The Power of Our Example
I’ve been an Obama supporter from the get-go — from the day I heard him speak at a Minnesota DFL (Democratic-Farm-Labor) Party gathering in April 2006. Listening to him I thought what most other people have thought whenever they heard him speak: “You know, this guy could be president.”
But, I admit, I’ve been blown away by both Bill and Hillary Clinton at the DNC this week. Listening to her, I thought, “If she’d been this good during the campaign, she might’ve been the nominee.” Listening to him, I thought, “I’d vote for him again in a second.”
Her speech was good, but this bit put her over the top:
This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up. How do we give this country back to them?
By following the example of a brave New Yorker, a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad. And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.
If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If they're shouting after you, keep going.
Don't ever stop. Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.
Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.
The electricity that infused the convention center at that moment was overwhelming. I could feel it through the TV set and into my home in Seattle. I got shivers. My friend, Jim, another Obama supporter, called it “Obamaesque.”
Bill, meanwhile, did what every good writer, and every good lawyer, does: He boiled his case down to the specifics and presented them with charm. But, from all that, this was the line. Whoever came up with it deserves a raise:
Barack Obama knows that America cannot be strong abroad unless we are strong at home. People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.
That’s it, isn’t it? The U.S. has spent most of its history, from “Shining City on a Hill” through the Marshall Plan and the Peace Corps, relying on the power of our example. There’s a lot of grime beneath that myth but it’s a myth worth adhering to. We do what we do; if others follow, that’s up to them. Since 9/11 we've acted the opposite, and those seven years have shown us the limits of our power. We’re exhausted, deeply entrenched, trapped. We’ve made more enemies than ever before. The more we use the example of our power, the more we have to use it. And the world’s a big place.
The power of our example? That’s an unlimited power source.