Pop quiz: Election year political speeches are A) carefully crafted pieces intended to brand a candidate’s message for one of the few times that a lot of people are actually paying attention B) becoming increasingly obsolete in an era of instantaneous and stream-of-consciousness news and events C) able to sway undecideds and independents while energizing a base for an election just around the corner D) intentionally vague and sometimes littered with truth bending and prevarications, with the intention of highlighting the best possible vision of (insert candidate name here)’s prospective administration E) a flaming bowling pins-juggling with a bouncy ball on your nose while walking a tightrope balancing act that should mesh policy wonkery with big ideas F) all of the above.
As always (I wish), the answer is all of the above.
Given that dynamic, watching the four folks vying for the highest offices in the land deliver speeches – on the stump, during official campaign events, and most importantly, at their respective national conventions – has had me, and quite a few pundits, scratching our collective heads a bit.
Sure, Mitt Romney’s bland and uninspiring delivery is nothing new and Vice President Joe Biden will always be the blue-collar everyman we know and love – gaffe-prone, honest, and in full attack-dog mode.
But Paul Ryan was supposed to be the down-home cooking to Romney’s cold and distant caviar. He was supposed to be the career politician/budget wonk that was recruited to bring a plan, wrapped in crispy Conservative bacon, to a base waiting desperately for it in a year where the “foreign feeling” incumbent is vulnerable.
As for our President of these United States, Barack Obama? This man has re-defined political speeches. Onelaunched him from relative obscurity into the national spotlight en route to the Presidency. Another seemed to be the seminal and cathartic text on race relations for the 21st century. His oratory and rhetoric is the single most powerful case for his meteoric rise in politics.
So… what’s the deal? Ryan’s address to the Republican National Convention was flat, lacked detail, and did not seem to be neither a plan nor an inspiration to the Conservative base. And President Obama’s speech has been described as workman-like and adequate – a far cry from what we know to be his potential and a far cry from what a country still in recovery seems to need.
I’m not a seasoned politician or an accomplished orator, but I am a citizen, one who likes to think of himself as objective. Here is what I believe we could have heard from the President and Ryan, one and two weeks, respectively, ago. Here is a take on their convention speeches, in my own words.
My Fellow Americans,
I come to you tonight a man humbled. A man honored. A man proud.
Political campaigns can sometimes seem so small. Filled with petty negativity and childish maneuvering. The last few months have, at times, been battles for the soul of America, at others, weary horses jockeying for power. If you’re tired of hearing me ‘approve this message’, trust me, so am I.
You have heard over the last week, and longer, about the grand choices of this election. European style socialism and unregulated bankers running roughshod over your pensions. You have been subjected to the rhetorical extremes of two valid, albeit opposed, visions for the country.
I know. I have been complicit and I despise it. Washington is a quagmire of self-interest and anger. The halls of Congress and the situation room of 1600 Pennsylvania can cause cabin fever.
The greatest moments of public service are away from the capital; ones spent around those whom we represent and serve. I have traveled to every inch of this country and I have heard stories that would bring tears, those of joy and sadness, to the most hardened heart and the most sequestered eye. These human experiences are the ones I clutch to my chest and stamp into my mind; and armed with them, I travel back to Washington and get to work.
About this work accomplished, I will be brief.
The duty to engender the healthy life of every man, woman, and child is a natural right of the social contract. Your life cannot and must not be allowed to become a risk against bottom line profits. Three of the four men on Mount Rushmore, as well as 4 of our last 7 Presidents knew this to be true.
The global recession of 2008 was not an ordinary one. It was, and continues to be, a balance sheet recession. Japan suffered one for 16 years between 1980 and 1996, we are in year 4. It’s inception and continued existence is possible because of three things: far too much consumer and government debt, unfair and overly risky practices by private industries such as banking lending and trading funded by taxpayers, and a lack of competition with the rest of the developing world in infrastructure and education. The only, I repeat only, way to escape from the clutches of these factors is to do focus on three things in response:
First, develop and implement an economic plan that consists of a short-term jolt of the economy with a mass-influx of funds to entice private industry again and a long-term weening off of those government funds while heavily cutting into the deficit by eliminating tax loopholes, taking the saddle of healthcare costs and student loans off of consumers by making them more efficient and less dependent on taxpayers, and by reforming entitlement programs. In other words: the Stimulus bill, Making College Affordable Act, the increase of employment standards for welfare requirement, and what I now affectionately call Obamacare. Do not let Washington tell you what to think, do your own research and you will know that this is the truth.
Second, respect the greatness of our private institutions and financial industry while letting them know that they cannot and must not be able to simply fall prey to the greed that ends in predatory practices and the pride to not know when gambles with American taxpayers are beyond their means. Let Wall Street be the thundering economic engine we remember from the 20th century, but put rules in place that send a clear message: the servants of the public will always protect the American people before it protects bottom line profits. In other words, Dodd-Frank and the sweeping financial reforms of 2009.
Third, understand and act upon this one basic principle: these United States rose from a band of angered colonies to be the envy of the world and the shining model for all nations because we made the greatest products, we built highways skyscrapers and bridges that boggle the mind, and we churned out the best and brightest the world has ever seen. Manufacturing, infrastructure, and education. These three things are the iron backbone that allow innovation, employment, pride, security, and exceptionalism to stand tall. Our administration enacted The American Recovery Act, Race to the Top, and the bail-out, re-invention, and roaring comeback of the United States automobile industry. Anyone who says they believe in, or want the best for this country, without investing in these bedrocks, let alone attempt to take funding away from them, is not being honest with the American people. Period.
This is the work you elected me to do. And this is the work we have done.
However, for better or worse, success in politics is measured by the distance between election cycles. Every plan must return dividends in two years if you’re running for Congress, six years for Senate, and four years for a President. This forced your elected officials to only plant seeds that will fully harvest in a year, or two, or four. But this nation’s greatness was not built by one President nor was it destroyed by one. And the glory of our future cannot be fully realized in one administrative term.
What we seek, and have sought, to do is to till the fields, extract the poison, enrich the soil, and lay the groundwork for a plentiful orchard for the future – to sow the seeds of unity and opportunity so that this nation may bear the fruit and the shine the light that is our providence. And we did. We said we can and we did. Together.
Today is a decidedly different day than the days we faced 4 years ago.
4 years we ago we could only hope because it is the human emotion we cling to when things seem most bleak. Today, we can persevere because the dawn beyond the darkness is so firmly within grasp – so squarely in sight. 4 years ago we yearned for change because our course was destructive and our ship was sinking. Today, we surge forward because after 3 and a half years, long hours, the resolve of generations past, and a clear vision for our future, the ship has been righted, the waters are stable, the wind is in our sails, and we know that it is now full speed ahead.
4 years ago hope and change were prayers and anger and disappointment and anxiety. Until… until you answered the call. You became the change you were looking for. You are the hope that emboldens your neighbors. And so hope has become resolution and perseverance. Change has become an outstretched arm pointing straight ahead. And tonight, as I humbly and firmly accept your nomination for President of the United States, tonight I ask you to stand with me.
Not as a politician, a savior, a martyr, a success, a failure, a talking point, or a lightning rod. I am no longer a candidate, I must look beyond those thing… I am your President.
Teacher, mother, soldier, veteran, construction worker, impoverished, wealthy, banker, janitor, son, daughter, friend, and foe – I am your President and I will not rest until we have realized our collective dream.
Forgive me for a moment as I paraphrase Dr. King. Yes, we have got some difficult days ahead, all of us. Your weight is mine. But I don’t mind. I will earn these graying hairs and I will endure vitriol and criticism with a smile, because… because I have seen the Promised Land. I will not let anger dictate our dialogue because I have seen, a people united. And I know that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.
So tonight I ask you for your faith. I ask you to finish this journey with me. Fear not, worry not – we have overcome forces seemingly insurmountable, in our distant and immediate past – and we will overcome again. I know we will – for mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
God has always and will continue to bless these United States – it is incumbent upon his children to rise to His call and meet the hands of Providence. The road is ahead, the path is forward – we will get there, together.
Thank you all and good night.
Good evening my fellow Americans,
I remember sitting in my living room one normal Saturday afternoon as an 8 year old boy, eating cereal and watching cartoons with my older brother and sister. My mother had spent the week cleaning the carpets, which had built up some grime and dirt, from the potent combination of 4 children and 2 pets.
Mom was busy around the house and my father was still asleep. With no supervision, we didn’t see why we had to keep going into the kitchen to get more cereal, so we just brought out the box of Corn Flakes and the carton of milk. Easy refills and Tom and Jerry; that’s kid heaven right there.
As you would expect, we made a mess. The carpet, now covered in milk that one of us, to this day I don’t remember who, had knocked over and soggy Corn Flakes, was even worse than before my mother worked so hard to get it clean.
Mom came out, saw the damage, and asked who knocked over the carton. And so the arguing began between 3 kids, none older than 14 years old. We pointed fingers, we yelled at each other, we blamed the sibling to our left, we even resorted to pointed to other good things we had done to deflect attention; we did everything we could to save our own individual hides. We deflected blame, flailed our arms, and hoped the whole ordeal would just go away.
My dad woke up from the commotion, came out of his room, and into the living room. He and my mom stood over us, silently, waiting for us to finish whining. Then my dad cleared his throat and said, “Tobin, get the scrubbers, Paul, get 3 towels and soak up what’s in the carpet, I’ll get the carpet washer out of the garage.” And mom said, “Simone, get the soap, and I’ll grab a sponge and the carpet cleaner.” We all stared at them for a moment before my dad said, “Come on, get up. This carpet isn’t going to clean itself. Let’s get to work.”
The money we owe to other countries, our national debt, is now $7.5 trillion. It has increased more in the last 4 years then it had from George Washington’s inauguration until 2008. Unemployment is more than a full percent higher today than it was in 2008. Our nation’s students are $1 trillion in debt. Our next generation of seniors will be witnessing the full collapse and bankruptcy of Medicare before the dawn of another decade. The innovators who helped build this nation and employ it’s people are fleeing to other lands. Of every single hard-earned dollar of tax that you send to Washington, 30 cents of it is given to China, Germany, and Japan. The values that have made this nation the envy of the world: responsive democracy, a commitment to Christian values, innovation, the free-market, and the greatest products, education, and system of economic and political governance ever produced, devised, and implemented – are deteriorating. Don’t take my word for it, look around you. Ask your neighbors, ask your congregation, ask yourself.
Our prosperous past is fading, our present is stuck hopefully waiting for a vague and ineffective change, and our future is a bleak vision of anxiety, division, and loss of identity.
Imagery without substance is meaningless. This is what must be done: we must suck the fat out of bloated government and return it to private industry. The private sector has proven, throughout our entire history, to be a more efficient, streamlined, and effective vehicle than government. We will allow the market to correct itself by creating an environment where businesses can be started, can grow, and flourish. And we will build a society that enables everyone to reach as high as they wish while chipping away at the anchor that has held this country from soaring above it’s competitors: the debt. I’m sure these all sound wonderful but your question is, as it should be, how. Here are a few ways: people like Governor Romney and I will have our tax loopholes closed so that we must pay taxes on all of our earnings and income while taxes go down for anyone making less than $200,000 a year or any small business with less than 500 employees. Medicare, Social Security, student loans, and infrastructure building will become all-functioning, no bureaucracy, no headache engines that support and build our economy and our citizens by not being full servants to the monolith of government. We will create programs that partner the public and private sector to create and enrich these programs. This will allow us as a society to better care for our citizens, while staying true to our values. And finally, and more importantly, by entering office with an open mind but a bold vision we will let this country breath. Less taxes, less government, more cooperation and less hostility towards the entrepreneurs, dreamers, and businesses that built us from the ground up, fiscal common sense, cutting at the deficit through efficiency and public-private cooperation – in short, get the albatrosses off our backs and give us the space to run into the 21st century, while the government simply opens up the way and then backs off. That is the America your next President and I want. It is what we will give you, if you lend us your faith and your support.
Children point fingers and yell. The frightened scurry to lay blame on others. The insecure deflect attention and delay. The failed try to show you fringe areas in which they’ve succeeded. Leaders do not squabble in minutia.
I care not who has brought us to this point. I do not concern myself with rat race pettiness. And I will never speak to you, the American people, like children who need to be braced, scolded, or lectured to.
I care about 2.5 million people unemployed and another 1.2 million who are all out of Hope and have simply stopped looking for work. I concern myself with reducing the debt by $5 trillion in a decade, and balancing the budget. I work to ensure that the bedrocks of education, Medicare, and free enterprise are never crushed under the weights of inefficiency, financial burden, and fear. I dream of bringing a glory to this nation the likes of which it has not seen in generations.
So get your resume, your lunch pail, and your God-given right to bring pride to your family as a provider. I’ll get my plan for a brighter future, the Path to Prosperity, my conviction in God and I will rally Washington.
And as my father once told me: come on, let us get up. This country will not fix itself. Let’s get to work. Because there is no use crying over spilled milk.
Thank you, may God bless you all, and I count on getting to work on November 7th.