Jon Stewart's closing pitch was the most effective "we're not all enemies, actually" pitch in quite a long time.
This sort of thing was common, and didn't actually have to be said out loud, for a few weeks after 9/11. (Stewart's merging-traffic metaphor was great; similarly, I knew the good part of the 9/11 mood was over the first time I saw somebody giving the finger in traffic.) It is what got attention for Obama in his 2004 convention speech, but that was more highflown and seems an eternity ago.
I used to wonder what my parents meant when talking about the role Will Rogers had played when they were kids. This is the kind of thing they must have had in mind. Hard to imagine beforehand how such a rally could have seemed to have a "point," but that close brought it together and actually was memorable. Great press critique too.
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James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.