Everyone needs to go watch this speech by Barack Obama.

I can't help it. I ought to know that every step in an election campaign is choreographed. That I should make no assumptions that a politician's words in any way reflect their beliefs. I know that, but I just can't help it. This speech gives me hope. Maybe it's just that I've never heard Obama speak before. I have heard that he's an excellent orator and it could be that that's all this is, but I don't think so.

I can't endorse the speech unqualifiedly -- there were three things in it that I found objectionable -- but three things in a 37 minute speech is not bad, and for the bulk of it I was amazed. Obama was saying things that are necessary, things that I think every American (and Canadian) needs to hear, but as important as the content of the speech is, more important is the fact that Obama delivered it, and delivered it now. He could have left it a desk drawer (or more likely a file on his computer), waiting for the day when he was retired and had nothing to lose.

I honestly didn't think I would live to see the day that a serious politician who has a real chance of winning the American presidential election would stand up and speak an uncomfortable truth to people who might not want to hear it, people who he hopes will nonetheless vote for him. It sets a heartening precedent. Obama's courage (and, one hopes, success) in delivering this speech opens the door to something resembling honest discussion about oppression. It makes room for women politicians to speak up about back-alley abortions and the necessity of reproductive rights. It makes room for gay and lesbian politicians to talk about the days before Stonewall and the ongoing oppressions they face.

I'm not so naive as to think that this is going to start happening regularly, or right away. But it's happened once, and that means it can happen again.

Update: Pam Spaulding at Pandagon has written a post saying much of what I was trying to say, and more, much more eloquently than I did. Just go read that.