LET'S GO CHANGE THE WORLD' | Speech at historic S. Carolina courthouse recalls 2004 Democratic Convention address--MANNING, S.C. -- It was as impassioned as the speech he delivered before the 2004 Democratic Convention, and if it was meant to quell doubts about his ability to be presidential, it was convincing.
It was the most inspiring, the most elegant speech I have ever heard Barack Obama give. And he never even mentioned Hillary Clinton.
His talk on civil rights before a largely African-American crowd here Friday, on the steps of the Clarendon County Courthouse was designed to embolden black voters to believe a black man -- at this moment in history -- can become president of the United States.
"So, the brothers and sisters out there who are telling folks we can't win, don't defeat yourselves," he encouraged. "Yes, we can."
It was the same rousing line that the South Side Democrat used in his successful 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Addresses local issues
The Clarendon County Courthouse is where a black man, Levi Pearson, began a quest leading to Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, the Supreme Court decision that desegregated American schools.
And it's where other parents joined Pearson's fight to get their children, who had to walk miles and miles to classes, on the school bus with white students.
The laws regarding segregation were changed because those parents "were willing to overcome their fears and reach for a larger dream," Obama said.
And he deftly played to the crowd, addressing specific issues in the county, including the shattered windows and leaky ceilings of a local junior high where thundering trains pass so close teachers have to pause while giving a lesson.
The nation doesn't care enough about those children's education, he admonished, addressing the larger audience he knew he was reaching through the media. "We consider them those kids, rather than our kids."
Wants to revamp No Child Left Behind
He repeated statements he has made before about revamping No Child Left Behind -- President Bush's effort to measure students' progress -- the need to recruit more teachers, and the importance of early childhood education.
But, buoyed by the enthusiasm of the crowd and encouraged by their responses, he often wandered from his written speech.
"I'm not asking you to take a chance on me but on your own aspirations," he said. Real change is possible, electing a black president is possible, he reasoned, "even though it's hard sometimes, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand."
And then he finished with an invitation: "Let's go change the world."