Voters re-evaluate a politician who decides to drop the mask

Guy who's usually "ok but not great" takes the stage. But this time something's different. He's pissed off about something in the news and he relates it to his life. He speaks up for something he's passionate about. And the crowd that's never really cared about the guy suddenly pays attention. They re-evaluate him. By going off his usual script and speaking with passion, he finds his voice.

The twist: It's politics, not standup. William C. Thompson Jr., the only black guy in this year’s New York City mayoral contest, rarely talks about race. But on Sunday, he spoke to a mostly black congregation in a storefront church about why he feels stop-and-frisk is racist and similar to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

But, invoking the “dreams of our fathers” and “dreams for our sons,” he said he felt compelled to speak out after the acquittal of Mr. Zimmerman. “When the rules of society — that we call and honor as the law — allow even one of those dreams to be snuffed out in anger and fear without consequence or action, those rules fail us all,” He said.

Inside the church, where the mostly black congregants said they had anticipated a tepid speech from another politician, there was a mixture of surprise and admiration.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” said Karen Khan, 52, who teaches middle school in Brooklyn, and had never known Mr. Thompson to talk about race. “I thought it was going to be one of those speeches designed to pacify the issue. Sweep it under the rug — O.K., let’s move on.”

Several said in interviews that the speech had compelled them to re-evaluate his candidacy.

“He would get my vote based on the passion in his speech today,” said Khalid Douglas, 33, a structural engineer. “It improved my opinion of him.”

For Mr. Thompson the speech was a departure not just in tone, but in style. He spoke about “a chorus of common dreams” and “the stubborn stain of enduring racism.” He described the emotional experience of watching President Obama discuss the Trayvon Martin verdict, “stripped of that power, not as president, but as the black man he is, I am, and we will always be.” He wondered what moved this “dignified, calm, thoughtful man” to speak, almost sounding as if he could be referring to himself.


Passion is a good way to get votes. Probably equally true for politicians and comedians.

Related:
The Bill Clinton speech that Louis CK calls "one of the greatest things I ever saw"
How Bill Clinton handled a heckler back in the day
Bill Clinton riffs a lot
Dissecting MLK's “I Have a Dream” speech
The chain: Barack Obama to Chris Rock to Ice Cube

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