Thursday, July 10, 2008

The greatest public speaker in decades?

I went this afternoon to hear Barack Obama speak at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, just a few miles from home. My motivation was two-fold: I'm a supporter (and have spent some weekend time knocking on doors for him), and his reputation as a great speaker. When I was a kid, my mother took my younger brother to see Robert F. Kennedy speak at a campaign rally, and I've regretted that I never saw him (or JFK or MLK - probably the two greatest speakers of the second half of the twentieth century).

It was exciting to be there - newspaper reports say there were 2800 people there (including a few McCain supporters chanting outside). There's certainly a lot of enthusiasm you can't ignore.

Perhaps it was the town hall format - Obama spoke for about 20 minutes, and then answered audience questions for another hour, but he didn't seem to be at his best. There was a certain rhythm to his answers - each one started in a halting way to answer the question, and then he suddenly seemed to remember his talking points, and went into a canned speech, and wound up the answer with a big applause line.

I'm glad I went, but disappointed that I wasn't wowed by his speaking. I'm no less committed to him - I agree with him on nearly everything. Just disappointed that I didn't hear a once-in-a-lifetime speech.

Two questions he was asked (out of roughly a dozen) that I found particularly interesting: one about his commitment to science (he promised to double science research funding and bring commitment to science back to the White House - both of which would be a good start given the impact on science during the Bush administration), and he defended his vote for the get-out-of-jail-free card for the telecom companies on the grounds that he believes that monitoring is important and the Inspector General report required by the law will tell us about Bush's violations of FISA. I'm thrilled about the science part, and disappointed about the domestic surveillance bill. But I guess that one of two is better than none.

Maybe not surprising, given the locale (Fairfax County is one of the most educated and wealthiest places in the country) - but the fact that two of the questions focused on science & technology questions is interesting.

I hope that twenty years from now I'll think back on this afternoon, and remember that I saw America's first African-American president. And with luck, the president who brings science back into the White House.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home