Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 12:31 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 12:31 | SYDNEY

Who could fail to be moved by this?


Michael Fullilove


8 November 2008 07:00

It’s been an exhilarating couple of days to be in the United States, as a great victory was won by the most gifted presidential candidate in decades and America demonstrated again why it has such a hold on the world’s imagination. I described some of my feelings at the end of this interview on election night.

Both the victorious candidate and the defeated one gave very fine speeches, from Chicago and Phoenix respectively. I thought it was notable that Obama underplayed the significance of his race whereas McCain emphasized it – which was both counterintuitive and correct in both cases.

John McCain made a classy exit from the presidential stage: his speech was serious, patriotic and generous. This was a return to the old McCain, after the nonsense of Bill Ayers and socialism and everything else towards the end of his campaign. This McCain could well turn out to be one of Obama’s best friends in the Senate.

Barack Obama’s speech was pitch-perfect. He was both steady and rousing. Without mentioning it explicitly, he reminded us of his breakthrough speech to the DNC in Boston in 2004 with his line that ‘we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.’ He nodded to old American orators and themes: when he asked Americans to ‘put their hands on the arc of history and bend it’ he was conjuring up Martin Luther King, Jr’s claim that ‘the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice’.

And then – as if to show a little rhetorical leg – he moved from heavy to light, telling his daughters ‘you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.’ That line reminded me that Americans haven’t just elected an African-American to the presidency, they’ve put a black family into the White House. Who could fail to be moved by that?

Washington is an unromantic place, and the city has moved quickly into transition phase. Democrats – and a few Republicans – are moving to secure the juiciest jobs on offer. But the rest of America (and much of the world, it seems), is still on a high – and I’m going to stay there with them, for the weekend at least.