It was the day before the primary, and Obama began to improvise a theme, almost too much in the manner of Martin Luther King: “In one day’s time.” It carried him through health care, schools, executive salaries, Iraq—everything that Clinton had invoked, except that this was music. Then came the peroration: “If you know who you are, who you’re fighting for, what your values are, you can afford to reach out to people across the aisle. If you start off with an agreeable manner, you might be able to pick off a few folks, recruit some independents into the fold, recruit even some Republicans into the fold. If you’ve got the votes, you will beat them and do it with a smile on your face.” It was a summons to reasonableness, yet Obama made it sound thrilling. “False hopes? There’s no such thing. This country was built on hope,” he cried. “We don’t need leaders to tell us what we can’t do—we need leaders to inspire us. Some are thinking about our constraints, and others are thinking about limitless possibility.” At times, Obama almost seems to be trying to escape history, presenting himself as the conduit through which people’s yearnings for national transformation can be realized.George Packer, New Yorker
Obama spoke for only twenty-five minutes and took no questions; he had figured out how to leave an audience at the peak of its emotion, craving more. As he was ending, I walked outside and found five hundred people standing on the sidewalk and the front steps of the opera house, listening to his last words in silence, as if news of victory in the Pacific were coming over the loudspeakers. Within minutes, I couldn’t recall a single thing that he had said, and the speech dissolved into pure feeling, which stayed with me for days.