Good Morning Bloggers! I thought President Barack Hussein Obama's speech this morning in Cairo was one of the most inspirational and impressive that I've ever heard, and that includes great speeches throughout history. I realize it may sound hyperbolic, but it's my opinion. I was moved to tears.
So, going with that premise, how do we discuss a speech of such magnitude? It would be redundant - and 24/7 news-channel-like - of me to simply reiterate point for point and discuss the policy potential ad nausea like every other pleb unworthy of the brilliance that is Barack Obama.
No, I would rather respond to the cacophony of Republican critics already out there shouting down the president's aspirations by taking a look at the historical impact of similar inspirational speeches. What impact did they have had on human history - or lack of impact. I realize we're not academics and cannot possibly cover the issue very well, but I say let's take a stab at it. It is a very interesting question.
As part and parcel we need analyze the critics of those great speeches. Who were they? That should help us understand motive when it comes to the critics of Obama's speech today. First, what were the great speeches? Second, who were the critics? That's our mission here. It will hopefully paint a clear picture about what shapes our history. Do inspirational speeches work? What, if any, is the impact? Are there themes of "negativity and opposition" that pollute human social evolution throughout time. They are all fascinating questions.
So, let's find out by exploring a few examples. Let's first look back at one of our more recent inspirational speeches, delivered by President Ronald Reagan standing before the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Berlin on June 27th 1987. I hate to admit it, but I remember it fondly.
He took it upon himself to describe an undivided East and West. He made the now famous appeal to the leader of the then Soviet Union (inspired by John Kennedy's original appeal) "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." So, who was opposed to that speech? Was anybody? Not surprisingly, it was the far right. It's true, the Democrats supported President's Reagan's call for more openness. The GOP was suspicious at the time.
It's all part of the now famous "Reagan Myth." Republicans like to think they were the progressives at that time, and today they suckle on the idea they supported him in his efforts to remake history. That's incorrect. Some moderates did, but the far right was highly suspicious of the changes promoted by the president. Most historians give credit to the Democrats for supporting Reagan's inspiration at that time.
The far right Republicans back then saw Reagan as too weak when it came to Gorbachev. Their fears climaxed during the Reykjavik, Iceland Summit when the far right saw Reagan promising to give away their precious nuclear arsenal to the Soviets. The far rights's fears were articulated at that time by Reagan's buddy Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the UK. Despite their close relationship, she criticized Reagan harshly for going off half-cocked when it came to relations with the soviets.
Most Democrats of the time believed Reagan's sincerity and inspiration, and were hoping and praying for his vision of a nuclear arms-free world. Many of us today see that as a reason why he was a great Republican president.
Another great inspirational speech is obvious to most of us, and it wasn't delivered by a politician. It is the I Have a Dream speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28th, 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial. So, who opposed the Civil Rights's Movement? That answer is somewhat complicated. Let's simplify by saying that right-wing Democrats of the time, based mostly in the South, opposed the movement. They were supported by right-wing Republicans at the time. Again, regressives show their true stripes, despite their party affiliation.
Left-wing Democrats and moderate Republicans supported it. Lyndon Johnson's success ultimately fractured the Democratic Party in the South, leading to Nixon's Southern Strategy (divide and conquer conservative southern Democrats), and the birth of the modern Democratic and Republican parties. It is a fascinating time in American political science/history.
A final example of another great inspirational speech was heard just before Dr. Kings and was given by another Republican. It was the Farewell Address delivered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17th 1961, and it was all about mutual respect and the need to alter the dangerous trends of the Cold War. He was fearful of an out-of-control arms race, and the "military-industrial complex." Once more, the far right, embodied by his VP Richard Nixon, opposed Eisenhower's aspirations and quietly undermined any progress.
Kennedy later embraced Eisenhower's approach, but his assassination and LBJ's expansion of our commitment in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia ultimately ended those American dreams. Still, the speech is a personal favorite, and relevant today.
So, my examples, among many other possible ones that I reviewed, support my theory. The political forces that inevitably rear their ugly head to oppose great transformative, aspirational and inspirational thinking throughout history seem to be the far right, or the regressives. They always seem to oppose proposed change. They always seem to oppose what is possible, choosing instead for the status quo. I welcome a real debate on this issue, but my cursory analysis seems to support my theory so far.
Ask yourself why do Democrats elect to use the term "progressive?" It wasn't all about the GOP trashing of the word "liberal." It had a lot to do with promoting our core governing philosophy, which is about change and focusing on the future and mankind's potential. While the GOP focuses only on what individuals can achieve, we progressives enhance our individualism by combining it with a trust in social institutions - like government - to help us achieve.
Why do I mention this? It's because I believe that - based on historical evidence - psychologically far right Republicans lack the genetics necessary to be inspired by their fellow man, especially if those men are in government. They do like strong leaders, but only if those leaders are focused on delivering one thing in various forms - personal security, financial security and tribal security. Their entire modus operandi seems to be based on FEAR and SUSPICION of others.
They are the proverbial Deaf or Tin Ear, Echo Chamber, and/or Paranoid Pete. They like to call themselves conservatives, but that's just a pretty way to describe what is in reality a human psychological disorder reacting to fear in all its forms. Let's admit it, it's more appropriate to call them by what they really are: paranoid regressives, or political/social cowards.
They are instinctively - or genetically - suspicious of everyone and everything. They are genetically UNINSPIRED and UNINSPIRING, and will fight to keep whatever control they can to make sure that nobody can hurt them, their family or their tribe.
At this point, please don't get mad at me for leaving your favorite speech out of this discussion. There are simply too many. If you want to identify your own inspirational speech, and discuss the opposition to make your own case, feel free to visit American Rhetoric to find their Top 100 speeches. You can read them, and even play the audio for some. It's very interesting.
My conclusion is that great speeches do affect change and effect history. The great men and women who deliver them don't always see the progress, especially since it's slowed by the foot-draggers of history I call regressives, but it does slowly happen. Great men like Barack Obama seem to be put on this Earth as triggers for progress. I believe that President Obama's vision in his speech today will come to pass. I just don't know how long it will take. Let's hope it doesn't take too long, so that we can all enjoy a better world.
President Barack Hussein Obama's speech was amazing. I only hope the majority of Americans take the time to listen. If you didn't catch it, please take the 45 minutes or so to listen now - click here. It's time to push back against the regressives who have fought the progressive tides of history. It's time to stand up for positive change. Let us hope that most Americans aspire to live in a better world, and join together to do whatever they/we can to make this man's vision a reality.
Thursday's Political Rave - Michael