Barack Obama's Speech

No, not that one. Not that one either. The one that he gave in Kenya this week. It's drawn remarkable praise from the Wall Street Journal and Commentary magazine.

At first, he tells a touching anecdote that persuades me that he really does feel a tie to Kenya in a way that he never did anywhere else.
I was a young man and I was just a few years out of University. I had worked as a community organizer in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago. I was about to go to law school. And when I came here, in many ways I was a Westerner, I was an American, unfamiliar with my father and his birthplace, really disconnected from half of my heritage. And at that airport, as I was trying to find my luggage, there was a woman there who worked for the airlines, and she was helping fill out the forms, and she saw my name and she looked up and she asked if I was related to my father, who she had known. And that was the first time that my name meant something. (Applause.)
So he is speaking to a people who are recognizably his people in a deep and special way. He talks about his family. He talks about the indignities the British heaped on him, such as referring to him as a "boy" when he was a grown man and a military veteran of the British King's African Rifles. He talks about how hard it was for his father to get admitted to any university, finally succeeding in Hawaii. He does not mention his own story, because of course they know it. He wants to use the shared history of suffering to make a point that aligns what he wants to say about Kenya with what he wants to say about his own life. And that is this:
For too long, I think that many looked to the outside for salvation and focused on somebody else being at fault for the problems of the continent. And as my sister said, ultimately we are each responsible for our own destiny.
There's a lot to like in the address. Emphasis on the importance of the rule of law if Kenya is to succeed:
Here in Kenya, it's time to change habits, and decisively break that cycle. Because corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life. It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could. If you need to pay a bribe and hire somebody’s brother -- who’s not very good and doesn’t come to work -- in order to start a business, well, that’s going to create less jobs for everybody. If electricity is going to one neighborhood because they’re well-connected, and not another neighborhood, that’s going to limit development of the country as a whole. (Applause.) If someone in public office is taking a cut that they don't deserve, that’s taking away from those who are paying their fair share.

So this is not just about changing one law -- although it's important to have laws on the books that are actually being enforced. It’s important that not only low-level corruption is punished, but folks at the top, if they are taking from the people, that has to be addressed as well. (Applause.) But it's not something that is just fixed by laws, or that any one person can fix. It requires a commitment by the entire nation -- leaders and citizens -- to change habits and to change culture. (Applause.)

Tough laws need to be on the books. And the good news is, your government is taking some important steps in the right direction. People who break the law and violate the public trust need to be prosecuted.
Emphasis added.

It sounds like a good plan, Mr. President. I'm all in favor of enforcing the rule of law on the powerful. The folks at the top need to be held responsible when they betray the public trust. You've still got a year or so to get started on it.


MikeD said...

You've still got a year or so to get started on it.

I strongly urge you not to hold your breath waiting for this, Grim.

E Hines said...

Well, he is a better speech writer than his speech writers. Further, given the level of integrity he's shown so far these past six and more years, there's no reason to believe this one is any different.

It's one of his better sounding speeches, certainly, but it's still empty rhetoric.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Maybe not. Maybe this is the advice he'd give you if he really loved you.

E Hines said...

Maybe he would. It's still wholly unbelievable.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Well, OK. I'm willing to give the guy just this much credit: I think he might be speaking the truth as he sees it from his heart here. He just doesn't do it "at home," for whatever reason. Maybe because it's not where he really feels at home.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Coded message about the ruling Kenyattas, the rivals (mutually violent) of the Obamas for decades. Africans picked up this subtext, Americans couldn't.

The trip's main purpose was to insult Kenyatta and lord it over him.

E Hines said...

Well, OK. I'm willing to give the guy just this much credit: I think he might be speaking the truth as he sees it from his heart here.

He's an habitual liar here. Maybe it's an accurate statement, maybe it's another lie. How is it possible to recognize, in any statement he makes in any location or on any subject, the difference between his truth and his lie? That's the problem with being a liar. Having lied, the distinction isn't possible without independent corroboration. What he does is all that's observable.

Obama isn't worth that much trouble.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Africans picked up this subtext, Americans couldn't.

I certainly couldn't. Tell me more about this, please.

Ymar Sakar said...

The person at the top above Hussein is called Bush II, don't forget that he's still in power.