Barack Obama’s speech last night to the NAACP rekindled the passion he showed during his campaign — but which has dimmed somewhat since he assumed higher office.
He leans into the microphone, he cracks wise about getting Al Sharpton, Michael Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich to agree on the breadth of the crisis in education and he pleads with parents to put away the X-Box and get kids to bed on time. He remembers his mother and credits her with saving her from the fate of the young men he sees on corners in Harlem or on Chicago’s south side, "There but for the grace of God go I."
And when he builds to a crescendo in the last minute of the speech, he invokes the same heroes that brought an AIPAC crowd to its feet a year and a bit ago: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, the African American and two Jews who were murdered registering blacks to vote in Mississippi in 1964.
The crescendo builds on a bed of ifs fulfilled: if U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) could brave billy clubs during a march, if Moses Wright could testify in the case of his lynched nephew, Emmett Till, and "if three civil rights workers in Mississippi, black, white, Christian and Jew, city born and country bred could lay down their lives in freedom’s cause, I know we can come together to face down the challenges in our own time."
And as different as both organizations are, just like at AIPAC, the NAACP crowd won’t stop cheering.