Paul Greenberg

Who says American oratory is dead? It has been resurrected and refined on a mountaintop in Denver. What a triumph of staging, what a well-modulated voice. Even the speaker's angrier tones seemed well orchestrated, beautifully paced, understated, really, considering the injustices he was doing battle with on our behalf.

"This election has never been about me. It's been about you," he told us in his ever-modest way, as the spotlight played on his handsome young features, and the sea of waving posters below him plastered with his name. Barack the Beatific was accepting his party's nomination for president of the United States not just with humility, but "great humility." Our leader prides himself on his humility.

How easily the phrases flowed in that mile-high gladiatorial setting, rippling out across the nation and the world like a warm embrace. Casual yet fully in control, The Nominee spoke with a Roman self-command. His clear diction, his perfect timing, his personal connection with each and every one of us . . . what a magnificent production.

And he never overdid it. This is a William Jennings Bryan for the metrosexual era. No harsh cries at the top of his voice but only lulling, irresistible persuasion. Who wouldn't follow him? Only distant, impersonal others had anything to fear from this eloquent young man.

The corporations. The rich. The far away. The foreigners who were stealing our jobs. But he was never harsh about it. His manner, like his stand on the issues, is always negotiable. Turn the verbal power down slightly, and his oration would have made perfect background music. Call it the progressive jazz of politics.

Contrary to the platitude, it's not the thought that counts, certainly not in an acceptance speech before a huge adoring throng, but the music. And the music this night extended far beyond that amphitheater atop the Rockies.

Barack Obama's tones spread out across the nation, into living rooms and restaurants, mesmerizing listening parties and blaring forth in Times Square, its participants as entranced as they'd hoped they would be.

What a fine xylophone touch Barack Obama has. His Brubeckian riffs and velvety chords brought us together in pure appreciation of ourselves. The rare hard beat mixed things up just enough to keep the emotions stirring.

CNN, NPR, MSNBC, YouTube, the World Wide Web . . . none were quite the right medium for this performance. It ought to be a record, maybe an old 78 rpm with a nice worn cover. Easy listening for emotional release.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.