During the 2007 holiday season, I found myself in a discussion of presidential candidates with a good friend and mentor, a staunch Democrat who's opinion, born of years of often thankless public service, I give substantial weight.
She expressed concern about Senator Obama; that, if elected, his relative youth would lead to near immediate evisceration by the mindless, inhuman machine we've come to accept as politics. He'd get knocked down quickly and may not recover.
My response at the time or, rather, on the way home in the car after the prescient moment had passed, was that I didn't care if he got knocked down. I expected him to. What I cared about was whether he'd get back up, point to his black eye, and have the courage to risk another punch by reminding us of why he took the first one.
"This is why they hit me," he'd say. "This is what they're afraid of." And, at least in my imagination, everyone who'd ever taken (or thrown) a punch in fear would have to pay attention to not just the violent result but their own enabling of the circumstances that led to it. For people of conscience, the type of avoidance and oversimplification I see almost daily in dealing with local issues would at the very least no longer be an option justified by a national example.
Quite frankly, I wasn't sure if he'd do it when the time came. I just couldn't shake the feeling that he was the only candidate that might.
Yesterday, Obama reassured me in a way that no candidate for the presidency in my adult life has ever even attempted. Pundits and paid consultants will spend the next few days excerpting, spinning, and explaining what they think or we should think he meant and how that meaning could impact the polls.
Here, however, are the words themselves in their entirety, presented because they deserve a position in local discourse well beyond the confines of a single election.