Hello Everyone,

On a few occasions in this space, I have suggested that it is good to read the text of a speech even if you’ve heard it delivered.  Such is the case with the one President Obama gave last Saturday in Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday (see attachment A).

I have also attached a piece written that day by James Fallows in The Atlantic entitled,

“Finally I Hear a Politician Explain My Country Just the Way I Understand It” (see attachment B).

In it, he praises the President for “stating with concise complexity what is indeed exceptional about this American experiment…how exceptional the American ambition is.”

The President said:

As we commemorate [the marchers’] achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them…Their faith was questioned.  Their lives were threatened.  Their patriotism challenged.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?…

What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished…that it is in our power to remake this nation…

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths…  

That’s what it means to love America.  That’s what it means to believe in America.  That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

Fallows singles out “the riff near the end, with its artful repeated emphasis on we”:

We were born of change.  We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights….

Look at our history.  We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters.  That’s our spirit.  That’s who we are.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some.  And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth.  That is our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan.  We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.   We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.

We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

The President continued:

That’s what America is.  Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.

And, my favorite paragraph:

…Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.  Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.”  “We The People.”  “We Shall Overcome.”  “Yes We Can.”

Then, the President concluded, his idealism and optimism on full display:

Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer.  Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer.

Thus, the complexity of America’s exceptional ambition.

Please, as always, pass it on.  And, remember that previous Obamagrams are stored on www.obamagrams.com

 

Chuck

adobe pdf file

Attachment A – Remarks by the President at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma Marches

 

adobe pdf file

Attachment B – Fallow – Finally I hear a Politician…The Atlantic

 

 

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