You Are Not On Your Own

Well, that was interesting. Obama did exactly what he needed to do tonight. He gave people a vision of the American dream, and unless McCain can trump that vision, or undermine it, this election is as good as won.

The soundbites were there for all to see, ‘We are a better country than this’ and ‘The Republicans must own their failure’. being among my favourites. But those are an essential part of modern rhetoric. More fundamentally interesting was the message woven through Obama’s speech. Whether he was talking about his own life and background, or outlining policy, or attacking John McCain, every element came back to the same idea – that America needs to unite and rebuild its strength and standing as a nation. At a time of global crisis and domestic economic collapse this was exactly the right message to project. He hammered on the Republican philosophy of giving more and more to the rich. If you are poor or weak in today’s America you are in Obama’s words, ‘On you own’, but Obama will change that. In a time when more and more people find themselves poor, that was the right message to project. Obama even played on the natural cynicism of voters who have seen these promises made time and again, and been let down time and again. Obama is not the change coming _from_ washington, he is the change coming _to_ Washington, a force from outside politics delivering the will of the people. In a time when people have lost any faith in politics, that was also the right message to project.

I don’t expect government to solve problems. The modern world is too complex, there are too many forces at play outside any human control, for goverment to be any more than either a minor salve or irritant to the way things are. I’d like to lay every problem in the world at the Bush’s door, but however much their policies have exacerbated problems, they are not the sole cause. An Obama government can do very little in practical terms to solve those problems, although I hope that it will do what it can.

Governments don’t solve problems. People solve problems. If our society works it not because of government, its because enough people get up every day and contribute to it, and help each other. What our leaders provide in the end are not solutions, but vision. The Bush visison has been on every level grubby and cheap and weak. The real tragedy of the last eight years has been to see that vision manifest itself in America and in the world. But the vision Barrack Obama gave people last night was solid and strong. There are many barriers to that vision becoming a reality, but ultimately if people choose to believe in it, and choose to make it happen, then Obama will be the right president for our time.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

3 thoughts on “You Are Not On Your Own

  1. I agree that it was a very impressive speech. The man knows how to say things well. What I find intriguing about Obama is that he doesn’t let himself tip into cynicism. He talks about politics as if they are a way of igniting and channeling the actions of people, rather than a patch on a inevitably scary world. It’s refreshing.
    How bizarre it must be to speak to 84,000 people, most of whom adore you.



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