“This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do, the world’s gonna hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s halftime, America. And our second half is about to begin.”
Clint Eastwood, “Halftime in America”
Those words, uttered by an American icon, cut through the hoopla of the Super Bowl last Sunday. More importantly, they cut right through the political chatter of an election year. The impact of this one advertisement cannot be understated.
An estimated audience of 110 million watched Sunday’s Super Bowl. An additional 4 million viewers have watched the two minute advertisement since Sunday. Immediately, the message was praised from the Left and panned from the Right. The Obama Administration claimed it was vindication for the auto bailout program, which started under President Bush and concluded under President Obama’s watch. The right challenged the ad, focusing on the fact that it was “not even shot in Detroit” and had too heavy of a political message.
Both are missing the point.
I watched the ad on Sunday as it came on in spectacular high definition. Within seconds, I recognized the voice, and the unmistakable gait of Clint Eastwood. I was mesmerized by the visuals, the lack of polluting screen graphics, the use of black and white, color and soft focus, and the solemnity of the subjects. But what really captured me was the message.
I hung on every word. When Eastwood appeared on screen at the close, I knew it would be powerful. He didn’t disappoint.
What Eastwood did in two minutes was to reset years of divisive political discourse in this country. He didn’t endorse the bailout of the auto industry. In fact, he’s on record as having opposed it. He didn’t lay blame for America’s problems with any one political party; he rose above it.
He cut right through the blather, and hit the very emotional nerve of what makes America so unique: we are, in our core, an optimistic people. We face challenges, large and small, with determination and grit. When we’re kicked down in the dirt, we get back up. We pull together, get the job done and then move on. We face our challenges and achieve our goals because we have the optimism to know it’s possible. And we know it’s possible, because we’ve done it for the last 236 years.
Clint Eastwood may not ever earn an award for his two minute commercial during the Super Bowl, but in my humble opinion, he should. He is a man who has a unique grasp of what makes America so unique. He had the courage to step up and say it in his own words, and to deliver them as only he could.
I’m not concerned that Clint Eastwood will be rattled by the debate raging around his commercial. In fact, I’d predict, he’d tell critics to “go ahead, make my day.”
In Sunday’s two minutes, and the two days since, he has spoken directly to hundreds of millions of Americans. More importantly, he has spoken directly to the unique emotion that moves us as Americans.
I’d say he’s made our day.