Obama reportedly drew inspiration for his address tonight from three past convention speeches: those of Clinton in 1992, Reagan in 1980, and Kennedy in 1960. As a taste of what may come, here’s JFK, whose words hold truth today:
We know that it will not be easy to campaign against a man who has spoken or voted on every known side of every known issue…And after eight years of drugged and fitful sleep, this nation needs strong, creative Democratic leadership in the White House.
But we are not merely running against Mr. Nixon. Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm will know how to vote without our telling them. The unemployed miners and textile workers will know how to vote. The old people without medical care – the families without a decent home – the parents of children without adequate food or schools – they all know that it’s time for a change.
But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high – to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.
Today our concern must be with the future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.