Two years ago, during the Democratic primary, then-candidate Barack Obama borrowed some words from his friend, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, in defense of his theatrical tendencies.
“Don’t tell me words don’t matter. ‘I have a dream’— just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ — just words? Just speeches?” was how Candidate Obama put it in 2008.
At the time, his argument resonated. We looked back on great moments in oration and agreed. Words mattered; words could bring change.
But two years later, all we have are the words. We don’t have the change. This is where the president and Governor Patrick got it wrong. All of those iconic phrases were just words.
Dr. King didn’t change the world by saying “I have a dream.” Dr. King changed the world with actions; the words just embodied those actions. Words represent change, they don’t bring it.
You cannot change the world with words. Your words go down in history because you changed the world.
President Obama has strung together brilliant phrases during his tenure in office. He opened his first State of the Union address powerfully. This president is adept at creating a moment with his vocabulary, but greatness doesn’t come from creating a moment.
Greatness comes from understanding your moment and doing what is necessary. On the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush spoke from the Oval Office.
While most of America was struggling to make sense of evil, the president uttered his most memorable line: “We will not tire. We will not falter. We will not fail.”
That day was President Bush’s moment. Civil Rights was Dr. King’s. We remember how each of those men handled their moment, the words are mere reminders.
You cannot move mountains with words. You cannot feed the hungry with words. You cannot care for the sick with words. You cannot defend our borders with words. They’re just words.
This columnist is tired of hollow words. This president promised to close Guantanamo Bay within one year, yet it remains open. He promised to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” during his first year, yet it continues to discriminate. He promised bipartisanship, yet we remain divided.
His words have been inspiring, yet his actions have been pedestrian.
Communication is not and has never been this president’s problem. His problem is his governing ability and his policies. It’s time for our commander to take responsibility for a bad year.
It’s time for our leader to stop hiding behind his words. They won’t help him get this country moving in the right direction. After all, they’re just words.