Too crowded with angels

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.


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13 Responses to Too crowded with angels

  1. Unknown says:

    I think this one is better !!!!

  2. David says:

    It\’s the American President they can only hope for. There are many formal and informal speeches that are delivered by Martin Sheen throughout the seven series\’ of the show, and many are so relevant to the realities of politics today. It certainly wouldn\’t hurt the presidential candidates/nominees to take some time out and look at these. Pity there is an annoying piece of music being played over the video, it ruins its poignancy.

  3. Ted says:

    Talk is cheap and from politicians like the media it is a downright lie.  When they say \’WE\’ they really mean \’YOU LOT\’. So a simple statement of "..we must work hard to achieve our goals." means: "YOU will work hard to achieve my (power elite) goals".
    How or why any rational, free-thinking adult person buys into this baloney is puzzling but then, every great dictator in the world ever was a great orator. Hitler and Stalin were great orators but evil people. The likes of George Bush or Gordon Brown are dictators of a very low grade and very bad at making credible speeches. Bush can barely string a coherent sentence together and is a truer representation of all that\’s sadly wrong with the U.S. these days. i.e. Thick, cowardly, incompetent liars can achieve great heights when helped by people of the same detestable virtues in organisations such as the \’Freemason\’, the Bilderberg group, Skull & Bones, The Trilateral commission, The council on foreign relations and a whole raft of other \’money for old rope\’ bureaucratic hidden agenda clubs.
    Gordon Brown, though a better speaker, is all \’smoke and mirrors. An illusionist who is either deluded or expects us all to not just believe but even pay for his delusions or hidden agenda. His predecessor Blair was just the same.
    A better approach by the public would be to understand that politicians run on a corporate and personal agenda so what come out of their mouths is complete rubbish and exists to make them and their ilk more rich and powerful while you and yours can (in the words of the tactless dictator Mugabe), \’Go hang\’. 

  4. Dr Society says:

    I agree – it looks dodgy and interestingly,on this subject, the Bent Society  blog talks about politicans doing just that today…and also that the best seller Freakanomics – which claims to look at the hidden side of everything hid the truth about other researchers who "got their first" :
    Pass it on,…its a good blog

  5. collin says:

    totally agree on the bartlett speech, being a fan of the west wing, i can only wish that the world in which we co-exist should have people of power with just an ounce of humility that a brilliant writer\’s imagination could conjure..
    we live in hope?/…….

  6. Maurice says:

    I\’m a great fan of the series, and as you say it is some of the finest television ever made. The speech is truely breathtaking, but I think for me, the greatest would have to be MLK\’s "I have a dream"

  7. Matthew says:

    Total Crap! The American Presidency is corrupt – all US politicians talk bollocks!

  8. mart says:

    Hmmm – I think maybe Lincoln at Gettysburg was a little better

  9. Nii Molai says:

    Another good speech a shame it\’s fictional, but maybe that\’s the true purpose of Art so that life imitates it and not for art to imitate life.

  10. Unknown says:

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