I was speaking with the brilliant linguist and author of Don't Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff this weekend and he got me thinking.
Every one of the president's most moving speeches -- the speeches where he inspired and lifted our country up -- had one thing in common. Speeches like his 2004 convention speech, the speech on race and the speech in Osawatomie, Kansas all spoke with moral clarity about who we are, about deep American values.
Yes, they talked about issues, but the issues were an outgrowth from the call to our character.
So, with respect, Mr. President, when you walk on stage in the next debate I would like to hear you say that the choice is not just about whose tax plan you like or who has the better health care strategy. It's much more fundamental than that. This is a choice about our national character.
Perhaps you can say this:
"Like Governor Romney, I love this nation. You, Governor, believe in the individual and in freedom. So do I. And I also believe that in order for the individual to exercise that freedom fully, in order for the individual to be personally responsible and successful, in order for that to happen, together we have to lay a certain foundation.
So that great small business owner that you talk about?
We all contributed to make sure she was educated at the public schools and public university. That we all participated doesn't take anything away from her individual accomplishments. It's okay, really. We're proud to have helped. We all, together as Americans, invested to build the public libraries and the roads and the national parks. We have organized ourselves, as a country, in a way that allows us to pool our resources to make sure that we all have the chance to be successful and to exercise that liberty. It's who we are as a nation.
My God, it makes me proud."
Say it at the start of the debate: "This election involves a moral choice. As an American family, will we force autistic children to simply be on their own? Will we force Uncle Ron, with a history of heart disease to go uninsured? We. Will. Not. "
Say it strong, Mr. President. Say, "I'm determined, in this family, that all of the children will be fed, and have shelter. In our family, we insist that we honor those who have brought us along -- the elders in our home, the veterans who have served us -- and we make sure they don't have to worry about health care or social security. Compassion as strength, not as softness. In our larger family, we take care of our own. That's who we are; that's what we do. This is a moral issue."
And remind us that Americans are not victims. I have not met a single person who is on unemployment who doesn't want a decent job -- not one -- or a single person on food stamps who doesn't want to be able to afford to feed his family. If one of our brothers or sisters suffers a temporary setback, we will be there to help her until she can stand on her own again. But make no mistake, she wants to stand on her own, and we want her to also.
Yes, we need to resolve the deficit in a responsible way. And we will do that. But not at the expense of this family.
That's the moral choice I'd like to hear about at the next debate, Mr. President. Sure, you could talk about the $716 billion in Medicare savings and the capital gains tax rate. But that's not what I really want to hear. Those are the little things, I want the big things. I don't want to hear about our smallness, I want to hear about our greatness. I don't want to hear about lies; I want to hear great truths. Tell us about our great national heart, our compassion, our character as a nation.
Tell us that, sir, and we'll follow you anywhere.