The audience was there to savor history and they got what they came for.
It did not seem to matter that most of Obama’s text was thoroughly familiar or that he delivered it in a distracted style that suggested that his mind was somewhere else. He may have been caught up in the moment.
Or he might have been pre-occupied with his upcoming trip to Europe and the Middle East, and the major address he will give in Washington on Tuesday about how he plans to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq.
For the most gifted political orator of our day, even an off-night is a good night.
On the heels of Jesse Jackson’s crudely worded threat to emasculate him for “talking down to black people,” Obama seemed to rebuke the old civil rights leader by reiterating his tough message about the need for blacks to take more personal responsibility for their children.
“I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I’m not going to stop talking about it, ” Obama thundered, “because I know that Thurgood Marshall did not argue Brown v. Board of Education so that some of us could stop doing our jobs as parents.”
He conceded that “just electing me president doesn’t mean our work is over.” It includes revising the tax code to reverse the flow of jobs to overseas, rebuilding schools and paying teachers more so that every American gets a “world-class education,” creating a new health care system so that everyone who wants health insurance can obtain it at a price they can afford. He knows that NAACP chairman Julian Bond is right when he says that Obama’s candidacy does not “herald a post-civil rights America any more than his victory in November will mean that race as an issue has been vanquished in America.”
But Monday night was not a time for mere details that will soon be swept away in the rough and tumble of a bruising political campaign or to be reminded of unsettling truths.
It was a time for exaltation, of family and unity.
What mattered on Monday night is that, in a sense, Barack Obama came home to black America and black America reaffirmed him as its champion.