Barack Obama – The Rock On Which We Rebuild This House

President Obama came to Georgetown University this morning, where he made what has been referred to as a “major speech” on the economy. The event was held in GU’s Gaston Hall, which holds about 700 people. Of the literally thousands of students who put their names into the lottery for tickets to the event I was one of only about 100 students to be lucky enough to get a ticket. I went to the event this morning mostly just excited for the opportunity to see someone as incredible as Obama speak in person. I knew it was a speech about the economy, but i wasn’t aware that it was to be a particularly significant event for the president. It wasn’t until I was browsing Bloomberg news on my iPhone while waiting for the event to start and saw an analyst’s article about the advance copy of the speech that I realized people outside our campus community were paying attention to this.

Of all of the speeches I have heard him make, I think this is the most presidential I have ever heard him sound. Of course I have always thought he was a great speaker, and speeches like his acceptance speech in Chicago on election night simultaneously give me chills and move me to tears. But this is the first that I have heard in which he has spent the entire speech actually trying to govern and make the United States the better nation he so often promises.

He began by giving his audience the best summary of the events that led up to the current economic crisis that I have ever heard. It was clear, concise, and could be understood by anyone with any sense, while at the same time not make those people feel stupid. He addressed what actions his administration has taken to start fixing things, and promised what further measures he intended to take in the future. He addressed the concerns of his political opponents on issues and defended his ground beautifly.

More than a different direction in policy and agenda (which I think was desparately needed as well), it is exactly this quality I think was lacking in George Bush. Regardless of ones political views, it is pretty widely acknowledged that he was not a good speaker. Had Bush had the confidence and poise to describe to Americans and to the world what he thought needed to be done and to be able to rationally explain why he thought so, he would have had much higher approval overall, in my opinion.

When we were leavning the auditorium, the crowd was at a standstill for several minutes, and when I looked around, I realized that I was standing very near to Van Jones, an activist and a leader in the movement towards a more sustainable and green economy–and himself an excellent speaker–and realized he had just been watching the speech as part of the crowd, only a couple rows ahead of me. I introduced myself and asked him what he thought of the speech. He responded enthusiastically (and i paraphrase):

“Barack Obama is one of those presidents. In a hundred or a thousand years, he will be held up by history as one of the great men of the world, like Abraham Lincoln or Alexander the Great. In a thousand years, you could be on some other planet in another galaxy and you’ll get a smile if you mention Barack Obama.”

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