Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's Victory Speech

I have a new speech that I intend on showing to my students for years to come. One of the difficulties with showing a class an historical speech is, if they did not live through the time, they cannot fully appreciate the speech. While Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech was one of the greatest of all time, most of my students today were born in the 80’s, or 90’s and it is hard for them to appreciate the speech in the context of the time.

The second aspect is, since it is a period of time through which they did not live, they are not as interested in the speech as they should be (at least in my humble opinion). When I showed the speech of Franklin Roosevelt asking for a declaration of war, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while some found the speech interesting, many did not because it happened a long time ago.

To counteract this, I try to find some current speeches as well. So, when I show FDR’s address, I juxtapose George W. Bush’s speech following 9/11 and argue that it was basically the same speech, looking to do the same thing. The newest speech that I will add to my repertoire is Barack OBama’s victory speech.

Forget whatever your personal feelings may be about the man (positive or negative), if you just look at the speech, I believe, you will see one of the greatest speeches, better than most inaugural addresses. Obama certainly wanted to deliver a speech that looked to heal and unite following a bitter election season. He also wanted to set forth his agenda and begin the work. He succeeded.

The speech invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln, and the image of a man looking to lead a country, and heal a country, through its most difficult time. The speech was part MLK, using part of his speaking style and imagery to get the public to respond. The speech was also part JFK. O’Bama was able to invoke imagery, talk about the advanced we have made throughout our history, talk about what still has to be done and talk about the significance of electing a Black man to the office of President. His ability to tell a large part of his tale through what a 106 year old woman saw, was very effective.

Obama’s speech was almost flawless. I say almost, because there was one point toward the beginning, where he seemed to lose his place and have trouble getting restarted. It is possible this was just emotions getting the best of him but to me, it came across as though he were reading off a teleprompter and the prompter stopped for a moment.

Still, it was an excellent speech, an historic speech, and for my purposes, one that deserves to be studies for years to come.