It was a great speech—and did a stellar job of everything it should have done. It outlined policy specifically enough to persuade the doubters without getting tediously pedantic. It aggressively challenged McCain and outlined many of their differences without getting nasty. It celebrated the moment but stayed firmly on the goal. It nodded to the moment of the occasion without being overwhelmed by it.
But nobody but a few politicos will talk about this speech thirty years from now. There’s no question this is a historic occasion, but Obama isn’t running for a sidebar in American history books. He’s running for the Presidency. He is candidacy is groundbreaking, but he is not running as a groundbreaker. He is running as the best candidate America has seen in a generation. This speech isn’t the pinnacle of a political career. It is a speech to outline a set of policies and win an election. It’s important—but it’s not the rhetorical gem your grandchildren will memorize in fifth grade.
They will memorize the one given after the election, the one given to inspire a country with an eye toward history. They will memorize Obama’s inaugural address.