I’ve been a Barack Obama fan for quite some time, so I’d like to think that everything that Richard Greene writes is true. Greene reckons Obama is ready to be president, a conclusion he somewhat rhetorically bases on the impact and success of his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
There are two aspects to Greene’s argument that I find questionable. First is his assertion on the power of oration. “The ability to give a great speech is the most visible and, I argue, one of the most important responsibilities of the individual who leads any nation, and particularly, the most powerful nation on earth… The relationship between great speakers and great leaders is extremely direct.” I think leaders certainly need to be effective communicators, but I am unsure whether great leaders must be great speakers. Many great leaders are great speakers, but not always. And there are certainly great speakers who have no other notable leadership capabilities.
The second part of Greene’s argument is, unfortunately, far more dubious. “Beyond the benefits of seeing a black man in the White House, once the world hears THIS black man speak – even just ONE speech – after 8 years of what they have heard, they will, instantly, regain their respect for our President and our people.” Would that were true. I think Obama and a number of other Democrats do have the potential to repair the damage of the Bush administration. But globally the damage goes far too deep for anyone to repair it in a single speech or a single year or even a single term. Undoing the damage of eight Bush years is going to be a truly long struggle for the US.