wasn’t bad on Thursday either though the thumbs-up thing is getting a little annoying, and he was getting a big evangelical in style for my tastes. Sharpton’s speech was definitely controversial (he went off his teleprompter – which had the DNC-approved speech) though definitely more rousing than logical, which is fine (40 acres and a mule, in reference to the original slave reparations, drawing a line to the Dem’s donkey mascot is a bit far-fetched, though definitely good for appealing to the crowd). I just finally watched Obama’s speech, and that’s quite good too.

    Even if you don’t agree with the politics/content (which I do, on the whole), it’s so interesting breaking down what makes a speech work – delivery, cadence, imagery, repetition, etc. For that reason (as well as to mock Bush and Cheney, always such damn easy targets), can’t wait to see the RNC’s speeches in August though I’m sure I’ll be throwing stuff at the screen.

    Also, yes, I agree that John McCain rocks. Still can’t figure out how the Bush campaign wrangled him into giving a speech for Bush at the RNC.

  7. John McCain is one person who is in the ads for both candidates! Go figure.

    I have a personal axe to grind with McCain. It has to be with the fact that he is not taking the stage. To me it seems that he is unwilling to take the mantle, to make a stand, to project himself. He remains grounded and is thereby marginalized by the right wing Republicans (quite akin to Colin Powell in the admin). But he does his job with the utmost decency and sincerity that is lacking among the politicians of today. I suppose decency and sincerity are not in demand in our world today.

    Ram, I will take your revised statement that Bush hasn’t done anything. I agree with that. But to equate Bush and neo-cons with all Republicans is not fair. But unfortunately the Republican party today is strongly aligned towards the far-right which is tragic.

    I am bit iffy on Al Sharpton. I think politicians like him are very racially divisive. I hold them responsible for handicapping Black youth by preaching the lack of opportunities and choices. I probably take a dim view of issues surrounding racial inequalities since I used to live in California and attended one of the most racially diverse schools in the US, but I do realiaze that all of America is not as understanding or tolerant. If Black youth are disillusioned in America, the empty rhetoric coming from folks like Sharpton is not helping it one bit.

    BTW, in his book “All on America”, he had this interesting bit to say:

    I am running to take out the DLC, which I call the Democratic Leisure Class, because that’s who it serves-the leisure class and the wealthy.

    The only interest I have in RNC is how they project Colin Powell. I still remember his speech from the last convention. But that evening seems ages ago. Its cliched but the world has surely changed in the last four years.
  8. Sharpton is far from perfect. I know that. I just enjoyed his speech. I think he is a great speaker.

    And it may be unfair to equate Bush and the neo-cons with the whole republican party, but the fact of the matter is, if you vote for the republicans they are what you get. Their policy is what the US will have to deal with for another 4 years if the Republicans win. They may not represent a majority of Republicans—in fact, I don’t think they do—but they still end up making all the decisions.

    And Serena, thank you for that link. I’ve been looking for something like that all week.

  9. Sunny, Sharpton’s purpose is not to be logical or to be taken seriously as a leader of the country. He is one of those guys (like people claim Dean is to youth, and in Canada, Layton is to youth) whose purpose to is to motivate a demographic who’re usually apathetic or have given up faith in the electoral system.

    As for expecting McCain to take the podium at the DNC (that is what you meant by taking the stage, right?), that’s really asking too much. The man is a member of the Republican party, after all, and if he were to take the stage at the DNC, it suspect it would be suicidal. Whomever wins this election, McCain will remain a Republican senator and I suspect has issues he’d like to be able to pass through the Republican-controlled senate. To support the 9/11 commission is one thing, to publicly support the other party would be quite another – he would be publicly eviscerated by his chosen party. Whatever his positions, he still sees himself as a Republican and not a Democrat and if he ever wants to run for president himself (which isn’t out of the question), he’ll need Republican support.

    If, by “taking the stage” you mean instead that he should’ve run against Bush in the Republican primary this time ‘round, well that’s a different story.

    As for diversity, I agree with you. However, I think you’ll still find that whatever ills plague the Dems, they continue to be the more embracing and tolerant of the two parties – by a long shot.

    Re: Reagan, well from what I’ve read (which isn’t nearly enough), his leading the US to dominance is a bit of an overstatement. The Russians had their own problems quite aside from what Reagan was doing that probably had more of a hand in ending the Cold War, and if Reagan had had everything his way, there would be Star Wars and all kinds of scary stuff right now.

    As for Colin, poor guy. He was perhaps the most credible Republican in recent memory and look what’s happened to him. Four years ago, there was talk that the man could be the first non-white president – not any more. The poor guy’s been sent to do so much dirty work. Whenever the Bush administration needs to send someone the world sees as trustworthy to present something unpalatable, they send Colin. He’s become their international good-time girl.

  10. I would say both of the US parties are too far to the right for my liking.

    I read in the paper today that only 20% of Americans characterize themselves as liberal…I wonder if there is any correlation between that fact and the fact that the US has the second highest poverty level in the “developed world.”
  11. I get the impression that in America liberal is derogatory. Though the rhetoric in politics may be different, I get the impression many Americans are all about every man for himself. I think this is why national health care has never caught on in the states.

  12. Yes. The article went on to say how the RNC successfully branded Dukaukus (sp?) as a liberal back in the day when he was running for President (1988??!) and consequently he didn’t fair too well in the election.

  13. If I recall correctly, and I may be mistaken, during the debates, Dukakis made a comment on how if his daughters were raped and killed he still wouldn’t want the death penalty for the killers. Apparently that was what did him in. After that Bush Sr. had him labelled a liberal and all was not well for the Dukakis campaign.

  14. Finally, thanks to iTunes Canada, I have downloaded an mp4 of Al Sharpton’s speech at the DNC convention. I love this speech.

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