Sunday, October 7, 2012

"You are the change" - Obama's rhetoric and the abstract truth

Andrew Sprung writes
It didn't take a four-year crawl back from a financial industry meltdown to make Obama warn that change is slow and frustrating and unromantic. And understanding change as a joint project of leader and led is a concept that Obama has held, and expressed,  since he was a 24 year-old neophyte organizer.
The occasion for that insight into President Obama's consistent rhetorical theme (we are in this together) is Frontline's production of two contrasting personal letters - from Mitt Romney about his work as a Mormon missionary in France and Obama's as a community organizer.  Sprung lays out the consistency in Barack Obama's vision going back to his early twenties when he was a neighborhood organizer in Chicago. - GWC

The credo of a community organizer - Xpostfactoid

Frontline has put up a series of "artifacts" from the lives of Obama and Romney, including a letter, highlighted by Fallows, that Obama wrote to a friend in 1985 (at age 25) when he was a few months into his job as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. One sentence leaped out at me, because it's echoed in Obama's rhetoric throughout his career in a strain that's often written off as mystical hooey -- including last month, in Charlotte. Not to be coy, I've highlighted it below.
"Promises I hope they can help me keep": Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention this year cast his presidency as such a joint operation. Carefully blended together were the things that "I've" done as president, the tenets that "we" believe, and the choice that "you" must make. That I-you-we blend prepared this peroration:

I work in five different neighborhoods of differing economic conditions. In one neighborhood, I'll be meeting with a group or irate homeowners, working class folks, bus drivers and nurses and clerical administrators, whose section of town has been ignored by the Department of Streets and Sanitations since the whites moved out twenty years ago. In another, I'll be trying to bring together a group of welfare mothers, mothers at 15, grandmothers at 30, great-grandmothers at 45, trying to help them win better job training and day care facilities from the State. In either situation, I walk into a room and make promises I hope they can help me keep. They generally trust me, despite the fact that they've seen earnest young men pass through here before, expecting to change the world and eventually succumbing to the lure of a corporate office. And in a short time I've learned to care for them very much and want to do everything I can for them.

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