update: Sprung responds to Ta-Nehisi Coates criticism of Obama.
Andrew Sprung is, in my opinion, our best analyst of President Obama's rhetoric. James Fallows runs a close second, but Sprung is more focused. Here he looks at Obama's commencement address at Morehouse College - a Black, men's school. He is addressing an audience of graduate Black men as a Black man. The long quote after the link is the President. The link will give you Sprung's annotated text.
Reading this was for me one of those moments, which occur from time to time, when I am stupefied afresh that a man who can speak, and think, and feel like that, is president of the United States.On the personal side, this was both a boast and an anti-boast. The president of the United States effectively claimed a mantle as our empath-in-chief.
Obama also very pointedly addressed the Morehouse Men as men. He was able to do this in large part simply by being factual - he was addressing a class of men only
Obama gets personal at Morehouse | xpostfactoid:
"As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when somebody asks them where they come from or tell them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love that they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work — she knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in.
So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy — the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, to know what it’s like when you’re not born on 3rd base, thinking you hit a triple. It should give you the ability to connect. It should give you a sense of compassion and what it means to overcome barriers.
And I will tell you, Class of 2013, whatever success I have achieved, whatever positions of leadership I have held have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs, and have instead been due to that sense of connection and empathy — the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had — because there but for the grace of God, go I — I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me. (Applause.)
So it’s up to you to widen your circle of concern — to care about justice for everybody, white, black and brown. Everybody. Not just in your own community, but also across this country and around the world. To make sure everyone has a voice, and everybody gets a seat at the table; that everybody, no matter what you look like or where you come from, what your last name is — it doesn’t matter, everybody gets a chance to walk through those doors of opportunity if they are willing to work hard enough."
'via Blog this'