Wednesday, November 05, 2008


"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart." - Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 11 December 1964. (Thanks to Sojourners)


Anonymous said...

The 'Unutterably good...can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart'? This must be why Obama finds it so hard to speak with clarity. What does this stuff actually mean?

'The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.'


'This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.'

What change and from what?

This incoherence is not because these are taken out of context (read for yourself). Excuse my frustration but, with the best will in the world, I'm listening to this and thinking,'what on earth is this bloke on about?!'

Simon Barrow said...

In order to hear, I fear you must listen, Chris. King is saying that the longing for love and justice has to be heard in the heart if it is to be recognised in the world. Obama is talking about the change from inequality to greater equality, from war to peace, from health for the few to health for the many - and much more. It couldn't be clearer - honestly. See also the Mario Cuomo comment...

Anonymous said...

Come on, Simon; you're not much better. Mere aspiration. But you know as well as I do that those aspirations you talk of are much more clearly articulated ideologically in various places. If that is what Obama means, he should say it.
There is the other point in that the end point (the 'there' and the 'that change') indicate a clear utopianism which is far too grounded in this world.

ElFouch said...

I also think the context of a lot of Obama's speeches is important - most of those listening will have heard him articulate his policies - they know what he is talking about without him having to spell it out.

Of course, good as the rhetoric is, whether he is actually able to deliver only time will tell.

Simon Barrow said...

Anonymous: I think Obama has spelled out what he's talking about elsewhere, as el fouche says.

"Mere aspiration?" Whatever my faults (which are legion) I think you will find that what I write, and what I try to do, is rooted in concrete actions and recommendations, not flightless dreams. Christian Peacemaker Teams are an example of that, however much some may wish to criticise them.

If you read what I've said about Obama, you will realise that I agree about the danger of utopianism. But let's not forget it is MLK we are commenting on here: a man who could hardly be accused of not acting in accordance with his convictions or not rooting his convictions in a very expansive faith. (He is, of course, not to be turned into a plaster saint either.)

By all means pour scorn on vision, but remember that without it we perish. As Bonhoeffer points out, it is the failure of the church to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously that is its biggest failing, not its inability to summon up enough worldly 'realism' so that it can pat itself on the back for not being too idealistic.

Btw, I usually decline to publish 'anonymous' comments, and prefer people to provide a link to their own sites as well as a name. This helps to keep us accountable to one another in our discourse.

Cheers! S.

Doug said...

Obama's acceptance speech was inclusive but not confined by the rhetoric of economics or the vagueness of media-speak of much political commentary and debate.

It is a pleasure to hear political rhetoric which tries to give voice to a moral vision and framework and is careful in the use of language.

In our concern not to be taken in or disappointed have we lost our ability to listen to a public speaker who attempts to give voice to the human heart and the longing for justice ?