A new twist on an old joke.
A young man goes to register to vote. At the voter registration office he is told, "We do things differently now. You will be given the opportunity to attend the speech of each candidate for President. After hearing both candidates, then you will be allowed to choose the President."
Agreeing, the young man makes his way to the Barack Obama rally. The venue is a sold out basketball arena, the crowd is electric; beautiful people smiling, chanting, laughing, singing. Obama strides on stage. Listening to Obama, the young man begins thinking to himself:
Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I've heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence.
He leaves the speech, confident of where his vote will be placed, but ready to give John McCain a fair hearing. He arrives at the McCain venue -- many fewer people, not quite as electric, much less laughing and zero chanting. As McCain makes his way to the podium, the young man prepares himself for the speech. Listening to McCain, the young man begins thinking to himself:
The opening of the speech shows some humility ... No one's throwing vegetables in the room ... He's doing a very good job in delivering this speech ... A few boos... [He] sounds energized ... It's one of his better speeches, and he's hitting all the right notes for the crowd.
He later returns to the voter registration office. He is asked, “Now you must make your choice. Will it be Barack Obama or John McCain for President?”
Thinking back on both speeches, he considers McCain’s speech as impressive for its substance. But then, considering Obama’s speech, he remembers how it made him feel.
The young man answers, “Barack Obama”.
The next day, as he awakes, there is a knock at the door. A man in a dark suit simply says, “I’m from the government and I need to see your wallet,” and then proceeds to take all of the young man’s money.
Bewildered, the young man heads back down to the voter registration office and asks to see the manager. The manager appears from the back of the office and politely inquires, “How can I help you?”
The young man replies, “I don’t understand. Yesterday, listening to Obama I heard a speech of hope and change and unity. And yet today, the government took all of my money. What is going on?”
“It’s quite simple,” the manager answered calmly. “Yesterday you were a voter and today you are a constituent.”