A DIFFERENT FLAVOR
At political conventions there is typically only one kind of rhetorical entree on the menu: red meat.
Some serve it up rare, some well done, but there is a predictable sameness about it all. Republicans talk about overtaxation and runaway government bureaucracy; Democrats talk about standing up for working families and protecting a woman's right to choose.
In a stunning departure on Saturday, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi used his few minutes on stage at the state Democratic Party convention to serve up a more nuanced dish. With a sermonesque flair, he spoke of his days as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethopia. When villagers would pass on a trail, Garamendi recalled, they would shout out at a distance to an approaching neighbor, "How are your children?"
It was the standard greeting, Garamendi said, and not idly asked. An answer was not only expected, but listened to and remarked upon.
He went on to make many of the points that those of both parties often make in convention speeches, if from different points of view: the value of education, the importance of the next generation, the primacy of family.
In our own culture, Garamendi lamented, people rotely ask of each other, "How are you?"
"It's the wrong question," Garamendi said. "We should ask, 'How are your children?'"
When he finished there were no placards waving, and most of the partisans appeared to be looking forward to a meatier dish. Reporters sitting on the media platform looked at each other quizically and shrugged.
Twelve hours later, sitting in my room at the convention hotel, it is the only speech I can recall without looking at my notepad