David Bernstein gives a behind-the-scenes look into Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
The keynote speech that barack Obama delivered on Tuesday, July 27, 2004, galvanized the delegates who packed Boston’s FleetCenter and electrified a nationwide television audience. The 2,297 words uttered over 17 minutes changed Obama’s profile overnight and made him a household name. Before the speech, the idea of Obama running for president in 2008 would have been laughable; he was a lowly state senator from Chicago’s Hyde Park, and while he stood a good chance at winning his U.S. Senate race, he would enter that powerful body ranked 99th out of 100 in seniority. After the speech, observers from across the political world hailed the address as an instant classic, and Obama was drawing comparisons (deservedly or not) to Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.If you have the time, go read the whole article.
None of this happened by chance. Obama’s selection as keynote speaker was carefully plotted by all sides for maximum effect, and the speech itself was no outpouring of inspiration scribbled on the back of an envelope. Obama labored over it for weeks, harvesting lines that he had already tested on Illinois crowds. He is said to have been furious when one of his best remarks was cut by Kerry’s speechwriters. And even after all the preparation, the editing and vetting by aides to Obama and Kerry, and the three run-throughs at the convention, the speech almost didn’t take flight—on the dais, Obama was slow to hit his stride. But once he got going, the speech—and his career—took off: “Without that Boston speech, there’s a question whether Barack would be running [for president] today,” says his fellow senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin. “His public image changed because of that speech.” Valerie Jarrett, a veteran Chicago politico and one of Obama’s longtime friends, puts it more succinctly: “It changed his life.”