Friday, August 29, 2008

The Power of Spectacle .....

The New York Times called it "one of the most unusual sights in the annals of American political conventions" ... it was, and it was grand!

"For the first time in memory," the NYT's Mark Leibovich wrote, "a spectator at a convention nomination speech was treated for sunstroke. Fireworks replaced the traditional balloon drop, sunlight supplanted klieg lights. Parents brought children from as far away as Africa, and delegates munched Bronco Brats and clicked cellphone pictures of a political carnival that bore no resemblance to any convention finale that had come before." You can read the rest of his report

I must tip my hat to everyone involved in the conception and design, the prep-work and the production of last night's finale to the
2008 Democratic National Convention. For all the chuckles from the punditz (in-print, on-air and especially online) regarding their choice of venue for the final evening, it produced a stunning and spectacular evening that created positive and indelible images of the candidacy that, I'm sure, the Obama camp hopes will carry over to November.

Images and spectacle, bread and circuses ... it's a recipe for success in the arena of statecraft and politics that is as old as society itself. Sure, there are those whose words transcend the event, and become a part of us ... Martin Luther King could do it ... so could John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Lou Gehrig. It's said that Napolean Bonaparte, Queen Elizabeth I and Julius Caesar could, as well.

But there are also those occasions, where the setting, the context places an added emphasis upon the event, long after the words are mostly forgotten. For example, one year after the invasion of Iraq, President Bush was set to announce 'Mission Accomplished' and to honor American military personnel for their service. He could have done it in a suit and tie, from the Oval Office or the White House press room ... he could have done it from a podium on the dock as the ship came to berth ... but instead, he chose to don a flight suit, climb aboard a S-3B Viking, and land on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to deliver his speech. And while we may not be able to quote snippets from his speech, as we might others from American history, we will always remember the image and the spectacle of it all.

(TRIVIA NOTE: Did you know that the Lincoln was commanded at that time by a West Texas native? It's true ...
Rear Admiral Kendall L. Card, USN of Fort Stockton, Texas.)

In closing, I must also give credit to the DNC organizers for when they staged the event, as much as where. Barrack Obama - the first black man called by a major political party to serve as their candidate for President of the United States - accepted his party's nomination
45 years to the day after Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream Speech" in Washington, D.C. Coincidence? I don't think so.

"No one said this exactly, but imagination was the quiet star of this day, that thing that leaps over walls and moves the fences of our limitations," Kevin Merida of the
Washington Post wrote. "Forty-five years ago, many of those who jammed the Mall in Washington to hear a young Baptist preacher exhort the nation to be better were just trying to get the foot off their necks, win the right to vote, stay at a highway motel, eat at a decent diner. They were trying to send injustice packing. Not elect a black man president. Most had not yet envisioned that." You can read the rest of his report HERE

It's good to have image and spectacle ... but a little historical perspective on your side won't hurt either.

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