Being here in Japan and disconnected from the US media (due to a lack of CNN or television access to other US news sources) I have seen little video of any of the candidates for President and instead mostly ingest news from print and online sources. So while I often read about Obama’s exceptional oratorical ability, aside from the occasional brief snippet, I’ve not actually watched him speak. Until today.

Popurls tipped me to the buzz surrounding his recent speech on race, and so I tracked down a complete online version on Obama’s YouTube page. I watched it and was floored. Now I understand my so many writers use the word presidential when referring to him. Everything about the speech was fantastic–the delivery, content, message, timing, everything. A cogent speech delivering a powerful message, in well-crafted prose spoken with exquisite finesse. What’s more is that he apparently wrote the thing himself. How refreshing after years of watching the speech-impaired, semi-literate Bush clumsily try to string more than a few words together without looking at his notes.

Obama is the first presidential candidate in 40 years to match the authoritative presence and oratorical power of John F. Kennedy, and the similarities don’t end there. His populist message of unity and an unflinching willingness to take the issue of race head-on has earned him the respect of pundits and politicos on both sides of the political divide. For once it seems as though we might have someone who can actually redraw the lines of our cultural debate, and take us from the endlessly divisive left-right debate to a more meaningful and important discussion of class, economic division, and income inequality.

In other words, Obama just might be the one who can train the spotlight on the issues that really matter to most Americans: jobs, health care, education, fairness and equality for all, and a bright future for our children. He might be the one that can return the focus to those things we all share, instead of those which divide us. He might just be the one who can restore the the dignity of the United States and our respect abroad after two terms of Dubya and the catastrophic damage the current administration has done to both. He might just be the one after all. After listening to him speak today, I think he might.

Obama, you’ve got my vote. Godspeed.