Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Last Best Hope for The Last Best Hope

Image: Salvador Dali, Premonition of Civil War

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have. ... John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell — but he won't even go to the cave where he lives. ...
I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.
Barack Obama, 2008 DNC, 8-28-08

The Last Best Hope for The Last Best Hope

By Richard Power

It was a brilliant, powerful and historic speech. Think Abe Lincoln. Think Muhammad Ali. Obama said everything that John Kerry didn't say in 2004, and he said some things that have not been said since Jack Kennedy said them in 1960. Obama is the champion of a citizen uprising that is perhaps the last best hope for the last best hope.

And yet, for me, although Obama's speech was the most powerful speech of the night (Gore's, too, deserves high praise), as well as one of the most historic of our times, it was not the most important speech of the final night of the 2008 DNC; Susan Eisenhower's was the most important.

I have referenced Dwight Eisenhower's prophetic farewell speech numerous times; but here was his grand-daughter, a tall, strong, eloquent woman in an elegant red dress, liberating herself from political thralldom to those who have so despoiled the Republican Party and so dishonored the US Constitution, the US military and the heritage of all patriots.

If enough Republicans hear her poignant message, those who stole the elections of 2000 and 2004 will not have the opportunity to steal this one.

Here is the text of her remarks, the speech is now a cherished artifact in the Words of Power archive:

I stand before you tonight not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as an American.

The Eisenhowers came to this great country in the 18th century, settling first amid the hills of Pennsylvania and later on the plains of Kansas. Like many of your ancestors, they built our nation and served it in times of national crisis and war.

I grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where my parents and grandparents, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, chose to live after Ike's retirement as supreme commander, Europe, during World War II and as President of the United States. It was also where Abraham Lincoln gave his historic address. On the killing fields of Pickett's charge, our country came of age and assured for all time that our nation would survive as one.

Yet, today the divisions in our country are deep and wide. Our cohesiveness as a nation is strained by multiple crises in finance and credit, energy and health care. These problems, which threaten American prosperity and well-being, are as relevant to our national security as any conflict overseas.

At the same time, we have knowingly saddled our children and grandchildren with a staggering debt. This is a moral failing, not just a financial one.

Overseas, our credibility is at an all-time low. We urgently need to restore our international leadership position and the leverage that goes with it to address urgent problems before they become crises.

We must advance a new and compelling vision for the 21st century. But rather than focus on these critical strategic issues, our national discourse has turned into a petty squabble.

Too many people in power have failed us. Belligerence has been a substitute for strength; stubbornness for leadership; and impulsive action has replaced measured and thoughtful response.

Once during the Eisenhower administration, Ike was under fire from his critics for moving too slowly in responding to political pressure. After a visit to the oval office by Robert Frost, the famous American poet sent the president a note: "the strong," he wrote, "are saying nothing until they see."

I believe that Barack Obama has the energy and the temperament to lead this country. He knows that we can either advance on the distant hills of hope or retreat to the garrisons of fear. As our standard bearer, he can mobilize a demoralized America and inspire all of us to show up for duty. Discipline will be required, as will compromise, flexibility and quiet strength.

Barack Obama has already articulated a powerful vision for our nation's future and our standing in the world.

The task before our next president will be overwhelming. But no undertaking will be more critical than bringing about a sense of national unity and purpose, built on mutual respect and bi-partisanship.

Unless we squarely face our challenges, as Americans together, we risk losing the priceless heritage bestowed on us by the sweat and the sacrifice of our forbearers. If we do not pull together, we could lose the America that has been an inspiration to the world.

On December 1, 1862, in his annual message to Congress, Abraham Lincoln immortalized this thought when he said: "We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."

Let us respond this November to President Lincoln's challenge.

Let us restore the hope and bring the change that our nation so desperately needs.

Thank you.
Susan Eisenhower, 2008 DNC, 8-29-08

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

For an archive of Words of Power posts on Campaign '08, click here.

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