Former President Barack Obama spoke at Foellinger Hall at the University of Illinois this past Friday. Obama was on campus to receive the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government from the UI System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
Standing at the podium at the start of his remarks, Obama led the assembled crowd in an I-L-L I-N-I chant. It was glorious.
And then he unleashed the full fury of his oratory skills and unloaded a blistering speech calling out Republicans, the news of the day and Donald Trump by name. The message was clear: the kid gloves are off and Obama is coming to campaign hard for Democrats in the next 60 days until the midterm election.
Wisely he understood the problem in our national discourse is not simply Donald Trump.
“It did not start with Donald Trump, he is a symptom not the cause,” he said. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years, a fear and anger that’s rooted in our past but also borne of the tremendous upheavals that have taken place.”
His solution was simple:
“If you don’t like what’s going on right now, do not complain, don’t hashtag, don’t get anxious, don’t retreat, don’t binge on whatever it is you’re bingeing on, don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment, don’t boo, don’t put your head in the sand. Vote.”
I don’t know if his stumping for Democrats across the country will motivate the usual lethargic midterm electorate, but from what I’ve been watching among all the special elections there sure seems to be an enthusiasm gap in favor of the much talked about “blue wave.”
I hope so.
If you have not seen it, I implore you to watch the entire speech.