March 24, 2008

a more perfect union

A little before 10 pm on a school night, when I really should have been asleep, I started playing this speech. I'd read it, and heard snippets; the Gardener hadn't heard it at all. The first thing she said was that she didn't think she could pay attention to the speech right then and maybe she could listen to it later. Then the speech started. Then she sat down in a black folding chair, wrapped a blanket around herself, and stared at the screen for the next 37 minutes and 26 seconds. We could not have stopped the speech, any more than we could have photosynthesized. It might be the best speech I've ever heard. No politician has ever talked about race honestly in my hearing before; there's a single off moment, when he talks about Israel, but the rest is extraordinary. It is simultaneously about reality and about ideals, about accepting pain and messiness and working towards the best in each person.

It's worth watching, even if you've already read the transcript. The New York Times has better quality video and a linked transcript. It's worth sending to everyone you know. It's worth watching again.

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