This is Barack Obama's speech that he gave in South Africa yesterday for Mandela Day. You've probably seen clips of it, with general observations of issues around the world today that seem, in part, like blunt slams at the Trump administration. This is the full speech, and it's so much more that just that. Though the "that" is important enough.
(It didn't even make any of the clips that were shown, which were fairly pointed, but at the 55-minute mark, while talking about South Africa and our common humanity and people's heritage, and in the most low-key flowing way, he references the importance of "resisting." And as the passage grows, five minutes later he acknowledges that he's going off script and ad-libbing, and notes, "Don't you get the sense with people who are always putting others down that they're...small people, that they're afraid of something." At the 1:10-mark, he talks about how America was founded on the principle of debate between people testing ideas to reach a common ground -- and after a long pause, he continues, almost as an important aside, saying "I should add that for this to work, we have to believe in an objective reality," and that gets him talking about the general concept of lying. And that passage, you probably did see -- but only some of. Because once he gets started, he waxes eloquent, funny, annoyed, and gets very pointed, going on again for five more wonderful minutes. "This is another thing I didn't think I'd have to lecture about --" he says at one point, pausing with a look of total and utter bewilderment. "You have to believe in facts." And after the laughter and applause, he explains, "Without facts -- there's no basis for cooperation. If I say this is a podium, and you say this is an elephant, it's going to be hard for us to cooperate.")
But -- really -- the speech is much more than just these extended moments. The last 10 minutes on hope and getting past cynicism, even against overwhelming odds, as Nelson Mandela did, where "things may go backwards for a time, but ultimately the better story can win out" is a joy.
Though, yes, these extended moments are great.
I don't expect many, or even anyone to watch this in its entirety. It's an hour and a half, after all. The last 15 minutes are a great extended-passage, but if even that's more than you want to dive in with, then just jump through it, clicking from spot to spot and watch each place for a minute or so -- if something grabs you and you stick around, that's utterly understandable, but a minute here and there will be valuable. Really. Indeed, that's why I've posted the whole thing: Having been pummeled for the past 18 months on a daily basis by what should be important thoughts reduced to 280-character tweets that spawn from humanity-crushing narcissism and pathological lying, I look at it like a palate cleanser between courses. Something to clear your head, get rid of the improper taste, and soothe your soul with great refreshment.
Even 20 seconds will do it. Even if you click anywhere. And five minutes will build hope by reminding one of the decency and goodness that the office of president can be, and has been. It will do your heart good. When they go low...this IS high.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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