I watched this oration yesterday. I have hardly seen such an animated speech in Ireland. A discourse of such emotion is normally one related to the Northern Ireland Troubles.
I felt that the Taoiseach became carried away. His voice was cracking with sentiment. It was very crowd pleasing. His audience in the Dublin drizzle clapped and cheered repeatedly. The atmosphere was electric. His thrilling cadences impelled the crowd to yell with elation every time he rammed home a fervent phrase. Why did they lap it up? It is partly he is a new Taoiseach and he is in his honeymoon. Moreover, Obama is seen as a celebrity. However, Kenny’s rousing rhetoric must take some credit for it. I felt it lacking in decorum but as the people lapped it up it was a political hit. The Obamas seemed to be tittering with mild embarrassment at Kenny’s exuberance. Warming to his theme he said that Obama ”was the American dream”. There were shades of Howard Dean’s ”I have a scream” moment. I was wincing when I heard the Taoiseach’s oratory going too far.
I saw this chunky woman behind Kenny and thought – who she? Then I realised that she is his awful wedded wife.
I must hand it to Mr Kenny. He can at least rouse a crowd. Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds all missed lesson 1 of public speaking. Kenny’s remarks were heartfelt and the crowd perceived that. I did wince at his excessive enthusiasm and gushing diatribe. It was overly sentimental and struck me as hollow. He meant it but it was meaningless, ”we your Irish family are right here.” Furthermore, he used several Irish language phrases which he did not translate.
Obama’s words were more measured. However, he stooped to many prejudices about Irish history talking of ”oppression.” He said that many Irishman fought to preserve the Union and against slavery. This is true. What he did not point out was that there were more than a few on the side of the Confederacy. Such speeches are always a tad dishonest. One is selective. There are no prizes for such honesty in orations abroad. Obama will want positive images to show on the campaign trail next year. In many lands the US President tells the people that they are America’s best friend. The Irish Republic allows the US military to transit Shannon – that is it. The Republic of Ireland does not provide material support for US actions abroad.
Obama stresses his Irish ancestry. Why does he not emphasise his English ancestry? They always do this. Being Irish is good and being English or any other white group is not so good? I cannot think why else American politicians are at such pains to underline their Hibernian heritage. US politicians many of who have English heritage, Welsh heritage, German heritage etc… tend not to make much of it when they pass through the old country.
It made me think that the Obamas must see that most white people are genuinely not anti-black.