Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A More Perfect Union?

Though we have shifted our focus to the sadly overhyped Junior Theme, please take a moment to remember our theme of Idealism and Realism. Today, as class members deftly presented wildly varying plans for Reconstruction, none of us could deny how these issues, over 140 years old, still resonate today. These short speeches represented both our greatest hopes for unity after tragedy and our frank assessment of the limits faced by a society that struggled to leave a bitter past behind.

Barack Obama, in a speech made partly to defend himself against criticism levied against his former pastor, "had to address race and religion, the two most toxic subjects in politics" (New York Times Editorial).
But he did not stop there. He put Mr. Wright, his beliefs and the reaction to them into the larger context of race relations with an honesty seldom heard in public life.
As he spoke in Philadelphia, he reached all the way back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and wove a narrative of racial struggle through our entire history up to and including the present day.

Whether or not you support Obama for president, consider reading his speech, a document some are comparing to the oratory of a Lincoln, FDR, or Kennedy. Read it for its thematic elements, for how it addresses the other side, and for how it expresses empathy for all citizens. Does it not demonstrate what we all strive for as students of American Studies?

For an interactive video/text version, please click HERE.

5 comments:

Hannah D. said...

This speech is definitely one of the more powerful that I have heard for this election. The fact that Obama could stand up for almost an hour and talk about issues surrounding race is a major accomplishment for the US and for society in general. One thing that I think Obama touched on very well was the empathy for all citizens. He addressed how much this kind of thing affects every race and religion. Another thing that was very interesting is how he wove his family's genetic past into the speech at the beginning, because it shows how diverse some families are in the US, and how you could not see that anywhere else in the world.

Sara D said...

I have to agree with Hannah entirely in the fact that this is a very powerful speech. Throughtout, as I was reading, I noticed his use of "unity" several times. I think that as a minority nominee, unity is somehting that is very important to get across. He mentioned how states with primarily white populations, such as South Carolina who still waves the Confederate flag, voted for him, in hopes of unity.

I also found very interesting how he mentioned what we have been learning about the past week about the Reconstruction era. He said that in that time period people had wanted what we are still striving for today, untiy. This makes me think that the mindset of the government was mroe idealist than realist, in relation to our theme.
To answer Bolos' question, I think this demonstrates very well what we have been learning about all year in respect to how to make an effective government. I think this speech is one where many people can relate to and come together on some level.

The Winnetka Greaser said...

I, too had heard the speech. I thought it was amazing and noticed that none of the other candidates had really discussed race in their speeches. People are comparing it to that of a speech made by Martin Luther King Jr. as well. There is still racism around, and there are still racist people and Obama is trying hard to get people to get past racial predudices, in people both black and white. It's interesting how southern states like South Carolina, where there's still some people with confederate beleifs voted for him. Iowa, also is a state with a mostly white population and people still voted for him. In the book To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout says "There's only one kind of folks. Folks." How does this relate to the message Obama's speech is trying to send?

Ms. S said...

I have been reading and commenting on AIS student blogs and saw your recent post. As a relatively new teacher in this process, I have a question:
"Sadly over-hyped" or not, does the process involved with Junior Theme help students to practice organizing their thoughts, to make connections, to evaluate sources, and to express themselves?

Hopefully, Junior Theme will contribute to learning and thinking about all of the complexities that surround an issue, to be more empathetic and more information literate, thereby being more informed citizens and leaders. I'd like to think that our students would be better prepared to perhaps, one day, craft a document such as Obama's speech or one of the many editorials or analyses concerning it.

What do you and the AIS students think? Are there different goals for Junior Theme?

Josh said...

I think the Winnetka greaser hit it right on the nose. That line from to kill a mockingbird is exactly what Obama was trying to get across. This speech spanned pretty much all of american history, and though i dont feel it is comparable to Dr. Kings speeches, his words show us that our history is still present today. Bringing up reconstruction, i know that some southerners are still bitter and not approving of the North's reconstruction plan.

He beings his speech with talking about how partoicic his family is. How they have been at all the wars, and supported the nation in times of struggle. This is obviously to gain empathy if anyone had a relative in war, well Obama did too. Vote for him then!

I agree with Mr. S about Junior theme preparing us to maybe write one day a document as beautiful as this one. Some people say that Junior Theme is just a big paper, but it is really more than that. It is allowing us to research an area of interest to the students. Almost something unheard in high-school today. Maybe for once i can enjoy doing this paper.