Barack Obama made a speech on Tuesday which should reverberate around South Africa, although most in the country is probably unaware of the drama playing itself out.
The eloquent speech on racism, with well balanced arguments was a tour de force in dealing with an issue which is as important in South Africa as it is in America. He very effectively addressed the fears and frustrations of peoples of various race groups. Obama managed to put forward arguments for addressing these by focusing on common problems rather than race, while at the same time acknowledging injustices of the past and present. His message is a unifying one, rather than the polarising style that has at times been a hallmark of our own President Mbeki, when dealing with issues of race.
It's a pity that more South Africans don't follow the American Presidential Election primaries. It is an impressive show of democracy in action. While it is most definitely prone to politics of personality rather than substance, its thoroughness eventually forces the latter to emerge. Although I still can't explain how such a system could lead to the election, and especially re-election of the current incumbent...
- For a New York Times video with transcript of the speech scrolling next to it go here.
- For a New York Times' editorial praising the speech go here.
- For Maureen Dowd's opinion go here.
- For Mhambi's take go here.
- For an interesting note on the potentially changed perception of Obama see Attie Heunis' blog post here.