President elect Barack Obama has an unmatched talent in talking about delicate issues without naming them verbatim. Throughout his successful bid for the White House he gave numerous speeches in which he talked about race and blackness without even uttering the words “black”, “African American”, and race.
He pulled a similar oratory stunt bashing George W. Bush’s legacy in his acceptance speech at Grant Park in Chicago on Tuesday night. Towards the end of the remarkable address he brought up the story of a 106-year old African American woman called Ann Nixon Cooper.
Cooper, Obama told listeners around the world, experienced the hardship of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and two World Wars. Over and over again, she witnessed America rising to the occasion. “She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome”, Obama said. He mentioned the flight to the moon as well as the collapse of the wall in Berlin.
But he left out 9/11, which is doubtless the biggest tragedy on American soil, and the nation’s biggest challenge in recent memory.
Without saying a word about Bush and his team, Obama made it crystal clear that America’s leadership did not properly rise to the occasion after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Instead of hunting down Osama bin Laden forcefully, the Bush administration decided to go to war against Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.
With 9/11, Obama was saying without saying it directly, was a missed opportunity to forge new global alliances, and to truly fight terrorism.