The Convention has ended, and it was a success by any measure. And while John McCain's speech may not have had the historic quality that Sarah Palin's address did last night, I think he can rest assured that his mission was accomplished.
John McCain is not an orator. He doesn't possess the natural skills that made men like Reagan and Clinton great communicators. Fortunately, he didn't reach for the stars with his rhetoric. Instead he did what he does best - he spoke directly to the American people. His speech was characteristically McCain, and it had a few qualities in particular that struck me.
First, it was oddly specific. McCain took great pains to lay out his tax plan, his energy plan, his education plan, and his view of the American economy. National security was touched on, but it wasn't the focus. This was a kitchen table speech, all meat and potatoes.
Second, it was strikingly personal. McCain laid bare his soul for America to see. I have read his book and was familiar with some of what he was saying, but I never expected to hear the words "And they broke me" spoken to a national audience. It was a shocking disclosure, and one that has been widely known for some time, but was stunning in the moment for its candor. And yet he tied his lowest point into a greater narrative about the transformative effect that his experiences had on his character.
Third, McCain did something that Obama has failed to do in this campaign - he called a nation to service. The theme "Country First" has suddenly become clear. McCain showed the world that he is a man who lives that belief, and he called on us all to join him in putting our country first. The theme of the speech, and indeed of McCain's candidacy, was revealed in what I believe was as close to a "Thousand Points of Light" moment as we got:
I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's.
That's powerful. That is a glimpse into the soul of a man who truly has given his life to a cause greater than himself.
Finally, the end of the speech. It was impossible to hear live because of the roar of the crowd, and I think McCain did the right thing by going ahead and plowing through the cheers. Inaudible though they were, his words should become a rallying cry for all Americans.
Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country.
Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.
Fight for our children's future.
Fight for justice and opportunity for all.
Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.
Stand up for each other; for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.
Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.
Tonight John McCain articulated clearly his vision for this country and gave a powerful testimony to America's inherent greatness. As I said, he is not an orator, and his words didn't flow perfectly, but his emotion was genuine and his intentions clear. McCain intends to lead, and he knows exactly where he wants to lead us.
This is not a speech that will be inscribed on monuments or taught in classrooms. But its content was genuine, moving, and utterly American. We couldn't have asked for more.
And now the campaign begins in earnest, and I can say honestly that for the first time during the cycle, the Republican Party is confident from top to bottom.
And to quote that great philosopher Chuck Berry: "Go, Johnny, Go!"