I know, I know. I'm really late in just now writing about this speech and if I wanted to remain relevant on this blog, I should have published this post a long time ago, back when we were still in the heat of election season. But I think sometimes it's okay to go back and look at things after they've had some time to sit.
There were a lot of reactions to Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention this past year. I think the most common reaction was, "What the hell was that?" One of my favorite reactions came from Rachel Maddow, who was so confused as to how to respond that she simply threw her arms up in the air in exasperation, scattering papers everywhere. Anytime there is that strong of a reaction and the pundits are speechless in response, I think there must be something interesting that happened. I saw all these reactions on the news before I actually watched the speech. Only my reaction was quite different. That speech gave me hope.
One of the first things that struck me was that throughout the speech, Mr. Eastwood continually referred to the candidates as Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. That showed a certain level of respect that is too often lacking in our current political climate. When Jordana and I went to witness the inauguration of the 44th president, there was a stain on the day that I will forever remember. When the 43rd president walked out on the stage, people booed. Say what you want about George W. Bush, disagree with his policies, say that he is the one responsible for the mess we're in. But say those things with respect. Don't boo on his last day in office. He was still our president for 8 years, and that's saying something.
Mr. Eastwood, I thought, displayed with ease the ability to disagree with someone while still showing respect. Sure, he said some things that were perhaps a bit off color, but he never came across, in my view, as being blatantly disrespectful toward the man he wanted to see voted out of office. He thought that someone else would do a better job, but he still respected the office. The same could not be said for many of the other speeches at both the RNC and the DNC and the countless political ads we saw funded by corporations with vested interest. I mean people. I forgot about that change in nomenclature. Still not sure how that one got past the Supreme Court.
Another thing that struck me about the speech was the way in which it ended. In the height of the election season, when the core message of both parties seemed to be that the country would go to hell in a hand basket if we elected the wrong man, Mr. Eastwood reminded us of the heart of what makes our country great. If we're not happy with the job someone is doing in a political office, we can fire them and hire someone else. We have that right and we have that ability. In the midst of war cries and rallying the troops of party bases and instilling fear into the hearts of voters in order to persuade their thinking, Mr. Eastwood blessed us with a light-hearted speech that made us laugh, made us wonder, point fingers and stare, and showed us how to maintain respect for those in office while remembering that we're the ones who actually hold the power. We just have to be willing to fully exercise that power.
Just before the second half of the super bowl last year, Clint Eastwood had this incredible commercial advertising for General Motors. While images of the last few years flashed across the screen, his haunting voice talked about how difficult things had been in this country but halftime was now over and it was our turn again. It was really quite inspiring. If you didn't see it, look it up.
As soon as the commercial ended, my friend Brandon said, "Someone elect that guy president". Perhaps that's not such a crazy idea after all.