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Obama’s Victory Speech
copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
It was the Friday before Election Day 2008. The sun was low in the sky. My spirits were also near to the ground. As the days focused on “change,” turned to months, and near two years, I had begun to lose hope. Too much time had passed. The Bush Administration overturned too many laws. In the recent past, the country had transgressed back into the future. Others were blissful, certain a better world would come. I was not confident. Near an hour before, Eddie, a young man who has lived on Earth for less than a quarter of a century, said he may not vote. He did not have faith that we, or he, were the change a country could believe in. for Eddie, “Yes we can” equated to “No he would not.”
Eddie had lost the ability to dream. As was true for too many Americans, the vision of what could be seemed but an illusion. For some citizens who, decades earlier, had hoped the country could change, life had become a nightmare. While this fine fellow may not have experienced a similar sense of dire desperation he did not aspire to do more than he had done.
Twenty-six months earlier, I accidentally discovered Eddie had never participated in an election. On another occasion, moments after I cast a ballot during a primary campaign, I encountered the knowledgeable fellow. Then, oh so long ago, I learned Eddie had not registered to vote, ever. When I asked him of his vote in 2006, he admitted, he did not even know an election was held.
I was fascinated, or was I frustrated. I know not. I am only certain that more than a year later, when I realized Eddie had submitted his application and received his voter registration card, I was overjoyed.
At that time, Eddie said he only chose to commit to possibly participate in the election process when his college Professor promised he would receive class credit if he registered. The scholar truly did not expect to feel a deep desire to cast a ballot anytime soon. Eddie barely paid attention to what went on beyond his personal play. Parties filled his frame. Politics, not so much.
Granted, Eddie, an extremely curious soul could carry on a conversation when the discussion turned to government or the economy. However, way back then, he mostly asked questions and listened. Eddie was polite when I shared story after story about this political event or that. He could and did converse on the issues. Mostly, when we talked, life was the topic of import.
Relationships, realities, reflections, and realizations filled our tête-à-têtes. In time, we grew closer. I first met Eddie at the recreation center. I swim daily and he works as a lifeguard. Hence, we speak with each other often.
I have witnessed, first-hand, growth I could have never imagined in such a short span. I always accepted Eddie is very smart. His curiosity is endless. Eddie is an eager, enthusiastic student of the world. He absorbs information like few I have ever known. It is not what I shared that accelerated his evolution. Eddie avidly exchanges with everyone.
Perchance, that is why, as the Presidential election became more important to his friends and family. Eddie began become interested himself. This fine fellow became the person with whom I could speak when I went to the pool. He knew what I did. He read. He watched. He tuned into television reports and connected on the Internet. Eddie was engaged in the election.
Then it happened. On All Hallows Eve, just before I placed my body into the pool, when I asked if Eddie had voted early, Eddie said, I see no reason to take part. Barack Obama will win or he will not. It is destiny. Our fates are predetermined. “Whatever occurs,” Eddie explained, “is out of our control.” He shared his religious philosophies and stories from the Bible to further illustrate this thought.
I tried to reason with him. I expressed my empathy. I told tales of when or why I too wondered what was providence and what was within our power. It was obvious to me, my words were of no avail. Forlorn, I swam. What else could I do. No one can convince another to do what he or she does not wish to do. I resigned myself to what I could not change, the mind of another human being. I have long known, people choose for themselves. Each of us has an effect on another. Still, true transformations come from within.
As I was awash in water, my mind moved. I did not think I could offer more to Eddie. I believed there were no words that might be perceived as wisdom. Indeed, I am no wiser than he. I was left to be one with my thoughts. When I emerged from the concrete pond, I approached Eddie again.
I shared my own story, my personal experience, and why this election, every election means so much to me. I told Eddie a tale I had offered before. I first became active in politics as a child. At age eleven or twelve, I marched with my family in what would be my first Civil Rights demonstration.
Just before my birth, by law, people of color could not attend school with white folks. Even after African-American children were finally allowed to attend school with Anglos, there were still numerous other restrictions on persons who were charcoal in color. Some boundaries were visible, many were not.
“In my lifetime,” I affirmed, “Those whose complexion is dark could not enter a restaurant reserved for people pale of face.” In the few years that I have been on this planet, segregation was allowed to return to America. The “privilege” to share a classroom was afforded in the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown versus Board of Education, and was virtually rescinded. I asked Eddie to consider the future of the daughter he and his bride had recently conceived.
Yes, in two short years Eddie had experienced much change, within himself. He was no longer the party person he had been. His interest in his own education had grown. The thoughtful chap now embraced knowledge more than he had before, and Eddie always was quite brilliant. A booklover, likely from birth, intellectually Eddie grasped the veracity of government. “Eddie,” I quietly exclaimed, “the President picks Supreme Court Justices. The appointments last a lifetime.” The Roberts Court has imposed edicts that will not be easily erased, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 Et. Al
“Oh Eddie,” my voice barely audible at this point, the Supreme Court, under George W. Bush has moved the country to the “Right.” Some, such as I fear, we have journeyed back more than a century. Some of the current jurors are elderly. There is reason to believe a few will choose to step down from the bench. If we, the people, do not cast a ballot for Barack Obama, I fear the Court, will move farther into the private lives of citizens.
I chattered on. My characteristic calm demeanor a bit less controlled as saltwater streamed from my eyes. “Eddie, for me, race and discrimination acted out against those of color is not the only issue that must call us to the ballot box.” There is so much more to consider. Economic, environmental, and education policies. “Eddie, think of your college loans, those you may have now and the prospects to pay for your later study.”
“Oh my gosh Eddie,, President Bush may not have been the change I or we would believe in, but he trusted he could do as he wanted.” I reasoned or attempted to articulate every thought I had, to share my personal history, and relate it to Eddie’s own truth. Change, I mused, will come. As individuals or as a country, we may not have control of all occurrences. Nonetheless, as I learned in Elementary School, “Not to make a decision is to decide.”
In my own life I realized, one by one Americans cast a vote. Collectively, we, the people, choose a President. The nation’s Chief Executive then selects who will rule the Courts, what regulations he will impose, and which laws he will sign. “Eddie, in my own life, in yours, we have seen how the President can be the change, or the constituency can be what we believe in.”
Throughout my tearful plea, Eddie was pensive. He gazed into my eyes. His stare never left my face. Then, he asked, was I crying. Initially, I made an excuse. “It is the chlorine,” I remarked. Then, more honestly, I said “Yes.” I tried to tell Eddie how much the election means to me. I shared my sincerest belief. The power that each of us has as citizens, if only we realize what we can do when we come together as one . . . My words could not express what I yearned to communicate. Nevertheless, Eddie thanked me. He said he would sincerely make an effort to get to the polls, to be part of the solution.
I was at a loss. I feared I had not said what I might have. Nor were my words as powerful as they could have been. In truth, tonight when President Elect Barack Obama stated my sentiments, better than I might ever have done, he said to Eddie what I could not though my tears. I invite reflection. Please peruse the words of a man who speaks for all Americans. Ponder the profundity of “Yes we can!”
In America, government is as this Presidential campaign has been, of, by, and for the people. Congratulations and thank you Barack Obama, Joe Biden, you, me, America. Eddie, I am grateful for your empathy and decision to cast a ballot. I have faith again; hope is alive. We, Eddie, and all Americans are indeed, the change we can believe in.
Obama’s Victory Speech
The New York Times
November 4, 2008
The following is a transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s victory speech in Chicago, as provided by Federal News Service.
Senator Barack Obama: (Cheers, applause.) Hello, Chicago. (Cheers, applause.)
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.)
I thank Eddie, Barack, and the American people. The dream is reborn, and we, as a country, can believe again. Yes we can!
History Referenced and Realized . . .
- Civics. Activism. The Cure For Voter Apathy. By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org. September 6, 2006
- Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 Et. Al Supreme Court. Argued December 4, 2006-Decided June 28, 2007
- Narrow Victories Move Roberts Court to Right, Decisions Ignore Precedent, Liberal Justices Contend. By Charles Lane. Washington Post. ?Friday, June 29, 2007; A04
- Democrats blast Bush over arsenic rules. Cable News Network. March 31, 2001
- The Bush Record. © Natural Resources Defense Council.
- The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush, By Joseph Stiglitz. Vanity Fair. December 2007
- How Bush education law has changed our schools, By Greg Toppo. USA Today. January 8, 2007
- Bush Signs Sweeping Student Loan Bill Into Law, Adding an Asterisk, By Ian Shapira. Washington Post. Friday, September 28, 2007; A06
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965. United States Department of Justice.
- Brown Versus Board of Education. 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
- Obama’s Victory Speech. The New York Times. November 4, 2008
- pdf Obama’s Victory Speech. The New York Times. November 4, 2008