Posted by Ian
Much has been made of the eloquence on display during this year’s American presidential race. Barack Obama in particular has been idolised – and lampooned – for his ability to turn on a stream of stunning prose like a tap:
‘We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change…For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told that we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: yes we can.’
Since when did you hear that kind of stuff coming out of the mouth of a UK politician?
Anyway, for my money the best political speech ever given hails not from the real world but from television. It’s from an episode of The West Wing, one of the greatest TV series ever made, and is spoken by the fictional President Bartlet, as played by Martin Sheen:
‘More than any time in recent history, America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive.
’44 people were killed a couple of hours ago at Kennison State University. Three swimmers from the men’s team were killed, and two others are in critical condition, when, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran into the fire.
‘The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars.’
It gains even more power in the delivery:
Only someone without a soul could fail to be inspired by that.