When I first heard then-Senator Barack Obama speak at the 2004 Democratic convention, I was instantly reminded of another Presidential Candidate, Adlai Stevenson - a poised, articulate former Governor of Illinois who ran two unsuccessful bids for the Presidency. How, in our soundbite culture would a man like that have a chance today? Where flash and a certain low common denominator would win out over substance and inspiration. But the 1950's were filled with fear and paranoia; change was only beginning to creep out in pockets by way of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement and the looming Baby-Boom generation. Stevenson comes to mind as the Right Man at the Wrong Time. The difference today is our fear and paranoia comes as the result of 8 years of a failed Bush Administration based on deceit and destruction, masking itself as flash and "gee-whiz" charm.
So I guess it comes as no surprise that what most people remember Stevenson now for is the famous "shoe photograph", and that perhaps the coincidence between the Obama shoe and the Stevenson shoe is more than meets the eye.
Here is an excerpt from February 4, 1956. When Stevenson began his 1956 campaign in Fresno California as a reminder that it's perfectly okay to have a brain.
There are two ways, it seems to me, of looking at America and its future and that the role of government in meeting it. Yes, and in shaping that future. One is to look at today with frequent side glances at yesterday. To think in terms of hanging on to what we have and of staying where we are.
And if we complain that something seems to be missing from our daily lives – if we are anxious, fearful, insecure – if our cities are overcrowded, the juvenile courts overburdened, the old people frustrated, the psychiatrists overworked. If millions of us have not enjoyed the vaunted prosperity we hear so much about. If we mention these things, a Republican chorus tells us “Never mind. After all, you’ve never had it so good”