So I’m embarrassed to admit that I went to bed last evening without watching any of the Democratic National Convention. I thought about turning it on, but then I got sucked into an email vortex instead. I woke up this morning to the tweets of Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, and others, proclaiming the strength of Michelle Obama’s address last evening, and proceeded to kick myself for missing it.
I just finished watching her speech, and I’m sold. She sold me. I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about anyone in this election. I watched Ryan and Romney last week and felt distanced from them and from their experiences. But Barack Obama generally doesn’t do it for me. The commentators like to talk about his aloofness now, more than anyone talks about his ability to speak. He’s gifted, but I’m very rarely sold. Too much smoke and mirrors and not enough action for me. Probably unfair, but that’s how I’ve been feeling for three years now.
Michelle Obama sold me. She convinced me that Obama has been trying, maybe harder than anyone else, and doing what he committed to do. I’m not sure why I believe her but I do. Maybe it’s because of lines like these:
Being President doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.
It’s not how much money you make, it’s the difference you make in people’s lives.
[Barack] reminds me that we are playing the long game.
Doing the impossible is the history of this nation.
That is the story of this country.
We must work like never before.
I’ve learned that research is about telling the story, and of course, theatre is about telling stories. It’s evident that the Obama family understands the power of story, particularly how their personal narratives connect them to a large segment of the American population that still places stock and value in the American Dream. The ability to convey that story last evening illustrated the stark difference between Romney, Ryan, and the Obamas. I did not see Ann Romney speak, so I need to go back and watch her as well. But people want their stories to be told and heard. Michelle Obama achieved that by extension last evening. Commentators are calling her speech historic. We’ll see.
Clearly, the speech was strategic, but it was also deeply sincere. I study actors when I teach acting. Sounds exit from the mouth, but feelings exit from other parts of the body. The combination of those two exiting forces, voice and feeling, is what moves audiences to action. Michelle Obama exited through her mouth and her chest last evening, allowing us to see that her speech came from the heart.