Let me finish tonight with what we look forward to tonight.
Every president, whether he seeks it or is ready to accept it, has a job that rises above politics, which departs from government, even of national defense in a strict sense. Because in addition to being the country’s top elected official, chief executive and commander-in-chief, he is also head of state.
In many other modern countries, they separate that role from politics and the running of government. In Great Britain it’s the role of the queen or king, in Germany and Israel, they have someone fill the ceremonial position of president who is apart from the politically-elected government.
In America, one person fills all the roles, and that’s makes tonight different. It really calls for only one - the unifying person of the country, apart from partisan politics, away from the usual issues we debate.
What originally inspired me, what, to be candid, thrilled me about Barack Obama was how he spoke in such a context - not a candidate for office, simply as a spokesman for the country and its broadest-held values.
“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.”
He spoke that night in 2004 of the what he called “the genius of America…that we can say what we think, write what we think without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe, that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution.”
“Without fear of retribution.”
It is this faith that can always use a bolstering. Tonight’s a good night for that.
The matter before us isn’t what views we are entitled to hold - left, right or center, or center-right, or center-left. It’s the confidence that we have in our public debate, the right to pester a member of Congress, to hold up a poster, to scream if you want, to broadcast what you believe with reasonable confidence that no one will point and fire a gun at you for doing so.
“Without fear of retribution.” We need to get the violence and the talk of violence out of our politics. I have yet to hear any reasonable argument to the contrary.