Obama’s Keynote: Standard for Measure of Promises and Progress

Photograph by Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Barack Obama delivers the keynote speech during the DNC in Boston in this 2004 file photo.

A certain keynote speech at a Democratic National Convention once proved to be historic.

“I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible,” the 2004 keynoter told a spell-bound audience in Boston. “It is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that makes this country work.”

That national introduction of Barack Obama, in a year when his party would suffer a loss to a sitting president seeking re-election, paved the way for the election of the first African-American president in 2008.

“Tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America,” Obama told his party in 2004. “There is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America. There is a United States of America.”

He spoke, too, of “the audacity of hope.”

It became the signature for an audacious campaign by a junior senator from Illinois in 2008, whose campaign manager later wrote of the “audacity to win.”

It also stands as the standard by which Obama’s words and actions are being measured today.

The promise of bipartisanship embodied in that keynote address has yielded to gridlock in Washington, any reasonably independent observer will acknowledge. The promise of hope and change delivered in the soaring rhetoric with which Obama later accepted his party’s 2008 nomination in Denver has yielded to “major disappointment,”  Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus said today, opening a daily counterpoint to the Democratic National Convention playing out in Charlotte this week.

Then there is the testimony of Craig Robinson, the president’s brother in law, speaking to his memory of that 2004 keynote address in a Web video which the Obama campaign is playing in the run-up to the 2012 convention.

”The day of the speech, I coudn’t eat all day, I was so nervous for him,”  Robinson remembers. “People were saying, `Oh boy, someday he could be president of the United States.’ Here we are today — go figure.”

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