Barack Obama - "A World that Stands as One" - Berlin Germany - July 2008


















Barack Obama -

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Transcript: Read Full Text of President Barack Obama’s Speech in Selma

P resident Obama spoke before thousands on Saturday during a commemorative ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the events of “Bloody Sunday” when over 600 non-violent protesters were attacked by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.

Here is the full text of Saturday’s speech, as prepared for delivery.

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes. Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung: No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you. Then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government – all you need for a night behind bars – John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America. President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Members of Congress, Mayor Evans, Reverend Strong, friends and fellow Americans: There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral. Selma is such a place. In one afternoon fifty years ago, so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge. It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America. And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America – that idea ultimately triumphed. As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes. We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice. They did as Scripture instructed: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” And in the days to come, they went back again and again. When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came – black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope. A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing. To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet. In time, their chorus would reach President Johnson. And he would send them protection, echoing their call for the nation and the world to hear: “We shall overcome.” What enormous faith these men and women had. Faith in God – but also faith in America. The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before. What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate. As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged. And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place? What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people – the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many – coming together to shape their country’s course? What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals? That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience. That’s why it’s not a museum or static monument to behold from a distance. It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents: “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” These are not just words. They are a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny. For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all our citizens in this work. That’s what we celebrate here in Selma. That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom. The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon. It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo. That’s what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down a wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest superpower, and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom. They saw that idea made real in Selma, Alabama. They saw it made real in America. Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed. Political, economic, and social barriers came down, and the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African-Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Oval Office. Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past. What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say. What a solemn debt we owe. Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt? First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done – the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation. Selma teaches us, too, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair. Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. I understand the question, for the report’s narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was. We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better. Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character – requires admitting as much. “We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.” This is work for all Americans, and not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built. With such effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on – the idea that police officers are members of the communities they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland just want the same thing young people here marched for – the protection of the law. Together, we can address unfair sentencing, and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and workers, and neighbors. With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don’t accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity, and if we really mean it, if we’re willing to sacrifice for it, then we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts their sights and gives them skills. We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class. And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor. How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year. Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future? Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We’ve endured war, and fashioned peace. We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise. That’s what it means to love America. That’s what it means to believe in America. That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional. For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it. We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea – pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit. We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some; and we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That’s our character. We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be. We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights. We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. We are storytellers, writers, poets, and artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told. We are the inventors of gospel and jazz and the blues, bluegrass and country, hip-hop and rock and roll, our very own sounds with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom. We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway. We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of, who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.” We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march. And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow. Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person. Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished. But we are getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding, our union is not yet perfect. But we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge. When it feels the road’s too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.” We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise. May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.

Read next: Democrats in Selma Gear Up for Long Fight on Voting Rights

See Barack Obama's Historic Event in Selma

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Barack Obama's victory speech – full text

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Sustained cheers, applause.)

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward . (Cheers, applause.)

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.

(Cheers, applause.) I want to thank every American who participated in this election. (Cheers, applause.) Whether you voted for the very first time (cheers) or waited in line for a very long time (cheers) – by the way, we have to fix that – (cheers, applause) – whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone (cheers, applause), whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference. (Cheers, applause.)

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. (Cheers, applause.) We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honour and applaud tonight. (Cheers, applause.) In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

(Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America's happy warrior, the best vice-president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden. (Cheers, applause.)

And I wouldn't be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. (Cheers, applause.) Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you too as our nation's first lady. (Cheers, applause.)

Sasha and Malia – (cheers, applause) – before our very eyes, you're growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. (Cheers, applause.) And I am so proud of you guys. But I will say that, for now, one dog's probably enough. (Laughter.)

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics – (cheers, applause) – the best – the best ever – (cheers, applause) – some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

(Cheers, applause.) But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together. (Cheers, applause.) And you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way – (cheers, applause) – to every hill, to every valley. (Cheers, applause.) You lifted me up the whole day, and I will always be grateful for everything that you've done and all the incredible work that you've put in. (Cheers, applause.)

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym or – or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you'll discover something else.

You'll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organiser who's working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity. (Cheers, applause.) You'll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who's going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift. (Cheers, applause.)

You'll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who's working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home. (Cheers, applause.)

That's why we do this. That's what politics can be. That's why elections matter. It's not small, it's big. It's important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won't change after tonight. And it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter – (cheers, applause) – the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future.

We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers – (cheers, applause) – a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation – (scattered cheers, applause) – with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened up by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. (Cheers, applause.)

We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth and the best troops this – this world has ever known – (cheers, applause) – but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag – (cheers, applause) – to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner – (cheers, applause) – to the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president.

That's the – (cheers, applause) – that's the future we hope for.

(Cheers, applause.) That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go – forward. (Cheers, applause.) That's where we need to go. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.

But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. (Cheers, applause.) A long campaign is now over. (Cheers, applause.) And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you've made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. (Cheers, applause.) You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.

And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together – reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do. (Cheers, applause.)

But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us; it's about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. (Cheers, applause.) That's the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared – (cheers, applause) – that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great. (Cheers, applause.)

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America. I've seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbours and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job. I've seen it in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb and in those Seals who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back. (Cheers, applause.) I've seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm. (Cheers, applause.)

And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his eight-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukaemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for healthcare reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care. (Cheers, applause.) I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father's story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That's who we are. That's the country I'm so proud to lead as your president. (Cheers, applause.)

And tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.

[Audience member: "We got your back, Mr President!"]

I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. (Cheers, applause.)

America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. (Cheers, applause.) You can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

And together, with your help and God's grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you, America. (Cheers, applause.) God bless you. God bless these United States. (Cheers, applause.)

  • Barack Obama
  • US elections 2012
  • US politics

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Remarks of President Barack Obama – State of the Union Address As Delivered

The White House is once again making the full text of the State of the Union widely available online. The text, as prepared for delivery, is also available on Medium and Facebook notes , continuing efforts to meet people where they are and make the speech as accessible as possible. Through these digital platforms, people can follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, share their favorite lines, and provide feedback.  

WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU

9:10 P.M. EST

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Tonight marks the eighth year that I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter. (Applause.) I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa. (Laughter.) I've been there. I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips. (Laughter.)

And I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low. But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families. So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform -- (applause) -- and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse. (Applause.) So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done. Fixing a broken immigration system. (Applause.) Protecting our kids from gun violence. (Applause.) Equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) Paid leave. (Applause.) Raising the minimum wage. (Applause.) All these things still matter to hardworking families. They’re still the right thing to do. And I won't let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year. I want to focus on the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond. I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change -- change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people. And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible.  It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable. It’s the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer -- regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? (Applause.)

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? (Applause.)

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? (Applause.)

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. (Applause.) We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history. (Applause.) More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. (Applause.) That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters. (Applause.)

Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. (Applause.) Now, what is true -- and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious -- is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up.

Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works also better for everybody. We’ve made progress. But we need to make more. And despite all the political arguments that we’ve had these past few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and -- (applause) -- offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one. We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids. (Applause.)

And we have to make college affordable for every American. (Applause.) No hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income. And that's good. But now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. (Applause.) Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year. (Applause.) It's the right thing to do. (Applause.)

But a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this chamber. (Laughter.) For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher. Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build in the process.

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever. We shouldn’t weaken them; we should strengthen them. (Applause.) And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage. Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far. (Applause.) And in the process, health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. (Applause.) A little applause right there. (Laughter.) Just a guess. But there should be other ways parties can work together to improve economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job -- we shouldn’t just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everybody.

I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up. And I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't have children. (Applause.)

But there are some areas where we just have to be honest -- it has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years. And a lot of them fall under the category of what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. (Applause.) And it's an honest disagreement, and the American people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed. There is red tape that needs to be cut. (Applause.) There you go! Yes! (Applause.) But after years now of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense. (Applause.) Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. (Applause.) Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. (Applause.)

The point is, I believe that in this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. (Applause.) And I'm not alone in this. This year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for their shareholders. (Applause.) And I want to spread those best practices across America. That's part of a brighter future. (Applause.)

In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative. And this brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer: How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. (Laughter.) We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight. And 12 years later, we were walking on the moon. (Applause.)

Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA. America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to shape a better world. (Applause.) That's who we are.

And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit. We’ve protected an open Internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. (Applause.) We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day. But we can do so much more.

Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. (Applause.) So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. (Applause.) For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. (Applause.)

Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources. (Applause.) Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it. (Applause.)

But even if -- even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record -- until 2015 turned out to be even hotter -- why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future? (Applause.)

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either. (Applause.)

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system. (Applause.)

Now, none of this is going to happen overnight. And, yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, the planet we’ll preserve -- that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve. And it's within our grasp.

Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question that we have to answer together is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. Let me tell you something. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. (Applause.) Period. It’s not even close. It's not even close. (Applause.) It's not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. (Applause.) No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead -- they call us. (Applause.)

I mean, it's useful to level the set here, because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.

Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not primarily because of some looming superpower out there, and certainly not because of diminished American strength. In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states.

The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in significant transition. Even as their economy severely contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria -- client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

It’s up to us, the United States of America, to help remake that system. And to do that well it means that we’ve got to set priorities.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. (Applause.) That is the story ISIL wants to tell. That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions. (Applause.) We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. (Applause.)

And that’s exactly what we’re doing. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. (Applause.) Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. (Applause.) And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits. (Applause.)

Our foreign policy hast to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, even without al Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world -- in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, in parts of Central America, in Africa, and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks. Others will just fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war. (Applause.)

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. (Applause.) Our military, our doctors, our development workers -- they were heroic; they set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million lives were saved.

That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, and protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then support more good jobs here in America. With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do. You want to show our strength in this new century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it. It's the right thing to do. (Applause.)

Let me give you another example. Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, and set us back in Latin America. That’s why we restored diplomatic relations -- (applause) -- opened the door to travel and commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. (Applause.) So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over -- lift the embargo. (Applause.)

The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world -- except when we kill terrorists -- or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity.

When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids. When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick -- (applause) -- it's the right thing to do, and it prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS. That's within our grasp. (Applause.) And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria -- something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year. (Applause.)

That's American strength. That's American leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. (Applause.) It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies. (Applause.) There’s a better way. (Applause.)

And that’s why we need to reject any politics -- any politics -- that targets people because of race or religion. (Applause.) Let me just say this. This is not a matter of political correctness. This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith.

His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I'm standing on tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. (Applause.) It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country. (Applause.)

“We the People.” Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that's how we might perfect our Union. And that brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing that I want to say tonight.

The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise, or when even basic facts are contested, or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task -- or any President’s -- alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base. I know; you’ve told me. It's the worst-kept secret in Washington. And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor.

But that means if we want a better politics -- and I'm addressing the American people now -- if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves. I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. (Applause.) Let a bipartisan group do it. (Applause.)

We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections. (Applause.) And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution -- because it's a problem. And most of you don't like raising money. I know; I've done it. (Applause.) We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder. (Applause.) We need to modernize it for the way we live now. (Applause.) This is America: We want to make it easier for people to participate. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

But I can’t do these things on my own. (Applause.) Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected -- that will only happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m suggesting is hard. It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don't care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want. It will not produce the security we want. But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it -- our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. (Applause.) We need every American to stay active in our public life -- and not just during election time -- so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day.

It is not easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word -- voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and made mistakes as a child but now is dreaming of starting over -- and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters -- and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe. (Applause.)

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught. (Applause.)

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his vote for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count -- because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That's the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. (Applause.) That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.

And that’s why I stand here confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong. (Applause.)

Thank you, God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Watch CBS News

Transcript of Barack Obama's Speech

By David Morgan

February 10, 2007 / 1:24 PM EST / CBS

What follows is the complete text of Sen. Barack Obama's speech before the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., in which the Illinois Democrat officially announced he was running for president.

Thank you so much. Praise and honor to God for bringing us together today. Thank you so much. I am so grateful to see all of you.

Let me begin by saying thanks to all of you who've traveled, from far and wide, to brave the cold today.

I'm fired up.

We all made this journey for a reason. It's humbling to see a crowd like this , but in my heart I know you didn't come here just for me. No, you came here because you believe in what this country can be. In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe that we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union.

That's the journey we're on today. But let me tell you how I came to be here. As most of you know, I am not a native of this great state. I moved to Illinois over two decades ago. I was a young man then, just a year out of college; I knew no one in Chicago when I arrived, was without money or family connections. But a group of churches had offered me a job as a community organizer for the grand sum of $13,000 a year. And I accepted the job, sight unseen, motivated then by a single, simple, powerful idea — that I might play a small part in building a better America.

My work took me to some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. I joined with pastors and lay-people to deal with communities that had been ravaged by plant closings. I saw that the problems people faced weren't simply local in nature — that the decision to close a steel mill was made by distant executives; that the lack of textbooks and computers in schools could be traced to the skewed priorities of politicians a thousand miles away; and that when a child turns to violence, I came ot realize that there's a hole in that boy's heart no government could ever fill.

It was in these neighborhoods that I received the best education I ever had, and where I learned the meaning of my Christian faith.

After three years of this work, I went to law school, because I wanted to understand how the law should work for those in need. I became a civil rights lawyer, and taught constitutional law, and after a time, I came to understand that our cherished rights of liberty and equality depend on the active participation of an awakened electorate. It was with these ideas in mind that I arrived in this capital city as a state Senator.

It was here, in Springfield, where I saw all that is America converge — farmers and teachers, businessmen and laborers, all of them with a story to tell, all of them seeking a seat at the table, all of them clamoring to be heard. I made lasting friendships here — friends that I see in the audience here today.

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable — that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.

It's why we were able to reform a death penalty system that was broken. That's why we were able to give health insurance to children in need. That's why we made the tax system right here in Springfield more fair and just for working families, and that's why we passed ethics reforms that the cynics said could never, ever be passed.

It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people — where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America.

And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

Now listen, I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness — a certain audacity — to this announcement. I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government that can be changed. And we should take heart, because we've changed this country before. In the face of tyranny, a band of patriots brought an Empire to its knees. In the face of secession, we unified a nation and set the captives free. In the face of Depression, we put people back to work and lifted millions out of poverty. We welcomed immigrants to our shores, we opened railroads to the west, we landed a man on the moon, and we heard a King's call to let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today we are called once more — and it is time for our generation to answer that call.

For that is our unyielding faith — that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.

That's what Abraham Lincoln understood. He had his doubts. He had his defeats. He had his setbacks. But through his will and his words, he moved a nation and helped free a people. It is because of the millions who rallied to his cause that we are no longer divided, North and South, slave and free. Because men and women of every race, from every walk of life, continued to march for freedom long after Lincoln was laid to rest, that today we have the chance to face the challenges of this millennium together, as one people — as Americans.

All of us know what those challenges are today — a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren't learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years.

What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ea

David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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Barack Obama

Audio and transcript: obama's victory speech, obama's victory speech.

barack obama written speech

President Obama speaks at his election night party Wednesday in Chicago after defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney. M. Spencer Green/AP hide caption

President Obama speaks at his election night party Wednesday in Chicago after defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Transcript of President Obama's victory speech in Chicago. Source: Federal News Service

Editor's Note: NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future.

(Cheers, applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Sustained cheers, applause.)

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward. (Cheers, applause.)

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.

(Cheers, applause.) I want to thank every American who participated in this election. (Cheers, applause.) Whether you voted for the very first time — (cheers) — or waited in line for a very long time — (cheers) — by the way, we have to fix that. (Cheers, applause.) Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone — (cheers, applause) — whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference. (Cheers, applause.)

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. (Cheers, applause.) We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honor and applaud tonight. (Cheers, applause.) In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America's happy warrior, the best vice president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden. (Cheers, applause.)

And I wouldn't be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. (Cheers, applause.) Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation's first lady. (Cheers, applause.)

Sasha and Malia — (cheers, applause) — before our very eyes, you're growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. (Cheers, applause.) And I am so proud of you guys. But I will say that for now, one dog's probably enough. (Laughter.)

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics — (cheers, applause) — the best — the best ever — (cheers, applause) — some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

(Cheers, applause.) But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together. (Cheers, applause.) And you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way — (cheers, applause) — to every hill, to every valley. (Cheers, applause.) You lifted me up the whole day, and I will always be grateful for everything that you've done and all the incredible work that you've put in. (Cheers, applause.)

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym or — or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you'll discover something else.

You'll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer who's working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity. (Cheers, applause.) You'll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who's going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift. (Cheers, applause.)

You'll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who's working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home. (Cheers, applause.)

That's why we do this. That's what politics can be. That's why elections matter. It's not small, it's big. It's important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won't change after tonight. And it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter — (cheers, applause) — the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future.

We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers — (cheers, applause) — a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation — (scattered cheers, applause) — with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened up by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. (Cheers, applause.)

We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this — this world has ever known — (cheers, applause) — but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag — (cheers, applause) — to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner — (cheers, applause) — to the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president.

That's the — (cheers, applause) — that's the future we hope for.

(Cheers, applause.) That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go — forward. (Cheers, applause.) That's where we need to go. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.

But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. (Cheers, applause.) A long campaign is now over. (Cheers, applause.) And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you've made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. (Cheers, applause.) You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.

And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together — reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do. (Cheers, applause.)

But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us; it's about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. (Cheers, applause.) That's the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared — (cheers, applause) — that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great. (Cheers, applause.)

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America. I've seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job. I've seen it in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb and in those SEALs who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back. (Cheers, applause.) I've seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm. (Cheers, applause.)

And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care. (Cheers, applause.) I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father's story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That's who we are. That's the country I'm so proud to lead as your president. (Cheers, applause.)

And tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We got your back, Mr. President!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. (Cheers, applause.)

America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. (Cheers, applause.) You can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

And together, with your help and God's grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you, America. (Cheers, applause.) God bless you. God bless these United States. (Cheers, applause.)

barack obama written speech

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Read Obama’s full speech at the Democratic National Convention

Former President Barack Obama has delivered a searing take down of Donald Trump while presenting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the ones who will “lead this country out of these dark times.”

Obama made the case for electing his former vice president and Harris, a California senator, during a live address to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. He implored people to vote, arguing American democracy is at stake.

“This administration has shown that it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win,” Obama said, urging voters to “leave no doubt about what this country that we love stands for.”

Obama is among the headliners on the convention’s third night and is speaking before Harris. They are both barrier-breaking figures, he as the nation’s first Black president and Harris as the first Black woman on a major party ticket.

Read Obama’s full speech below:

But we should also expect a president to be the custodian of this democracy. We should expect that regardless of ego, ambition, or political beliefs, the president will preserve, protect, and defend the freedoms and ideals that so many Americans marched for and went to jail for; fought for and died for.

I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.

But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.

Now, I know that in times as polarized as these, most of you have already made up your mind. But maybe you’re still not sure which candidate you’ll vote for – or whether you’ll vote at all. Maybe you’re tired of the direction we’re headed, but you can’t see a better path yet, or you just don’t know enough about the person who wants to lead us there.

So let me tell you about my friend Joe Biden.

Twelve years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I didn’t know I’d end up finding a brother. Joe and I came from different places and different generations. But what I quickly came to admire about him is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief. Joe’s a man who learned – early on – to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him: “No one’s better than you, Joe, but you’re better than nobody.”

That empathy, that decency, the belief that everybody counts – that’s who Joe is.

When he talks with someone who’s lost her job, Joe remembers the night his father sat him down to say that he’d lost his.

When Joe listens to a parent who’s trying to hold it all together right now, he does it as the single dad who took the train back to Wilmington each and every night so he could tuck his kids into bed.

When he meets with military families who’ve lost their hero, he does it as a kindred spirit; the parent of an American soldier; somebody whose faith has endured the hardest loss there is.

For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. He made me a better president – and he’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country.

And in my friend Kamala Harris, he’s chosen an ideal partner who’s more than prepared for the job; someone who knows what it’s like to overcome barriers and who’s made a career fighting to help others live out their own American dream.

Along with the experience needed to get things done, Joe and Kamala have concrete policies that will turn their vision of a better, fairer, stronger country into reality.

They’ll get this pandemic under control, like Joe did when he helped me manage H1N1 and prevent an Ebola outbreak from reaching our shores.

They’ll expand health care to more Americans, like Joe and I did ten years ago when he helped craft the Affordable Care Act and nail down the votes to make it the law.

They’ll rescue the economy, like Joe helped me do after the Great Recession. I asked him to manage the Recovery Act, which jumpstarted the longest stretch of job growth in history. And he sees this moment now not as a chance to get back to where we were, but to make long-overdue changes so that our economy actually makes life a little easier for everybody – whether it’s the waitress trying to raise a kid on her own, or the shift worker always on the edge of getting laid off, or the student figuring out how to pay for next semester’s classes.

Joe and Kamala will restore our standing in the world – and as we’ve learned from this pandemic, that matters. Joe knows the world, and the world knows him. He knows that our true strength comes from setting an example the world wants to follow. A nation that stands with democracy, not dictators. A nation that can inspire and mobilize others to overcome threats like climate change, terrorism, poverty, and disease.

But more than anything, what I know about Joe and Kamala is that they actually care about every American. And they care deeply about this democracy.

They believe that in a democracy, the right to vote is sacred, and we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballot, not harder.

They believe that no one – including the president – is above the law, and that no public official – including the president – should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters.

They understand that in this democracy, the Commander-in-Chief doesn’t use the men and women of our military, who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation, as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil. They understand that political opponents aren’t “un-American” just because they disagree with you; that a free press isn’t the “enemy” but the way we hold officials accountable; that our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up.

None of this should be controversial. These shouldn’t be Republican principles or Democratic principles. They’re American principles. But at this moment, this president and those who enable him, have shown they don’t believe in these things.

Tonight, I am asking you to believe in Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and build it back better. But here’s the thing: no single American can fix this country alone. Not even a president. Democracy was never meant to be transactional – you give me your vote; I make everything better. It requires an active and informed citizenry. So I am also asking you to believe in your own ability – to embrace your own responsibility as citizens – to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure.

Because that’s what at stake right now. Our democracy.

Look, I understand why many Americans are down on government. The way the rules have been set up and abused in Congress make it easy for special interests to stop progress. Believe me, I know. I understand why a white factory worker who’s seen his wages cut or his job shipped overseas might feel like the government no longer looks out for him, and why a Black mother might feel like it never looked out for her at all. I understand why a new immigrant might look around this country and wonder whether there’s still a place for him here; why a young person might look at politics right now, the circus of it all, the meanness and the lies and crazy conspiracy theories and think, what’s the point?

Well, here’s the point: this president and those in power – those who benefit from keeping things the way they are – they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.

We can’t let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy. Make a plan right now for how you’re going to get involved and vote. Do it as early as you can and tell your family and friends how they can vote too. Do what Americans have done for over two centuries when faced with even tougher times than this – all those quiet heroes who found the courage to keep marching, keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice.

Last month, we lost a giant of American democracy in John Lewis. Some years ago, I sat down with John and the few remaining leaders of the early Civil Rights Movement. One of them told me he never imagined he’d walk into the White House and see a president who looked like his grandson. Then he told me that he’d looked it up, and it turned out that on the very day that I was born, he was marching into a jail cell, trying to end Jim Crow segregation in the South.

What we do echoes through the generations.

Whatever our backgrounds, we’re all the children of Americans who fought the good fight. Great grandparents working in firetraps and sweatshops without rights or representation. Farmers losing their dreams to dust. Irish and Italians and Asians and Latinos told to go back where they came from. Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Sikhs, made to feel suspect for the way they worshipped. Black Americans chained and whipped and hanged. Spit on for trying to sit at lunch counters. Beaten for trying to vote.

If anyone had a right to believe that this democracy did not work, and could not work, it was those Americans. Our ancestors. They were on the receiving end of a democracy that had fallen short all their lives. They knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth. And yet, instead of giving up, they joined together and said somehow, some way, we are going to make this work. We are going to bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.

I’ve seen that same spirit rising these past few years. Folks of every age and background who packed city centers and airports and rural roads so that families wouldn’t be separated. So that another classroom wouldn’t get shot up. So that our kids won’t grow up on an uninhabitable planet. Americans of all races joining together to declare, in the face of injustice and brutality at the hands of the state, that Black Lives Matter, no more, but no less, so that no child in this country feels the continuing sting of racism.

To the young people who led us this summer, telling us we need to be better – in so many ways, you are this country’s dreams fulfilled. Earlier generations had to be persuaded that everyone has equal worth. For you, it’s a given – a conviction. And what I want you to know is that for all its messiness and frustrations, your system of self-government can be harnessed to help you realize those convictions.

You can give our democracy new meaning. You can take it to a better place. You’re the missing ingredient – the ones who will decide whether or not America becomes the country that fully lives up to its creed.

That work will continue long after this election. But any chance of success depends entirely on the outcome of this election. This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win. So we have to get busy building it up – by pouring all our effort into these 76 days, and by voting like never before – for Joe and Kamala, and candidates up and down the ticket, so that we leave no doubt about what this country we love stands for – today and for all our days to come.

Stay safe. God bless.

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barack obama written speech

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Sen. Barack Obama's Victory Speech

Sen. Barack Obama delivers victory speech from Grant Park in Chicago.

Nov. 4, 2008 -- Full remarks as prepared for delivery and provided by the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama on Nov. 4, 2008, at Grant Park in Chicago, IL.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

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US Election 2020

Barack Obama's most noteworthy speeches

US Election 2020 Barack Obama's most noteworthy speeches

US President Barack Obama speaks at the podium in Congress.

Barack Obama has delivered his final address as President of the United States . Here's a look at some of his most memorable speeches, which captured hearts and minds around the world.

2004: Democratic National Convention

What: It was the moment that thrust him into the national spotlight . A relatively-unknown Senate candidate, Barack Hussein Obama, took to the stage for the keynote address.

Where: The Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Key point: His speech shared the story of his heritage, of his father who was born in a small village in Kenya and his mother who was born on the other side of the world in Kansas.

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."

2008: A More Perfect Union

What: Mr Obama addressed race and religion in this campaign-defining speech, saving his derailing presidential bid.

Where: The National Constitution Centre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Key point: Lecturer in US politics and foreign policy, Gorana Grgic, from the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre, said this was a defining moment for the then presidential hopeful.

It followed controversy over old racially inflammatory remarks from his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, which had resurfaced during the presidential campaign.

"That was very much a speech that put in the forefront his mixed-race background and basically put him in this ... unique position to speak bluntly to both black and white Americans," Dr Grgic said.

During the speech Mr Obama said he could "no more disown him than I can disown the black community".

I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me ... who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love."

2008: Election victory

What: The President-elect fronted a crowd of thousands after receiving a concession call by Republican candidate John McCain for the 2008 US election.

Where: He gave his election victory speech in Chicago, where he delivered the final speech of his presidency.

Key point: This was the moment Mr Obama's supporters had been waiting for after a long campaign, and there was more than one 'yes we can'.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."

2009: Nobel Peace Prize acceptance

What: The President was awarded "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".

Where: Oslo City Hall.

Key point: Dr Grgic said this was another key moment, but one which caused some criticism.

"He was saying he was not against all wars he was just against stupid wars and I think that defined a lot about his foreign policy doctrine," Dr Grgic said.

Mr Obama said:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified ..."

2011: Tuscon memorial in Arizona

What: The President delivered a speech following the January 8 shooting of US representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people during a constituent meeting in a supermarket parking lot. While she survived, six others died.

Where: The University of Arizona.

Key point: Mr Obama delivered a speech which told the story of each of the victims.

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: The hopes of a nation are here tonight."

2015: 50th anniversary of Selma marches

What: The 50th anniversary commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery marches.

Where: Selma, Alabama.

Key point: ANU Marketing lecturer Andrew Hughes said it was one of the President's best.

"One of his best speeches he's ever delivered is the Selma speech which he delivered at the 50th anniversary of the walk across the bridge in Selma in the United States, on the Civil Rights Movement," he said.

"The setting there, and the anniversary date, all played into the context and his delivery of the speech itself, to make it probably one of his best ever."

For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow."

2015: Charleston eulogy

What: The President delivered a eulogy for the pastor and eight parishioners killed by gunman Dylann Roof.

Where: College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina.

Key point: He gave a passionate eulogy and even sang the opening line of Amazing Grace on live television.

It is up to us now to make the most of [God's grace], to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift."

2016: Rutgers University commencement

What: He spoke at the 250th anniversary of the State University of New Jersey to the graduating class.

Where: Brunswick, New Jersey.

Key point: He noted the negativity of the world, and the positive influence the next generation could have. There was even time for a dig at then Republican-presidential nominee Donald Trump.

In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It's not cool to not know what you're talking about."

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'yes we did': obama says goodbye in emotional speech.

US President Barack Obama holds up his hand as he delivers his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois.

  • Obama, Barack
  • US Elections
  • United States
  • World Politics

Barack Obama
Victory Speech
Chicago, Illinois
November 4, 2008

Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our Founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. (Cheers, applause.)

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled -- (cheers) -- Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states; we are and always will be the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

It's the answer that -- that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America. (Cheers, applause.)

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. (Cheers, applause.) Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. (Applause.) I congratulate him, I congratulate Governor Palin for all they've achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead. (Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton, and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden. (Cheers, applause.)

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama. (Cheers, applause.)

Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. (Cheers, applause.)

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Auma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given to me. I am grateful to them. (Cheers, applause.)

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe -- (cheers, applause) -- the unsung hero of this campaign who built the best -- (cheers) -- the best political campaign I think in the history of the United States of America -- (cheers, applause) -- to my chief strategist, David Axelrod -- (cheers, applause) -- who has been a partner with me every step of the way, to the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics -- (cheers) -- you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done. (Cheers, applause.)

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. (Cheers, applause.) It belongs to you. (Cheers.)

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington; it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause. (Cheers, applause.) It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy -- (cheers) -- who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep. It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from the Earth. This is your victory. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, I know you didn't do this just to win an election, and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there. (Cheers, applause.)

AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MR. OBAMA: There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know the government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.

And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.

Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers. In this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House -- a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity. Those are values we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. (Cheers, applause.)

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends -- though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too. (Cheers, applause.)

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. (Cheers, applause.) To those -- to those who would tear the world down: we will defeat you. (Cheers, applause.) To those who seek peace and security: we support you. (Cheers, applause.) And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals -- democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope. (Cheers, applause.)

That's the true genius of America, that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She is a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election, except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. (Cheers, applause.)

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons, because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin. And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America: the heartache and the hope, the struggle and the progress, the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed, yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can!

MR. OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can!

MR. OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We shall overcome." Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can!

MR. OBAMA: A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes, we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes, we can.

MR. OBAMA: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there's so much more to do. So tonight let us ask ourselves, if our children should live to see the next century, if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time -- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes, we can.

MR. OBAMA: Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

 

 


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comscore

Cody Keenan: How I wrote Barack Obama’s speeches

. . .which he then rewrote. the ex-president’s speechwriter reveals their collaborative art.

barack obama written speech

US president Barack Obama addressing members of the public at Gollege Green, Dublin, during a ceremony as part of his visit to Ireland in May 2011. Photograph: Alan Betson

My family left Ireland for America seven generations ago. To the best of our knowledge, Patrick Keenan left Cork sometime in the 1770s. He was counted in the first American census. His son, Peter Keenan, was born in America. On my mother’s side, John McThomas left Dublin around the same time, fought for America in the Revolution, and was buried in a national cemetery in Ohio.

As far as I know, I was the first in my family, on either side, to return. My first visit was with my best friend back in 2005. We were broke, relied on the kindness of strangers and camped wherever we could – a town park in Kinsale, a beach outside Galway, a farm in Dingle.

My second visit, in May 2011, was a bit different. Surely, it was something my ancestors could not imagine. I flew over in a highly modified 747, crossing the sea they had sailed, with the first black president of a country they helped settle. Hundreds of people were lined up along Moneygall village’s main street, waving Irish and American flags.

Barack Obama is two generations closer to Ireland than I am. And I know people have a laugh at how Moneygall has made the most of that relationship. But it is not a relationship that should be discounted.

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Much has been made of his Kenyan ancestry. But remember, he only met his father twice. He was raised by his white mother and white grandparents. That side of his family is one he holds just as dear. Moneygall’s favourite great-great-great-grandson really does have a soft spot for Ireland and its people. He revealed as much in his address to the people of Ireland that day, delivered to a throng that had gathered along Dublin’s College Green:

It was remarkable to see the small town where a young shoemaker named Falmouth Kearney, my great-great-great-grandfather, lived his early life. He left during the Great Hunger, as so many Irish did, to seek a new life in the New World. He travelled by ship to New York, where he entered himself into the records as a 'labourer'. He married an American girl from Ohio. They settled in the Midwest. They started a family.

It’s a familiar story, one lived and cherished by Americans of all backgrounds. It’s integral to our national identity. It’s who we are – a nation of immigrants from all over the world…

We call it the American Dream. It is the dream that drew Falmouth Kearney to America from a small village in Ireland. It is the dream that drew my own father to America from a small village in Africa. It is a dream that we have carried forward, sometimes through stormy waters, sometimes at great cost, for more than two centuries.

It’s not something he would have imagined when he was a young Chicago politician, bringing up the rear of the St Patrick’s Day parade, followed only by the sanitation workers picking up the pieces. It is not something that, for my first 26 years or so, I could have imagined, either.

Growing up, I had always taken a keen interest in politics, because my parents argued about it on a regular basis – but I began university with plans of becoming a surgeon. Chemistry class altered those plans pretty quickly. I dedicated myself instead to political science, and after graduation, I moved to Washington DC.

barack obama written speech

Cody Keenan, who served as director of speechwriting for President Barack Obama. ‘In less than 10 years, I went from mailroom intern in Congress to chief speechwriter in the White House,’ he says. Photograph: Lawrence Jackson/The White House

After a dozen failed interviews, I finally became one of 100 interns under someone for whom I will always be grateful: John F Kennedy’s kid brother, Ted. It remains my best political learning experience.

I was at the Democratic Convention in 2004 when a young state senator from Illinois introduced himself to the country. I must have talked about that speech a lot, because that is when I got my shot. One day, my overworked boss poked his head around the corner and asked, “hey, can you write a speech?”

I had never considered speechwriting. But I lied and said yes. I stayed up all night panicking my way through it. That one led to a few more. And eventually, a colleague connected me with senator Obama's chief speechwriter Jon Favreau. We hit it off, and I became an intern all over again, this time in Chicago, on an upstart presidential campaign; this time the only intern.

And as our poll numbers rose, and our crowds grew, so did my opportunities to write. We won and went to the White House. I moved into a West Wing office with Jon. And I never stopped working my tail off so that when he left, and Obama had to choose a new chief speechwriter, I was the only choice to take his place.

In less than 10 years, I went from mailroom intern in Congress to chief speechwriter in the White House.

What goes into a good speech? Well, the first thing I can tell you is that there’s no alchemy to it; no magic formula. It’s more art than science, and after 3,577 speeches in the White House, I admit a lot of it is not art, either. I have been fortunate, though, to work for someone who views it as a craft; as a way to organise his thoughts into a coherent argument and present them to the world. He takes it seriously. He was anonymous when he walked into that Boston hall in 2004, and a political rock star when he walked out. That is what a speech can do.

To this day, by the way, he reminds me that he wrote that one by himself. All the time.

He’s a frighteningly good writer, which makes my job both harder and easier. Harder because I will stay up all night to get him a draft he will be happy with. Easier because if I do not hit the mark, he is there to back me up. And when it came to any speech of consequence, President Obama was actively involved in the product. We would often begin the process for big speeches by sitting down with him in the Oval Office. We called it “The Download”. He would walk us through what was on his mind, what he wanted to say, and we would type as fast as possible.

He would always begin with the question, “what story are we trying to tell?”

Once we got his download, we would get to work, and get him a draft. He would often work on it himself until well past midnight. And this may sound counter-intuitive, but it was always a good thing to hear that he had a lot of edits. It did not mean he disliked what we put down. It meant we gave him what he needed to do the job.

When I was drafting the Charleston eulogy, for example – the speech in which he sang Amazing Grace – I stayed up for three days straight trying to make it perfect. I handed the draft to him the afternoon before the speech and went home to sleep. Right before I turned in, I got an email from him asking me to come back and meet him at 11 o’clock that night.

He told me he liked the first two pages. But he had rewritten the next two pages in just a few hours. It was annoying. Still, I apologised for what I saw as letting him down. But he stopped me and said, “Brother, we are collaborators. You gave me what I needed. The muse hit. And when you have been thinking about this stuff for 40 years, you will know what you want to say, too.”

Jon was good at building the big case and laying out the big argument. That was not my strength. I went for people’s guts. I wanted to build moral and emotional cases. I wanted to make people feel something. A sense of connection. A sense of belonging. A sense of being heard. That’s a pretty important part of storytelling.

And I think the best story we ever told came in a 2015 speech in Selma, Alabama.

In 1965, a group of mostly black Americans set out to march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery to demand their right to vote. They barely made it across the town bridge before their non-violent protest was met with violent resistance. The images shocked the conscience of the country and pushed President Johnson to call for a Voting Rights Act.

The idea that just 50 years later, a black president would return to commemorate what they did was extraordinary enough. We could have gone with a safe, simple speech commemorating the anniversary. People would have understood the symbolism. It would have been enough.

barack obama written speech

US president Barack Obama walks alongside Amelia Boynton Robinson (second right), one of the original marchers; first lady Michelle Obama; and US Representative John Lewis (second left), Democrat of Georgia, and also one of the original marchers, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches on March 7th, 2015. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

But the week before, a Republican politician went on television and said this: “I know this is a terrible thing to say . . . ” By the way, if you begin a thought that way, you don’t have to finish it. Free advice. But he continued, “I do not believe that the President loves America . . . He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

I was pissed about it. It was more dog whistle nonsense designed to delegitimise the first African American president – and, I might add, the first president to win more than 51 per cent of the vote twice since Dwight Eisenhower almost 60 years earlier.

“No Drama Obama”, true to form, was not ruffled. He thought it was a comment that merited no response. He did, however, think it was an idea worth taking on. Who gets to decide what it means to love America? Who gets to decide who belongs and who does not? Who gets to decide what patriotism is all about? And we came up with the thesis of that speech:

What could be more American than what happened in this place? What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people, the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?

The rest of that half hour made up my favourite speech. It was our purest collaboration. At one point, I made a joke that our story is too often told, in political speeches at least, as if the Founding Fathers set everything up, some Irish and Italians came over, we beat the Nazis, and here we are. But there is more to our story than that. This felt more complete, more honest. He said well, let’s include some characters from our story. “Go come up with some America.”

I grabbed my speechwriters, and we came up with: “Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters. Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Susan B Anthony, women who could do as much as any man and then some.” We made it a big open casting call:

Immigrants and Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. Slaves and ranch hands and cowboys and labourers and organisers.

The GIs who liberated a continent and the Tuskeegee Airmen, and Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. The firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11. The volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. The gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down that bridge.

The inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, all our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing. We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.

If there is one Obama speech I could make people watch, that is it. It was the best, most joyous distillation of the way he sees what this country is and can be. It was the idea that through the hard work of self-government, generations of Americans, often young Americans, often without power or title, often at great risk to themselves, have looked upon our flaws and worked to widen the circle of our founding ideals until they include everybody, and not just some.

That is how I see politics. This collective endeavour; the balance between the realism to see the world as it is, and the idealism to fight for the world as it should be anyway.

It was the exhausting, fulfilling work of those 2,922 days in the White House that gave my career meaning. But when I feel the tugging temptation of cynicism, I reach for my proof point that this whole messy endeavour of democracy can work: the 10 most hopeful days I ever saw in politics.

They began in the darkest way imaginable – a mass shooting in the basement of a Charleston church. A black church. It threatened to reopen the kinds of wounds and spark the kinds of recrimination we saw more recently in Charlottesville. But it did not unfold that way. The families of the victims forgave their killer in court. Then, there was a public recognition of the pain that the Confederate flag stirs in so many citizens, and actual introspection and self-examination that we too rarely see in public life, to the point where that flag finally came down from the South Carolina state capitol.

At the same time, it was a week when the supreme court could rule on any case, at any time, with no heads up. So while we worked on the president’s eulogy for Charleston, we were busy drafting several other statements in case he had to speak quickly.

Thursday morning, boom: Obamacare was upheld as constitutional for the second time. Obama spoke. Friday morning, boom: marriage equality becomes a reality in America. Obama spoke. An hour later, we boarded Marine One to fly to Air Force One, which would ferry us to Charleston.

I was still working in his changes to the eulogy for that afternoon. He had added the lyrics to Amazing Grace overnight. And just before he stepped off the helicopter, he turned and said, “you know, if it feels right, I might sing it”. Exhausted, I simply said “okay”. And that night, we returned to a White House that was no longer white – but bathed in the colours of the rainbow. We wrote 10 speeches in those 10 days – plus a few that never had to see the light of day.

Those 10 days were on my mind as I added these words to President Obama’s farewell address:

Ultimately, that's what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there's an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organising. If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you'll win. Sometimes you'll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energise and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed.

– Cody Keenan is a speechwriter who has worked with former US president Barack Obama for more than a decade. From Whence I Came – The Kennedy Legacy, Ireland and America, is edited by Brian Murphy & Donnacha Ó Beacháin. It is published by Merrion Press and dedicated to the memory of former Irish Times columnist Noel Whelan, 1968-2019

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barack obama written speech

Video: Biden 'freezes' at fundraiser, Obama takes his hand, leads him offstage

Video shows us president joe biden seemingly staring at the crowd and standing motionless before barack obama swoops in, taking his hand and leading him away..

Listen to Story

India Today World Desk

  • Obama helps Biden offstage after he stands motionless for several seconds
  • Critics question Biden's fitness for another term as President
  • White House defends Biden, says he was taking in applause

US President Joe Biden appeared to freeze up on stage and needed a little help from his friend, former President Barack Obama, at the end of a dazzling campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles on Saturday, the New York Post reported.

The internet had a field day with the videos, sparking another round of debates about Biden's readiness for another term. Critics were quick to jump in, questioning the fitness of the oldest sitting president in US history, especially after he appeared to wander away from other world leaders during the G7 summit in Italy just last week.

But the White House wasn't having it. They fired back, accusing the New York Post of spinning tall tales. Senior Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates took to X to set the record straight, saying Biden was just soaking in the love from the audience.

“Fresh off being fact-checked by at least 6 mainstream outlets for lying about @POTUS with cheap fakes, Rupert Murdoch’s sad little super PAC, the New York Post, is back to disrespecting its readers & itself once again. Their ethical standards could deal with a little unfreezing,” Bates quipped.

He added, “By pretending the President taking in an applauding crowd for a few seconds is somehow wrong, all they’re really admitting — once again — is they can’t take on the leadership that’s fueling the strongest economic growth in the world & bringing violent crime to a 50-year low.”

The star-studded event wasn’t just about political theatre; it was a blockbuster hit for Biden’s campaign, raking in a record-breaking $30 million-plus. The night sparkled with the presence of Hollywood A-listers like George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Barbra Streisand.

During their chat with Kimmel, Biden and Obama underscored the mission to keep Donald Trump out of power in what’s shaping up to be a history-defining electoral showdown. Published By: Devika Bhattacharya Published On: Jun 17, 2024

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  1. Transcript: President Obama's Convention Speech : NPR

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  6. Read the Full Transcript of President Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech

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VIDEO

  1. Obama calls impact of government shutdown "heartbreaking"

COMMENTS

  1. Barack Obama 475+ Speeches

    Over 475 Barack Obama Speches in Text, Audio, Video - American Rhetoric : Main Links: Home Page: Speech Bank: Top 100 Speeches: Great New Speeches: Obama Speeches ... SPEECH TITLE/TEXT/MULTIMEDA: AUDIO: SCRIPT: 02 Oct 2002: Federal Plaza Address Opposing the War in Iraq: mp3: 27 Jul 2004: Democratic National Convention Keynote Speech:

  2. FULL TRANSCRIPT: President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

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  4. Transcript Of Barack Obama's Victory Speech : NPR

    Transcript Of Barack Obama's Victory Speech. In these prepared remarks provided by his campaign, President-Elect Barack Obama calls himself the unlikeliest presidential candidate. He thanks many ...

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  6. President Obama's Farewell Speech: Read Full Transcript

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  7. Transcript: Barack Obama's DNC speech

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  10. Remarks of President Barack Obama

    The White House is once again making the full text of the State of the Union widely available online. The text, as prepared for delivery, is also available on Medium and Facebook notes, continuing efforts to meet people where they are and make the speech as accessible as possible.Through these digital platforms, people can follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, view charts ...

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    Rosa Parks would have turned 100 years old this month. We do well by placing a statue of her here. But we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction. May God bless the memory of Rosa Parks. And may God bless these United States of America.

  12. Transcript: President Obama's State Of The Union Speech : NPR

    Below is President Obama's final State of the Union address as prepared for delivery. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans: Tonight marks the eighth year I've ...

  13. Barack Obama 2008 presidential election victory speech

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  15. Transcript of Barack Obama's Speech

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  16. Transcript: Barack Obama's Speech on Race : NPR

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  17. Audio And Transcript: Obama's Victory Speech : NPR

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  18. Read Obama's full speech at the Democratic National Convention

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  19. FULL TRANSCRIPT: Sen. Barack Obama's Victory Speech

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  21. Barack Obama, Victory Speech—November 4, 2008

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    Complete text transcript and audio mp3 and video of Barack Obama Nationwide Speech to America's Students . Barack Obama. Back-to-School Speech at Wakefield High School. delivered 8 September 2009, Arlington, Virginia ... Maybe you could be a great writer -- maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper -- but you might not ...

  23. A More Perfect Union (speech)

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  25. Cody Keenan: How I wrote Barack Obama's speeches

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  27. Video: Biden appears to freeze at fundraiser, Obama takes his hand

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