Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Grant Park

Analysis of Barack Obama’s Grant Park Speech

Barack Obama “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our fathers is alive in our lifetime, who still questions the power of our democracy? This is your answer.” With those words, Obama evoked the title of his best-selling book “Dreams from My Father.” He answered the doubters in the world-at-large who may have thought that the American dream was on its deathbed. “What happens to a dream deferred?” Lorraine Hansberry asked in “A Raisin in the Sun.” “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” There had been evidence that immigration numbers were down…that fewer people from other countries wanted to come to the United States—-that some abroad no longer viewed this as the land of opportunity, but they are wrong.

 “It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited 3 hours and 4 hours, many for the first time in their lives, because that this time must be different, and they believed that their voices could be that difference.” My daughter voted for the very first time. After careful consideration, she chose to register and vote in her college town of Nashville, Tennessee, which went red, anyway. Young people turned out in record numbers, giving the lie to the label of apathetic that had dogged them. Newly registered voters clogged the polling places, a tribute not only to the outstanding organization of the campaign’s masterminds but also to the determination of a battered and bruised nation to make change a reality.

 In his next line, Obama paid tribute to all ethnic groups, including “gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” saying that “Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America.”  I thought of the American Independence Party, which Sarah Palin seemed to actively support, even from her Governor’s office. I thought of one word: “Amen!”

 “It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we an achieve, to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more to the hope of a better day.” The fear-mongering tactics that Lee Atwater taught Karl Rove and Karl Rove (“Bush’s Brain”) used over the past 8 years (and which John McCain’s handlers tried to use this year) have been discredited. The majority of citizens figured out that trying to “scare” us out of rational thinking by using color-coded charts and rattling sabers was not the right way to select a leader for this great land. We have, once again, put our hands on the arc of history and bent it to the hope of a better day. Amen to that, also.

 In his next paragraph, Senator (now President-Elect) Obama paid tribute to the old warrior who ran against him, Senator John McCain. Both candidates proved to be class acts on election night, although there were times along the way that we all wondered about some of the tactics we were seeing. Guilt by association? We would all go down to defeat if we were held responsible for the sins of every single person we ever met in our lives. Roslyn Carter would be blamed for the crimes of John Wayne Gacy under the reasoning used in some of the ads. There is no question that the final day’s ad using the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary comments in an attempt to discredit Barack Obama was among the lowest of many low blows. “Too risky,” it said. What is “too risky” at this point in our nation’s history would have been more of the same.

In his next paragraph, Obama thanked his wife and children and let us all know that a puppy is coming to the White House, I immediately thought of another young president with young children who had horses (a pony named Macaroni) and who played beneath the Oval Office desk. This nation can use the happy sound of children’s laughter and the image of a happy nuclear family in the White House during these trying times. I can almost imagine Caroline Kennedy smiling at the thought, just as I am smiling at the thought.

There were echoes of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Obama’s well-crafted remarks. There were echoes of Abraham Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people and for the people” Gettysburg Address. There was a palpable sense of hope despite adversity, of leadership in tough times, of optimism amongst despair.

 I felt proud to be an American last night. I felt proud to have elected the candidate who wants war to stop. I felt glad that I had done what I could to help elect the first African-American, and, some day, I hope to help elect the first female President…just so long as it’s not Sarah Palin, who is the antithesis of nearly every belief I hold. Pretty, yes. Prepared, no.

Grant Park Election Day

On this “day-after-the-election” I wanted to share with you, my reader, some of my thoughts and feellings about the historic journey we have all witnessed, and explain my fascination with the cause.

I began covering the candidates who appeared at the Iowa caucuses the year that (Dr.) Howard Dean ran for president. My long-dormant political passion was stoked by drifting across the steet from teaching classes at the Kahl Building in downtown Davenport, Iowa, and wandering into the downtown Dean headquarters. We were urged to stay and share our thoughts and feelings about the state of America. I became hugely disillusioned in the wake of the 2000 election that saw “hanging chads” in Florida and the Supreme Court select George W. Bush as our 43rd president. I found it incomprehensible that one man’s brother (then-Governor Jeb Bush of Florida) could hand the most important office in our land to someone totally unprepared. The process was broken. I, along with many others, felt betrayed. I have felt that only once before…when a 1st Ward Alderman race I had labored long and hard in turned out to be “rigged,” was proven to have had officials at the top playing fast-and-loose with the absentee ballots, but nothing…not one word…was written in the local newspaper, despite the presence of a reporter from same (Jenny Lee of the Moline, Illinois, Daily Dispatch). it is one thing for candidates to cheat and get caught. That happens every day. My point: where is the retribution? Where is the “gotcha'” moment that restores the true, natural order of the universe? It seemed that the sense of decency and honesty in the election process that i had watched my father helped preserve in his races for Democratic County Treasurer of Buchanan County (IA) had evaporated, and in its place was corruption at the very heart of the political process…even in small-town America. If counties like Rock Island County, Illinois, were proven to be as dirty as Cook County in Chicago, what was the world coming to? And if proving it, in court, didn’t bring at least a slap on the hand to the perpetrators, could our national election process be far behind in granting complete impunity to those who would steal our democracy from us?

I live in a divided household, an Arnold Schwarzenegger/Maria Shriver split, with no one but me weighing in as a Democrat or…at times…an Independent. When one family member admits to glee at the time that JFK was shot, the feeling of complete alienation from what is right and what is good becomes pervasive. I have never wished death on a candidate, no matter how corrupt or evil I might perceive them to be. I have the same horror of that kind of thinking as I do for not trying (at least) to see the other person’s point of view.

Many times, my life partner would tell me that, in expressing my support for a candidate that (apparently) did not provide congruency with his own choices, I was or had been “obnoxious.” This meant that I had spoken my mind about the lack of preparedness or the general quality of a Repubican, usually, and I had found them wanting. at the same time, I hosted coffees for a Republican neighbor (Ray LaHood, last out of Peoria) and contributed to more than one Republican candidate (Andrea Zinga, Dave Machacek) so, was I really the blind straight-party voting ticket person that my spouse accused me of being during various discussions that generated far more heat than light? No. I was someone who would weigh the candidates and try my best to select that individual who could best lead our country in troubled times.

No times are more troubled than now. The economy is spiraling downward. We are fighting on two fronts. Our esteem abroad seemed irreparably shattered by a pre-emptive war that should never have been started, begun by a man who wanted to show dear old dad that he could do it better. History will judge if junior did a better job  or a worse job than his father, but, as for me, in my semi-retirement, determined to write as I had always planned to do, I became political.

Oh, we still observed the political sticker moratorium, after the years of a Republican bumper sticker being applied over a Democratic bumper sticker ad nauseum, but I was not content to sit idly by and watch my country go down the tubes in the wake of George W. Bush. I became convinced that a president who was determined to ‘win at any costs” and a running mate with little or no foreign policy experience and some very esoteric views about the rest of the world and science and religion spelled certain doom for what remained of this once-great nation.

And I also decided that the best way for me to contribute to the victory of one (of many excellent Democratic candidates (Obama, Clinton, Richardson, Edwards, et. al.) as opposed to the reactionary forces of the Republicans arrayed against them was to throw off the cloak of meek-and-mild indifference and DO SOMETHING. Anything. Even if it was the wrong something, it would be better than a Bush clone in the White House. After all, what more could the man ruin.

It was this decision, made during a previous election run, that led me to ‘blog” for Iowa (www.blogforiowa), which, no doubt, earned me a place on George W. Bush’s enemies list. I took popular song lyrics and turned them into political gems aimed at exposing the Man Who Would be King. With humor, I aimed barbs at “the Decider,” covering Abu Ghraib and all things horrible like it. My journey had begun, and it would not end until November 4, 2008, in Grant Park in Chicago (see video above).

Through the bitter cold of Iowa’s winter, I tracked caucus candidates like Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack obama to school gymnasiums and people’s living rooms. I listened to their message(s) of change and hope. I contributed cash, but, more importantly, I contributed time and effort, attempting to let others know what I was able to observe, up-close-and-personal. Yes, some of my early heroes turned out to have feet of clay (Edwards, anyone?), but the eventual winner of this marathon race seems like the right man for the job at the right time in history.

The palpable enthusiasm at last night’s part gathering was like a city celebrating a World Series or a Super Bowl victory. Just a few moments ago, sitting in my 7th floor condo on Indiana Avenue near Hutchinson Field, a red balloon, no doubt left over from last night’s celebration, drifted past my balcony door. Today, though I am tired, I feel that, somehow, we, as a nation are back on the right track. It is a given that other nation’s will see Barack Obama as a worthy representative of this nation’s highest ideals. After years of a stumbling, incoherent leader who not only could not speak well, but could not lead well, we will have a well-qualified, well-educated, hard-working man who seems to genuinely love his family and his country in ways that do not visit death and destruction on the rest of the world.

I pray for Barack Obama on this day-after-the-election. I revel in the knowledge that I was “there,” inside, at the Pepsi Center in Denvr, at the Excel Center in St. Paul, at the Target Center for the Ron Paul Rally in Minneapolis, at the Iowa caucuses, at the Belmont Town Hall Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, and, last night, in Grant Park where Barack Obama started this nation on a brand new journey that I hope will restore this country’s honor and reputation, both abroad and at home.

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