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An Outstanding Article / Obama in Miami

Obama meets Miami Cubans on level ground

Posted on Sun, May. 25, 2008

BY ANA MENENDEZ

amenendez@MiamiHerald.com

T he candidate did not wear a guayabera. He did not endlessly stroke the Cuban ego. And he did not pretend to know everything.

Barack Obama stood Friday beneath the banner of the Cuban American National Foundation and delivered an address notable not just for what it contained, but for what it did not.

”I won’t pretend to know everything about Cuba,” Obama said at the beginning of a speech that touched on the island and the United States’ policy throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Later, with a smile, he added: “The easy thing to do for an American politician is to come down to Miami, talk tough and go back to Washington and nothing changes.”

In a town where political flattery is cheaper than a Versailles cafecito, Obama refused to indulge in the old platitudes.

His speech — delivered to a cross-section of the supportive, the skeptical and the plain curious — broke the pattern of condescension that has defined so many of these events in the past.

DIFFERENT APPROACH

For once, a politician came to Miami and spoke to and about Cuban Americans as if they comprised a diverse community of thinking adults, instead of a single-celled organism.

The crowd rewarded him with several standing ovations, the longest of which came after Obama promised to lift the 2004 Bush travel restrictions.

”There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That’s why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel to Cuba and remittances,” he said, and the rest of his reference to mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, was drowned out in whistles and cheers.

He also repeated his promise to talk with Raúl Castro without preconditions, but with a plan: “We will set a clear agenda.”

Here, voicing those ideas can represent an act of bravery. And even those who might have been skeptical of Obama’s proposals couldn’t help applaud the freshness of his message.

ENGAGING THE AUDIENCE

”It’s not that I support or don’t support him,” Alina Fernandez Revuelta, Fidel Castro’s estranged daughter, told me just before Obama took the stage. “But I like someone who tells the truth, who is willing to come here and listen. And that’s a big difference from all the others.” Link to complete article Miami Herald >>>

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