Barack Obama pulled a few of his key Iowa field organizers up on stage yesterday during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa. He hugged them and thanked them for their hard work. While he was speaking, at least two of the organizers got choked up and started to cry. The tears were likely due to a lack of sleep as much as anything else, but it was a touching moment.
The most notable part of Obama’s speech was how long it was. He spoke for over an hour, without notes. He began by introducing his wife and two children. He moved on to introducing his organizers saying, "They're a good looking bunch, aren't they. They look like a Benetton ad." Then he spoke alone, addressing the challenges facing the country today, and his hope for the future. (You can hear an excerpt from the speech at the bottom of this post.)
And even though he spoke extemporaneously, I had heard most of the speech before. By now, all of the candidates must be nearly out of new material, heading into these final days of the caucus. Much of the crowd, though, was still inspired by his message. I found myself trying to join the crowd in applause at multiple points in the speech, but restrained myself due to the stoic atmosphere of the press gallery.
Throughout the speech, Obama never once mentioned any of his Democratic opponents by name. He did, however, reference Hillary Clinton throughout. In a not-so-subtle swipe at the former first lady, Obama said, “We can’t poll test every opinion.” And, “We need principles, not polls: not calculations, but commitment.” When speaking about his decision not to run negative advertising, he said he resisted the temptation to “pull a Tonya Harding on the frontrunner.” He came close, but not a single Clinton, Edwards, Biden, or Dodd was mentioned by name throughout the speech. Instead, he took shots at the Bush administration, for which he garnered his biggest applause of the day.
Historical Side Note: The event took place at Roosevelt High School, in Des Moines. The school was the site of the conflict that led to one of the most famous cases in the history of the US Supreme Court: Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. In the case, the Supreme Court decided that students and teachers don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” It was also the place where my father went to high school.
For all the posts from the Iowa Caucuses, read the Utne Politics blog.