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"If only I can get to America."

Arnold reminds us why, despite everything, the political conventions are wonderful events.

3:40 PM, Sep 1, 2004 • By HUGH HEWITT
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"THEY COME because their hearts say to them, as mine did, 'If only I can get to America.'"

When Arnold spoke those words, I cheered. Within the Party of Lincoln there has always been an understanding of the most important of all of the "laws of nature and nature's God": that all men are created equal. When Arnold articulated the hope that has for centuries driven human beings to extraordinary lengths to make it to these shores, he captured the convention, and beyond the convention, a vast television audience at home and abroad that consists of everyone who has ever dreamed of coming to America.

It is easy for the assembled delegates, operatives, and journalists to fall into an easy cynicism about the goings-on at both this gathering and last month's in Boston. There is always much grousing about whether these dinosaurs should be allowed to sink into the final swamp. After a few days of parties, endless interviews along radio row, and the false controversy of media-on-media stories, we forget that vast, vast audience who are thinking to themselves "If only I can get to America."

Now they can add to those dreams "I might rise to be governor of California, and address the world, and tell them to keep dreaming those dreams." I think it is hard to estimate the impact that Arnold's speech had around a world full of people suffering under oppression, or ground down by static economies and cruel leaders.

Unless five members of the United States Supreme Court decide that the ratification of the 14th Amendment's clause guaranteeing equal protection of the laws somehow nullified Clause 5 of Article II of the Constitution, Arnold will never be a candidate for the presidency. But he made a great speech on Tuesday night, and not because he was funny or effective, but because he reminded the country and the world of the greatness of this nation.

As long as men and women are willing to give speeches like Arnold's, the conventions will be worth the time, effort, money, and inconvenience. Democracy and freedom have no better advertisements than these spectacles, even if many Americans are so accustomed to the liberties and sacrifices that made them possible that they no longer notice just how wonderful they are.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends Upon It. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.