Barack Obama: Speeches & Quotes

Instructor: Mary Ruth Sanders Bracy

Mary Ruth teaches college history and has a PhD.

This lesson will look at some of President Barack Obama's major speeches and quotations. President Obama was known as an excellent orator and speech-maker, and his speeches both inspired and gave a dose of reality to the people who listened.

President Barack Obama's Speeches

''To be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship.'' (President Barack Obama, 2014)

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States, in office from 2009-2017. He was the first African-American president, and a Democrat.

President Obama was a very strong speaker who both inspired his listeners and called for significant changes in American life. Some of his most famous speeches were:

  • Democratic National Convention Speech (2004)
  • Election Victory Speech (2008)
  • ''A New Beginning'' (Cairo Speech, 2009)
  • Trayvon Martin Speech (2013)
  • Selma Speech (2015)

Let's look at each of these speeches in a little more detail.

Democratic National Convention Speech

In 2004, then-U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama was selected to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. This speech brought him fully onto the national political stage. In it, Obama used his own family history to call for national unity and a ''politics of hope'' for the future:

''...there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America...We are all one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?''

Election Victory Speech (2008)

After winning the 2008 presidential election, president-elect Obama gave a victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago in which he thanked his family, campaign staff, and the American people. Elected in the middle of an economic crisis and with a mandate to reduce American involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he also laid out a new vision for the future, saying ''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 the fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts 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.''

''A New Beginning'' (Cairo Speech, 2009)

President Obama's gave his first major foreign policy speech in Cairo, Egypt in 2009. Titled ''A New Beginning,'' the speech called for a reset for American relations with Muslims around the world, which had deteriorated in the years after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks. In this speech, President Obama said ''I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles--principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.''

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