If you have 38 minutes, watch Barack Obama’s sweeping, historic, honest speech about race and progressive values in America. If you don’t have the time now, find the time. Soon.
Many have already praised the content of the speech, the reaction to the speech, the game-changing nature of the speech. But I haven’t yet seen an appreciation of the political stagecraft that made the speech truly great.
Consider this. Barack Obama could have given that speech any time. The fact that he wrote the speech in less than two days, amidst the most grueling campaign trail imaginable, means he’d already formulated the arguments long before. He could have given this speech during Black History Month. He could have given at the DNC in 2004. Hell, he probably could have given it when he started writing Dreams of My Father a decade ago.
But he didn’t. He didn’t give the speech any of those times … because the media echo chamber wasn’t ready. No, “ready” is the wrong word — hungry. Barack withheld the speech until the mainstream media was hungry for it. Starving for it. Famished for an opportunity to dissects its every word. And then he whipped the soup even more, “leaking” news to the press that he was writing a “milestone” speech, a speech that would address the controversy over his pastor. You could almost hear the press corps drooling.
In their hunger, the fell over themselves to give him a stage — 38 uninterrupted minutes of a bio-historic epic speech. About race in America. Race! When was the last time you’ve heard even 38 seconds of intelligent discussion about race on TV?
There is no skill more valuable in a political campaign than the pivot. Taking a threatening controversy (Pastor Wright) and turning it into a huge, guaranteed audience for a brilliant, historic speech about race relations in America … if that’s not a masterful pivot, I don’t know what is.