It’s official, the political debate of 2016 is over — if ever there was one.
Yesterday (October 13th) at Southern New Hampshire University, First Lady Michele Obama put an end to it.
In twenty-six and a half minutes, she proved once and for all that America indeed IS a great country – not a nation that needs to be made great again.
A measure of American greatness is revealed in our openness to change, a willingness to embrace principled leadership, and to correct the course — especially during periods of societal discord, when we stray from our core values. In those times, it is always possible for someone to “rise up,” provide moral clarity, and lead us to a better place. Ms. Obama has done just that.
Sure, her purpose in the New Hampshire speech was partisan. On one level, her message was a typical campaign speech. On another level, though, her speech deftly reframed the continuing liberation struggle faced by women – not just American women, but all women. As she said, “And I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong, and we simply cannot endure this or expose our children to this any longer. Not for another minute, let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’”
On yet a deeper level, however, her message was more than about the treatment of women and girls. There is another message here – one not bound so much in her words, but in her action — the courageous act of her “rising up. “
Her speech can be interpreted as a “call” aimed at those of us who have remained in the background as spectators during this contentious campaign season. It was a wake-up for those who have remained silent bystanders — thus allowing the national conversation to become acrimonious..
In another time and place, Dr. Martin Luther King penned a heartfelt letter while confined to a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. Addressing the white clergy, Dr. King expressed his frustration with their silence and unwillingness to confront the injustices in Birmingham. “I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.”
Fast-forward 53 years. Can we be accused of standing passively “on the sidelines”? Have good and decent citizens been simply mouthing trivialities, rather than bravely confronting the insults, the animosity, the prejudice, the paranoia, the distortions, the lies, the anger, the disrespect, the pessimism, and the divisiveness characterizing today’s national conversation? Has our inaction led to a normalization of this dark rhetoric?
First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Enough is enough.” In so doing she has begun the “take back.”
The best of this country now needs to step up and help reclaim the discourse – one word at a time. We need to stand up for inclusiveness, unity, respect, thoughtfulness, truth, dialogue, justice, equality, optimism, and reasonableness. Since our inaction is partly responsible for the negative, downward spiral we find ourselves in, we are now obligated to “right the ship.”
Headline in the October 14th Los Angeles Times: “Michelle Obama delivers what may be a defining moment in the presidential campaign.” I would rewrite that headline to read: “Michelle Obama delivers what may be a defining moment in American history.” As she so eloquently said, “In difficult times, we don’t discard our highest ideals. No, we rise up to meet them! We rise up to perfect our union.”
Now, that’s who we are; that’s the greatness of America. First Lady Michelle Obama has proven it once and for all.
See Ms. Obama’s speech at: