Last night I went with a friend to join the Great Hills Democrats at Baby Acapulco's watching Barack Obama's speech. There was a fajita buffet, and four TVs facing outward from the center of the room.
The speech was absolutely sublime, that's all I can say. I already know Obama is a good speaker, but I was very impressed even with my high expectations. He hit most of the right notes, didn't pull any punches on McCain, and had a lot of well received jokes. Watching Obama work the crowd, I was very much reminded of seeing Bill Clinton live at UCSD at my graduation. I continue to be impressed by his qualities as a speaker, and desperately wish to again have a president who can string coherent thoughts together.
Because Bush sucks so much at public speaking, Republicans make the mistake of dismissing this ability as "He's good at reading a teleprompter." Nonsense. Certainly being a good speaker doesn't automatically make one a good leader; the skill of demagoguery can be used for either good or evil. But as someone who enjoys public speaking, I am adamant that the ability to read is a necessary but not sufficient skill. You have to really grasp what you're saying in order to emphasize the right stuff at the right time. Anyone who thinks otherwise is making a claim similar to believing that you can be a great comedian by going out and reciting someone else's jokes.
Like comedy, it's all about timing, and timing is one thing Obama has in spades. For instance, there's the way he worked the applause. When he first came on, the crowd kept cheering for several minutes. Obama acted sort of exasperated, pretending to speak and then looking like he couldn't get them to shut up. But he was clearly in complete control, it was all showmanship. When he really wanted to talk, they shut up. And I loves me some good theater.
The crowd of about 30 people watching the speech with me was mostly older; in fact at one point I wondered if my friend and I were the only attendees under forty. But they were full of energy, cheering, laughing, and shouting regularly.
After the speech, we somehow wound up getting in a discussion with with three marginally drunk, marginally right wing, off-duty Austin cops. The topics ranged from the situation of the homeless in Austin to property taxes to the war (even Republican cops are against it now, it seems). I don't feel like any of them will switch up their vote to Obama, but I may have perhaps depressed one or two of them enough to keep them home on election day. >:D That's a useful accomplishment, although in Texas it probably doesn't amount to much. Although drunk, they were all friendly, thought we made some good points, and said they enjoyed the discussion. And I got out without getting punched -- so hey, an evening well spent.