Well, tonight is the big night, President Obama will accept the Democratic nomination for President!
Of course, everyone, be they Democrat or Republican, will be listening to what our President has to say because he can definitely turn a phrase.
But more than simply “turning a phrase,” the President has the power of inspiration.
Unlike his opponent and many leaders on the republican side, President Obama inspires people. Now, I know actions ultimately speak louder than words and we should and will hold both candidates and parties accountable on Election Day, but there’s something to be said about how you move and connect with people in trying times.
It’s not a democratic or republican trait. Ronald Reagan, regardless of how you felt about him, was gifted in the inspiration category… Few of us will ever forget the former president’s poignant address to the nation on the day of the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
So how our leaders make us feel is important they can set a tone of inclusion, optimism and a shared vision for their followers and conventions, or one of exclusion and intolerance.
And, to be blunt, few of us in the black community felt inspired that the most memorable words coming out of the Republican National Convention last week were delivered by two peanut-throwing racists who said, “This is how we feed the animals.”
And then there was Clint Eastwood, who said…Ok, I actually still have no idea what he said.
But you get the point, it certainly was not inspiring.
That said, a candidate has to deliver more than an inspiring speech, we shouldn’t vote for anyone because of physical features or how well they can speak.
But, words are important, especially in combination with effective action. Words can lift us up, encourage us, motivate us, console us, guide us, touch us and unite us… They can also scare us, tear us down, hurt us, limit us, and divide us (or in the case of Clint Eastwood, completely confuse us.)
Words can paint a beautiful picture, a shared vision inspiring us to build or reach it – together.
As a young candidate for senator, Barack Obama painted such a picture with his first national address at the Democratic Convention in 2004.
He added more color to the canvas with his A More Perfect Union speech on race as a presidential candidate in 2008.
This picture took on historic proportions with his acceptance speeches as the Democratic nominee and then as the winner of the Oval Office.
I am hopeful that he will paint that kind of inspiring picture for us once again tonight.
I’ll close with these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”