President-elect Obama has created something new and resurrected something old.
Courtesy of Obama, we now have the O-generation – those eighteen to twenty-five year olds who have been turned on to politics and are determined to participate in the process.
All praise the O-generation!
The O-generation has come together because of Obama’s resurrection of a lost art form: rhetoric.
Rhetoric is that old-fashioned artistic discipline that uses language to persuade and influence others. The foundation of theatre and literature is in the application and skillful use of rhetorical techniques.
Wouldn’t it seem obvious that a politician would want to excel and be known for his or her rhetoric — their use of language, articulation of thought, and communication of compelling ideas?
Not in the United States. Only a few months ago, Hillary Clinton in a startlingly condescending approach referred to Obama as a man with nothing more than a speech. This reference to his first major public moment as a speaker at the 2004 Democratic convention was meant to diminish his skill, mind, and gravitas.
A politician shouldn’t be able to speak well?
John McCain, never one to miss an opportunity to offer a cutting remark, followed up Clinton’s slap with his own, referring time and again to Obama’s empty campaign trail eloquence.
A politician shouldn’t be able to inspire a nation?
Throughout the campaign, Clinton and McCain tried to tag Obama as nothing more than a young man who could give a good speech, but did not deserve to be in their league of political players. Clinton and McCain, who were wrong about so many things, can add one more to the list.
Obama’s rhetoric revealed the issues of our time, and convinced us of the path to a better future.
Not too long ago, it was not only drama schools that taught rhetoric, but it was also the basis of a liberal arts education.
As the Greeks and Romans knew, the better the rhetoric the better the idea, and the better the arts.
All praise the study and practice of rhetoric!
After all, do words matter? As Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha’!”
- Bill Reichblum