Defining the Moment

President Barack Obama speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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I’ll repeat something I said as we listened to Obama speak. He’s less attacking Trump as making him seem small and petty in comparison to the picture of America he’s painting. We heard a lot about how Obama was going to take it to Donald Trump. And he did. But it wasn’t in a way that I would have expected based on those words. It was more organic and sweeping.

In the stories we tell about ourselves as Americans there are various set-piece historical moments where we’ve resisted darkness, failed many times of course, but remained true to who we are in our essence. In recent weeks especially I’ve increasingly thought that we are in the midst of one of those moments. We have all heard the curse, ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Well, we are living in interesting times. And that is not a good thing. What will we do? Those set piece moments are myths. But myths, proper myths, contain deep truths. It is a terrifying thing but in a way a gift to live in one of those moments. Like being called up for a special, albeit arduous, task. What new myth will we forge?

I think Obama hit all the points he needed to hit in the pageantry and process of this convention. He summed up his presidency, he knocked Donald Trump, he vouched for Hillary Clinton. But he did something more substantial. I think he captured the reality of the moment, which is a sobering one but also one that is grounding and revivifying because it reminds us who we are. Hopefully it reminds us as a country what we need to do.

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