Whose voice do you hear, really, when you read material that is supposed to be spoken by God? Morgan Freeman is a popular choice — he’s played God at least twice now, racing George Burns for the title of having played God most often in a movie. James Earl Jones?
For substance as well as tone, I nominate Barbara Jordan’s as the voice you should hear.
I’m not alone. Bill Moyers famously said:
When Max Sherman called me to tell me that Barbara was dying and wanted me to speak at this service, I had been reading a story in that morning’s New York Times about the discovery of forty billion new galaxies deep in the inner sanctum of the universe. Forty billion new galaxies to go with the ten billion we already knew about. As I put the phone down, I thought: it will take an infinite cosmic vista to accommodate a soul this great. The universe has been getting ready for her.
Now, at last, she has an amplifying system equal to that voice. As we gather in her memory, I can imagine the cadences of her eloquence echoing at the speed of light past orbiting planets and pulsars, past black holes and white dwarfs and hundreds of millions of sun-like stars, until the whole cosmic spectrum stretching out to the far fringes of space towards the very origins of time resonates to her presence.
Virgotext carried a series of posts earlier in the year, commemorating what would have been Jordan’s 71st birthday on February 21. (Virgotext also pointed me to the Moyers quote, above.)
Now, when the nation seriously ponders impeachment of a president, for the third time in just over a generation, Ms. Jordan’s words have more salience, urgency, and wisdom. It’s a good time to revisit Barbara Jordan’s wisdom, in the series of posts at Virgotext.
The rest of the hearing remarks are all here. It’s a longer clip than the others but honestly, there is not a good place to cut it.
This is Barbara Jordan on the killing floor.
This was a woman who understands history, who illustrates time and again that we are, with every action, with every syllable, cutting the past away from the present.
She never mentions Nixon by name. There is the Constitution. There is the office of the Presidency. But Richard Nixon the president has already ceased to exist. By the time she finishes speaking, he is history.
Also see, and hear:
Virgotext’s collection of Barbara Jordan stories and quotes is an excellent source for students on Watergate, impeachment, great oratory, and Barbara Jordan herself. Bookmark that site.
Update 2019: Here is the full audio of Barbara Jordan’s speech. It is still salient, and if you listen to it you will understand better what is going on in Congress today.