Quick observations on the Barack Obama speech today in Philadelphia:
1) The bulk of the speech was well crafted but (like most Obama oratorical efforts) it could have been much shorter. After Obama addressed the Wright controversy (the real reason for the speech) the remarks could have ended. Instead, Obama careened off into a rather typical campaign speech.
2) It occurs to me that it's hard to have it both ways. One can't say we must get beyond race and then, in effect, play the race card. On the significance of race the great actor Morgan Freeman has said "I don't downplay it. I just don't play it." And when asked how we might end racism, Freeman responded: “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” Today, Obama talked and talked and talked about it.
3) I think it was a mistake for Obama to allow himself to be introduced by former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford. Not because I do or don't like Wofford but because I think that Obama should have just walked to the podium and made his statement. No introduction. No buildup. No cheeleading. Let the speech speak for itself.
4) It's standard for Obama to use a teleprompter (he seems ill at ease without one) but today he seemed to pay particular attention to the teleprompter screens on either side of him to the point where he rarely looked straight ahead to the camera, the TV audience. This detracted from the power of the remarks.
5) In the quest for the presidency, your own personal story will only take you so far. Once we know your story, we want to get beyond it and discover what your plans are, what your real philosophy is. We want not just your narrative but the essence of you and what it will mean to the future of our country if we choose you. The story and the philosophy must make sense together. Today, Obama went back to the story. And that's OK, I suppose. But this alone will only will only take him so far. We're still asking: "Is this all that defines you? Where's the rest of you? What do you really believe?"