Monday night, Al Gore took to the stage at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to finally deliver the endorsement many political observers had been waiting for all year. By now, though, there was no suspense as to which candidate Gore would endorse; instead, with Barack Obama beaming next to him, Gore added his voice to the growing chorus of Democrats coming out to support their party's presumptive presidential nominee.
It was an interesting choice of location, for two reasons. This was the second time in two months that Michigan was chosen as the location for the announcement of a prominent endorsement, a sign of the state's importance this fall -- and, potentially worrying for Democrats, perhaps a sign that the Obama camp is not taking the state's Electoral College votes for granted. Also, it placed Gore, who's best known these days as an anti-global-warming crusader, in the center of the U.S. automotive industry.
But even given his location, Gore didn't shy away from talk about his signature issue. He began his address by saying, "I speak to you this evening as a citizen of the United States. I speak to you also as a citizen of the world because the outcome of this election will affect the future of our planet. For America to lead the world through the dangers we're facing to seize the opportunities before us, we've got to have new leadership -- not only a new president but new policies."
Gore also went into specifics about climate change and how a future President Obama would address the concerns of Gore and his fellow environmentalists. "Barack Obama knows that we are too dependent on foreign oil and carbon fuels and has proposed a plan to create millions of good new jobs in renewable green energy," Gore said. "Here in Detroit you know we need to revitalize our automobile industry with a commitment to plug-in hybrids and low-emission vehicles."
Gore hasn't lost his instinct for campaigning, though -- he addressed head-on the frequent knock against Obama for his age and perceived lack of experience. Gore quoted Republicans bemoaning the awful fate that could befall the U.S. if a certain young, inexperienced Democrat were elected president, then revealed that the candidate in question was former President John F. Kennedy. Gore then went on to reference the relative youth of American heroes like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
But it was toward the end of his speech when Gore really showed off the skills that have made him a statesman in his party over the past few years, deftly integrating Obama's message with his own.
"Many people have waited for some sign that our country is awakening once again. How will we know when a massive wave of reform and recovery and regeneration is about to take hold and renew our nation? What would it look like if such a change were beginning to build?" Gore asked. Then he answered his own question:
I think we might recognize it as a sign of such change if we saw millions of young people getting involved for the first time in the political process ... Perhaps we would recognize it if we heard a young leader rise up to say we're not a red state America or a blue state America, we are the United States of America ... and said to us all, "America, our time has come." I think we would recognize it in a candidate who ... inspired millions to say, "Yes, we can." We have such a nominee, we have such a leader -- yes, we can.