A reader writes:
I've never voted Democrat. I've never supported a liberal. I've never thought myself suspect to the romantic idealism any political outsider needs to unseat the establishment. I've never thought "change" had any power except to turn Mr. Smiths into Senator Paines. But Obama's speech tonight taught me a new meaning of "never": to never underestimate the extraordinary thirst for a United States that is, above all, united, where every color bleeds red, white, and blue, where the wisdom of the old meets the passion of the youth and each is bettered because of it.
I'm not a man prone to goosebumps. I've been following politics far too long to trust them, and even after Obama's speech, my cynical side urges me to take a step back and reconsider. But that is the problem. This isn't about taking a step back, this is about believing we can move forward. That's a cliche, one everyone aspires to, but one so difficult to realize because actually believing that America is more than the sum of its parts is so difficult, considering our history.
But if our history is full of the foul odor of slavery, segregation, bigotry and discrimination, it is also unique in its defense of liberty, even when erratically applied. Watching Obama tonight reminded me of Reagan at Point du Hoc, it reminded me of the boys raising the flag at Iowa Jima, young men in the prime of life sacrificing that prime for a future yet realized. And I realized: what if you had told the Rangers they could have never ascended that impregnable wall on D-Day, what if you had told Martin Luther King the specter of racism was too powerful, too even American to overcome? No, King saw that if racism was American, something far greater was also American--that this country was founded on the backs of those who believed oppression was perhaps human, but freedom divine.
And if those heroes could believe, so can I. This isn't over. I still fear the Clintons, and I still fear myself and others like me--those who've grown so hardened that the power of a speech must be repeated over and over in our minds until we begin to believe.
But tonight, I tried to tell myself to never say never again. Thank you, Barack. And thank you, South Carolina.