In 1978 or so, Mstislav Rostropovich, the famed cellist who ultimately made the National Symphony Orchestra into a national treasure, arrived on our shores from Russia from which he had been exiled by Leonid Brezhnev. While a student at Georgetown University, I was honored to be present for his honorary degree ceremony there. He could not speak English well, so he instead played the cello as a response to his honor. Gaston Hall was silent, not only during his soul-stirring solo, but even after the thunderous applause, becauase neither ovation nor words expressed what we felt, what he had touched.
Al Gore spoke tonight at the Human Rights Campaign dinner here in Los Angeles, after many stirring talks by Al Franken, Torie Osborn and the Mayor, among others. Al's was the last speech of a late night and yet, as with Rostropovich, the enormous ballroom was silent during his talk. I found myself leaning forward, perched on the edge of my chair as he moved easily on stage, rarely looking at even a note. He stirred souls tonight.
The former Vice President, the should-be president, spoke from his heart, his soul and his intellect about equality, about fear and about the future. The subject happened to be equality of gay people in this country. But it was really a call for America to stand as what we have been for more than 200 years, to be that porous bastion of hope and grace that has struggled at times with itself, but has always risen to greater heights.
He reminded me and I dare say the fifteen hundred or so present tonight, of the power of democracy, well led. Sadly, he reminded us also of the ineloquence of George Bush at which we laugh, but which in fact represents a simplicity of the mind, a unidimensional view of life that Mr. Bush carries forth into the world that sews fear and destruction in its path. Al Gore called us to action. He also vivified Plato's ideal in The Republic, Madison's President in the Federalist Papers, Jefferson's expectation in the founding documents of this country.
After he finished speaking, the standing ovation seemed almost an interruption of the soul. Just as Rostropovich played chords that defied description, Al Gore tonight hit commanding, courageous notes that are America. We'll make it through the current time of trouble, but only because we can rise above the small, insulated minds that would rather destroy our world than make it safely humane. How different our unstable world today would be had Mr. Gore been President. How hard we must work to assure that 2006 brings us the beginnings of balance, and 2008 the end of one of the most dangerous times in our history.
We have all become cynical. We have seen what might have been and criticized how it was presented. But when I hear a graceful, truly stirring analysis of the humanity that is our nation, I know we can again find our way in this world and, if Bush et al have not by then encouraged too many of our neighbors to attack us, we can again lead.
Thanks for speaking the truth, for the elegance of thoughtful words. Thanks, Al Gore.