Celebratory oratory

I’ve mentioned Obama’s speechwriting before. His victory will no doubt be analyzed by political scientists and communicators for years to come. His campaign was a triumph of marketing driven (not market driven) political campaigning, he framed a narrative from very early on (even in his published autobiographies) that carried through the campaign and generated grass roots support never before seen picking up new media technologies, and engaging and organising a community or tribe like nobody else has before – except perhaps Kevin Rudd with his Kevin 07 campaign – but Obama started before Rudd – he has been campaigning for the past two years. Rudd came in the middle.

Here is Obama’s speech in full.

Here are some highlights of modern political speech writing – and in fact of all communication…

His pitch for unity embraces juxtaposition of binary oppositions:

“It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of red states and blue states: We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

His heartfelt thanks to his family – and promise of a puppy to his daughters was a nice human touch that has already been picked up by news cycles everywhere – a nice contrast to some of the hubris and arrogance that has been attributed to him by both the McCain campaign and his own admission of arrogance.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next first lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

Obama is a genuine family man – it will be interesting to see how he juggles parenthood with this new responsibility. Self deprecation is the new black. So he threw in a bit of his grass roots background to resonate with the common man. His campaign – like he himself, was built in backyard suburbia…

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

Obama is at his oratory best when talking about breaking down the old “two party” mindset – it’s what won his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention the accolades that propelled this push to the White House – so he had to throw some of that in to this speech too…

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends … though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.

His call to arms “Yes we can” which was as prevalent in his campaign as Rudd’s “Working families” got a real run in the closing story with a 106 year old case study. It’s stirring stuff – so I’ll put it all here in case you haven’t clicked the link to his speech.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons: because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness, and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because, after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

Obama had no doubt been working on this speech for some time. It’s a triumph of triumph. What worries me though is that for all the promise of change there’s still this idea that America is somehow the saviour of the world. And Obama is being painted as this Messianic figure – almost the second coming…

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down, we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security, we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright, tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

I guess the economic crisis is America’s fault through their NINJA loans – I’m still not sure what the “A” is for in that acronym – so maybe it’s their job to fix it. But as for the rest of the world’s problems – just because they have the biggest military stick – sabre rattling is so last millenium… hopefully Obama’s desire for united, unilateral approaches to problem solving in his own country will extend to foreign policy. And h
opefully he’ll know what the G20 is.

The real art in election night oratory is giving a good concession speech. And John McCain’s – while laced with apple pie American sentiment – was that and more. Here’s the transcript. Like John Howard almost this time last year – the concession speech was gracious and humble.

The ingredients of a concession speech are as follows:

1. A gracious admission of defeat.

“My friends, we have – we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honour of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him.”

2. An acknowledgement of the efforts of the victor.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

Let there be no reason now … Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

3. A promise of a united way forward.

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

4. A thanks to supporters – and an expression of hope for their support of the other guy.

I urge all Americans … I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It is natural. It’s natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.

5. A heartfelt thankyou to family/campaign team/VP candidate etc.

The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.

I’m especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear mother … my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.

I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate’s family than on the candidate, and that’s been true in this campaign.

All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.

I am also – I am also, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners I’ve ever seen … one of the best campaigners I have ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength … her husband Todd and their five beautiful children … for their tireless dedication to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.

6. A patriotic promise to serve king and country (or a God Bless America in this case).

I would not – I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.

Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.

MCCAIN: Tonight – tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama – whether they supported me or Senator Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender.

We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

McCain’s speech ticked all the boxes.

Obama’s speech was largely free of apple pie American superiority – even with the acknowledgement of renewed global hope at his election – I guess now the proof will be in the pudding. He’ll no doubt at some point be regarded as not the messiah – but just another naughty boy. But hopefully he’ll at the very least end unpopular wars and try to fix healthcare and the economy in the US – which wouldn’t be a bad legacy. And at least we’re spared the horror of a Palin Vice Presidency.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.