07/20/2013 10:49 pm ET Updated Sep 19, 2013

Obama: Making the Eyes Glisten

In most of us Americans, there is a substratum of idealism, of a belief in the American experience and raison d'être, despite the flawed origins of the country in slavery, and despite all the cant, hypocrisy and ignorance that we see in our public life day after day.

Every now and then Barack Obama taps into that idealism. Our eyes begin to glisten in not quite tears, and our voice becomes a little choked. As in Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic Party convention, when he referred to himself as "a skinny kid with a funny name." As in his surprise talk before the press on 19 July, when he did a riff on how young black men (including himself at an earlier time) feel when they see white people stiffen with apprehension at the sight of them.

How did he summon such candor and creativity, talking to us as though we were all in our own living room?

This may not be a successful presidency, as the hatred at his own success may be so intense as to prevent it. But these lyrical moments, every now and then, will make it an unforgettable one