Watching Obama With Strangers

I just read this powerful post on The Daily Kos, about a man getting his car fixed at a Jeep dealership in a conservative Altanta suburban area, when Obama's speech on race in America comes on TV. His fellow customers are riveted, and their responses are a powerful testament to the ability of Obama's words to reach across political lines and draw people in from disparate worlds.

The message also confirmed my own experience with conservative Republican friends who've told me, "You're not going to believe this. I know Obama's way too liberal for me, but I respect his integrity and think I'm going to vote for him in November."

From the Kos Diary of Socratic, ">Watching Obama With Strangers:

...Now, I'm not going to talk about the speech itself. Plenty of folks have done that. I'll just say that I was watching intently, pleased with what I was hearing. When, after about 5 minutes, the guy who was working on my car came by to tell me that the car wouldn't be ready until the afternoon, I thanked him and stayed right where I was to watch the rest of the speech. But something curious happened. I was snapped out of the moment of the speech by the mechanic's visit, which was fine because Obama was, in a very real sense, giving the speech about race in America that I've wanted to hear my entire life: genuine, personal, intelligent, and direct. I've watched the speech again since this morning, and it didn't disappoint, but just at that moment I stopped watching it ...

... and started watching the people around me. The young black man. The elderly white couple. The two white women, one college-aged, one in her late-20s. One middle-aged white woman. Two white men, one college-aged, one in his late-30s. One Asian couple. All of them were watching the speech. Rapt. Nodding.

Gradually, the twentysomething white woman went back to her laptop, but kept smiling when Obama would say something important. The elderly white couple whispered in their Southern accented way: "He's really good... He's saying good things... He's a good young man..." The young black man chuckled when Obama said that Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America, but was otherwise simply watching. And at one point, the middle-aged white woman asked one of the dealership folks, in another thick, thick Southern accent if she wouldn't mind turning up the volume, because she really wanted to hear this speech.

She, this white Southern woman from the suburbs, wanted to hear this speech, delivered by a Black man with a funny name running for President. And she was nodding.

But she wasn't the only one. Folks from the dealership, passing through on their way to and from whatever they do (most of them for not a lot of money) stopped and watch for 3 or 4 minutes. A young mechanic of ambiguous ethnicity stopped by at least a half-dozen times (hours later he stopped me as I was walking to the cashier to pay and said "That was some speech," then paused awkwardly, and said, hushed, "It's good that folks our age are getting involved, I think, right?"). Two salesmen, white, mid-40s, Southern as sweet tea, stopped and watched. And nodded. And I wasn't the only one to stick around to watch the speech after my business at the dealership was done.

Never seen anything like that. I bet a lot of folks in that dealership were Republicans. Most, based on snippets of conversation I heard, were Southerners. Almost all were white. And they watched, listened, and agreed with what Barack Obama was saying about race in America. ....

Read here for the rest of the diary...