AND IT IS NOT MIGHT.
Speaking at an Interfaith service in Boston, host of a fabled marathon and target of bombings that left three dead and more than a hundred injured, Obama shunned angry rhetoric and the politics of revenge.
In simple sentences that grade school students can understand, Barack Obama chose to remind Americans and the world of the things that make his country a beacon even when, halfway across the earth, we sometimes despair over its frailties – with a disappointment reserved only for the strongest.
This is Obama at his best. Lyrical, speaking in a preacher’s cadence, from start to finish a triumph of story-telling.
“On Monday morning, the sun rose over Boston. The sunlight glistened off the Statehouse dome. In the Common and the Public Garden, spring was in bloom. On this Patriot’s Day, like so many before, fans jumped onto the T to see the Sox at Fenway. In Hopkinton, runners laced up their shoes and set out on a 26.2-mile test of dedication and grit and the human spirit. And across this city, hundreds of thousands of Bostonians lined the streets — to hand the runners cups of water and to cheer them on.
It was a beautiful day to be in Boston — a day that explains why a poet once wrote that this town is not just a capital, not just a place. Boston, he said, “is the perfect state of grace.”
Even if you’ve never been to Boston, the movie will fill your mind.
Obama flashed the brilliance that drew massive grassroots support in two elections. He eschewed the glittering bauble of policy or spin – a fatal attraction in a city that has graduated the world’s best and brightest — for the greatest common denominator, the spirit that continues to weave through the millions of Americans — even when they are too busy squabbling to listen much to it.
Speaking of Martin, 8, the youngest victim of the bombings, Obama said:
“His last hours were as perfect as an 8-year-old boy could hope for — with his family, eating ice cream at a sporting event. And we’re left with two enduring images of this little boy — forever smiling for his beloved Bruins, and forever expressing a wish he made on a blue poster board: “No more hurting people. Peace.”
Addressing the many injured, this very modern man, the first African-American POTUS, sketched the spirit that made millions worldwide line up for the western films that cemented America’s iconic image. True Grit:
“As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again. You will run again.”
“…that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us — to push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race. We finish the race.
And we do that because of who we are. And we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody is there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think that we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall. We know that.”
This IS the American dream — the collective values that are the foundations of a life we all would want to live.
Sometimes America loses; many times it has lost a race by default and many times it has stumbled — as we all have.
It was genius to frame the bombers as men of puny minds and souls instead of ranting against the BIG EVIL. It was greater genius to refrain from harping on the United States’ role as besieged power.
Because, as all runners know, only rarely, very rarely will someone plot to trip us. And when that happens, there is only one thing to do, as the POTUS said with steel in his eyes, — get up and finish that race.
And get the world to applaud you for fidelity to a way of life:
“our free and open society — will only grow stronger. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but one of power and love and self-discipline.”
In this speech, a script that once more combines scriptures and everyday images of a life everyone deserves to have, Obama shows why, even while we protest the more inimical US policies, it is a no-brainer choosing between an admittedly flawed democracy on the one hand and a landscape of mayhem and death on the other.