The first day of the Republican convention had two highlights, one at its beginning, one at its end.
The day began at 2:00 p.m. with an invocation by Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik of New York. It was a stirring and moving opening to the convention, as evidenced by the fact, most unusual for an invocation, that it was interrupted twice by (truly spontaneous) applause. Once was when Soloveitchik said, "We Americans united faith and freedom in asserting that our liberties are Your gift, God, not that of government, and that we are endowed with these rights by You, our Creator, not by mortal man." The other was when Soloveichik said, "You have called us to be a beacon of freedom to the world, and an ally of free countries like the state of Israel, an island of liberty, democracy, and hope." It was a boffo two-minute performance by the rabbi (which might lead some to wonder whether two minutes might not generally be about perfect for rabbinic speeches!). Indeed, as I was chatting with him in the hall after the speech, conventioneer after conventioneer came up to the rabbi to thank him and, indeed, to bless him.
Several hours later New Jersey governor Chris Christie ended the evening with his powerful and rousing call to American greatness, his summons to us to face up to the truth and to do our duty. Christie's strong speech framed the choice in this election, and made clear which choice was to be preferred—and he did so, impressively, without appearing at all harsh or mean. In fact, he never mentioned President Obama by name. Christie managed to be at once polemical and positive—no easy feat.
So the rabbi spoke of faith and freedom. The governor spoke of truth and duty. These themes—of faith and truth, of freedom and duty, of liberty and greatness—could elevate the Romney-Ryan campaign, and make it worthy of victory. The rabbi and the governor have pointed the way. Now it's up to the presidential and vice presidential nominees, speaking Wednesday and Thursday night, to build on their strong start.