While the rest of Obama's speech yesterday was brilliant, I always have a little "huh?" moment when he says something like "for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible".
If his 'story' involves becoming President of the United States then yes, in no other country can you become President of the United States. That's an obvious tautology.
On the other hand if his 'story' involves a mixed-race child growing up to be an accomplished politician then I'm pretty sure that's happened in several other countries already.
Don't get me wrong. I'm an Obama supporter, his personal story and family are inspiring, and he's not the first politician to say something because it sounds nice, and I realize I'm being persnickety here. But his story doesn't seem like it ought to be unique to our country. Except that I can't think of any counterexamples, so maybe he's right.
You can tell that he has spent 20 years in a black church. He sounded like a preacher yesterday. His tone, timing, and delivery remind me of MLK. He was less bombastic perhaps, but no less powerful.
It is an obvious exaggeration to say "for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible." He's an accomplished orator, and they often exaggerate to underline a point. The point is that we have all been raised with this myth of America and its dream. A dream that in this country where the people are sovereign, we all are judged not on our heritage but our merits. He is tapping that deep seated myth ingrained into every person that went through the American public school system.
Black people effectively got the right to vote in 1965. Just 43 years later one of their own is making a real and effective bid for the highest political office in the land. That is an incredible story and I doubt that it is possible in any other country. 100 years prior in 1865 a Civil War came to an end that saw the freeing of those people from the bonds of slavery. Those people started with nothing, and rose up through decades of discrimination and violence.
Look at the ethnic cleansing going on in just the last 30 years around the world. Racial and ethnic minorities are brutally oppressed and exterminated as if they were no more than pests. We have had our share of ugly and bitter violence, but nothing on this scale. As a citizenry we are steeped in the idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While our execution has not been ideal, it is the core of what we believe as citizens and I believe that it guides us down a stronger path.
We are on the path to elect a black man to the executive political office in a country founded by white Europeans. Please tell me where else this has happened. Please tell me where this will happen anytime in the near future. When do you think the French will elect a Muslim to be the President of France? Perhaps, an Indian to be the Prime Minister in England?
We are not perfect. We have a history of brutal segregation, intolerance, and an inexcusable amount of violence against a racial minority stripped of their humanity.
We the people are on a course to elect one of them to the office of the President of the United States of America. That is a rare feat in human history. That makes me proud to be an American.