“I don’t ever prepare a speech,” he says. “I don’t write out what I’m going to say. I remember driving to that, I was, like, ‘What do I say? Maybe I’ll just introduce myself. I’ll take questions.’ I got in there, and I don’t know if it’s a speech or not, but it felt amazing. Because every word was pulled out of me. Like, by some greater force, which was just the people there. Everything that I said, I was, like, watching myself, being like, How am I saying this stuff? Where is this coming from?”
— Beto O’Rourke, in Vanity Fair
You put a hand in. Maybe it’s the right, maybe it’s the left. Maybe it’s the hand of a friend, a neighbor. Maybe it’s my hand. Could it be my hand? It’s not Donald Trump’s hand, that’s for sure!
Then you take it — maybe you take it to beautiful Keokuk, Iowa, a place it’s been my honor to visit for the first time today. I love the enthusiasm here. Or you take it to the humble hotel of a proprietor just trying to make it. Maybe you take it to the hearts of millions of Americans. Somewhere. I’m not sure. Kerouac. The Clash.
Then who can say? Do you shake that hand? Maybe it’s not for me to say. Millions of Americans have hands. I look across this country, and I see a forest of hands. Driving across, you wonder: What’s it all about? I’m coming to that. Dust yourself off, come back stronger. Could be. I don’t know.
Drive until the answer becomes clear.
Then maybe what you do next could be the hokey pokey, or maybe we’re all the hokey pokey. I want to listen. Want to learn. Want to feel inspired, like I was by the story of this average American trying to make ends meet. No, not average. No American is average. I want to be inspired like I was by my band, briefly. I hate to mention that I was in a band; usually, I want people to discover that on their own.
I think we need to do something: Turn ourselves around. Maybe turn the country around. I don’t know. You’re the one that knows.
That’s what it’s all about, maybe. It’s not about me. I do happen to be the one who is running for president, but it could as easily be one of you. It probably is. If it appears to be me, standing here or on the cover of a magazine, that is just because — I don’t know. It’s my face and body and voice, but when we come together — I didn’t even prepare this speech, I feel like it’s being pulled out of me by some greater force, like a claw machine reaching into me and dragging out a prize, this speech, and you all were that claw.
I didn’t prepare that remark.
See, maybe I was born to do this. But not as born as you were, to do something even better. It’s not about me or my excellent and well-documented oral hygiene. It’s about all of us. Wanting to feel. Wanting to become. Wanting to shake it all about.
Maybe we just want to turn it all around. Maybe that’s what it’s all about? It could be. It could be.
Whenever Americans come together to do something, we can achieve something great. There is no noun we cannot verb, and no specific declarative sentence containing a policy recommendation that we can’t not utter! Yet. But maybe we will, soon. I just want to run a positive, inspiring campaign that is definitely for something, and I can’t wait, together, to figure out what that something is.
Sometimes I can’t believe I get to listen to the things that you cause me to say! Every word I hear come out of this Beto O’Rourke, I am like, “Who is this man? I hope he says more things. He sounds like he’s really knowledgeable and just, like, would be a great leader. I’m going to have to Google him when I get home!” And that? That’s all you. And, maybe, a little bit me.
I don’t want to tell you what to do. Why do we do this dance? I know we’re great. We are something no other country is. You know what that something is. I don’t need to specify any further. Just picture it, and associate it with me, if you like. No pressure.
Wonder, ruminate, inquire. Maybe it’s not an asset to be a white man, running in 2020, being pelted with hope and money. Maybe it’s a hardship. Like, do I even need $6.1 million? I feel like maybe the $6.1 million is inside of you, although for now, I do happen to have it.
I didn’t prepare this speech. You did. Now maybe — if you want to — put another leg in.
Read more from Alexandra Petri: