Barack Hussein Obama II (born August 4, 1961) is an American politician who represented the 13th District for three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, served as United States Senator from Illinois between January 4, 2005 and November 16, 2008 and served as the 44th President of the United States of America from 2009 to 2017. Born in Hawaii, the son of a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas, the former United States Senator from Illinois won the 2008 presidential election to become the first U.S. president of African descent. The inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States took place on January 20, 2009. In October 2009 he was announced to be the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He was re-elected president in November 2012, and was sworn in for his second and last term on January 20, 2013, which expired on January 20, 2017. He is a member of the U.S. Democratic Party. See also his books:
- 1 Quotes
- 1.1 1980s
- 1.2 1990s
- 1.3 2000-03
- 1.4 2004
- 1.5 2005
- 1.6 2006
- 1.7 2007
- 1.8 2008
- 1.9 2009
- 1.10 2010
- 1.11 2011
- 1.11.1 Tucson Memorial Address (January 2011)
- 1.11.2 Remarks on Egyptian protests (January 2011)
- 1.11.3 Remarks on Egyptian political transition (February 2011)
- 1.11.4 Address on the natural and nuclear energy disasters in Japan (March 2011)
- 1.11.5 Address on interventions in Libya (March 2011)
- 1.11.6 Remarks on death of Osama bin Laden (May 2011)
- 1.11.7 UN speech to General Assembly (September 2011)
- 1.11.8 Remarks on the economy (July 2011)
- 1.11.9 Remarks at a Dedication Ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial (October 2011)
- 1.12 2012
- 1.13 2013
- 1.13.1 Second Inaugural Address (January 2013)
- 1.13.2 Fifth State of the Union Address (February 2013)
- 1.13.3 Commencement Address at Ohio State University (May 2013)
- 1.13.4 Brandenburg Gate Speech (June 2013)
- 1.13.5 Cape Town University Address (June 2013)
- 1.13.6 "Let Freedom Ring" Ceremony (August 2013)
- 1.13.7 Remarks on Economic Mobility (December 2013)
- 1.13.8 Eulogy of Nelson Mandela (December 2013)
- 1.14 2014
- 1.14.1 Review of Signals Intelligence Speech (June 2014)
- 1.14.2 Sixth State of the Union Address (January 2014)
- 1.14.3 Address to European Youth (March 2014)
- 1.14.4 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall (April 2014)
- 1.14.5 25th Anniversary of Polish Freedom Day Speech (June 2014)
- 1.14.6 Remarks to the People of Estonia (September 2014)
- 1.14.7 Statement on ISIL (September 2014)
- 1.14.8 Remarks at Clinton Global Initiative (September 2014)
- 1.14.9 Address to the United Nations (September 2014)
- 1.14.10 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall Speech (November 2014)
- 1.14.11 Queensland University Address (November 2014)
- 1.14.12 Address to the Nation on Immigration (November 2014)
- 1.14.13 Statement on Cuban policy (December 2014)
- 1.15 2015
- 1.15.1 State of the Union Address (January 2015)
- 1.15.2 Address to the People of India (January 2015)
- 1.15.3 Bloody Sunday Speech (March 2015)
- 1.15.4 Town Hall meeting with Young Leaders of the Americas (April 2015)
- 1.15.5 Remarks at Panama Civil Society Forum (April 2015)
- 1.15.6 Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality (June 2015)
- 1.15.7 Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney (June 2015)
- 1.15.8 Remarks to the Kenyan People (July 2015)
- 1.15.9 Remarks to the People of Africa (July 2015)
- 1.15.10 Young African Leaders Initiative Presidential Summit Town Hall speech (August 2015)
- 1.15.11 Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism speech (September 2015)
- 1.15.12 Remarks after the Umpqua Community College shooting (October 2015)
- 1.15.13 Remarks to the United Nations General Assembly (September 2015)
- 1.15.14 Address to the Nation by the President on San Bernardino (December 2015)
- 1.15.15 Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment (December 2015)
- 1.15.16 Naturalization Ceremony speech (December 2015)
- 1.16 2016
- 1.16.1 State of the Union address (January 2016)
- 1.16.2 Remarks to the People of Cuba (March 2016)
- 1.16.3 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Town Hall (March 2016)
- 1.16.4 Howard University commencement address (May 2016)
- 1.16.5 After the Orlando nightclub shooting (June 2016)
- 1.16.6 Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers (July 2016)
- 1.16.7 Statement on the Shootings in Baton Rouge (July 2016)
- 1.16.8 DNC Address (July 2016)
- 1.16.9 Disabled American Veterans Convention (August 2016)
- 1.16.10 Upholding the Legacy of Those We Lost on September 11th (September 2016)
- 1.16.11 United Nations Address (September 2016)
- 1.16.12 Presidential transition of Donald Trump (November 2016)
- 1.16.13 News Conference With Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany (November 2016)
- 1.17 2017
- 1.18 2018
- 2 Misattributed
- 3 Quotes about Obama
- 4 External links
- I'm deeply saddened by a sense that whites are still superior in this country, in some sense, that if you sit at a restaurant, they're served before a Kenyan is served. If you go through customs, a white person is going to follow orders that "all people are to be treated the same". ..
- Said during a visit to Kenya in the late 1980s or early 1990s, recorded in the 20-minute documentary "A Journey In Black And White" by WeSearchr, as reported and quoted in "Documentary Of Young Obama’s Visit To Kenya Is Set To Be Released" by Alex Pfeiffer, The Daily Caller (19 September 2016)
- Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow part of this larger story of how we're going to reshape America in a way that is less mean-spirited and more generous.
- on sexism and racism, in Pugh, Allison J. (3 May 1990), "Harvard Student Tackles Racism At Core", Illinois Daily Herald
- quoted in velvethammer (14 March 2012), "Obama 1990 Interview: ‘We’re Going To Reshape Mean Spirited Selfish America, I Hope To Be Part Of Transformation’", Ironic Surrealism, retrieved on 2012-03-20 ; and Christopher, Tommy (18 March 2012), "Rachel Maddow Asks Why Both Presidents George Bush ‘Hate America’ Like Barack Obama", Mediaite, retrieved on 2012-03-20
- I'm not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me. And I'm not interested in isolating myself. I feel good when I'm engaged in what I think are the core issues of the society, and those core issues to me are what's happening to poor folks in this society.
- Informing the interviewer that he wasn't interested in merely being a financial success and moving to the suburbs, in "No Cushy Post for this Pioneer Harvard Law Review Chief Plans to Work in Inner City", by Allison J Pugh in The Akron Beacon-Journal (19 April 1990)
- It's crucial that people don't see my election as somehow a symbol of progress in the broader sense, that we don't sort of point to (me) any more than you point to a Bill Cosby or a Michael Jordan and say, "Well, things are hunky-dory." There's certainly racism here. Professors may treat black students differently, sometimes by being, sort of, more dismissive, sometimes by being more, sort of, careful because they think, you know, they think that somehow we can't cope in the classroom.
- On his election to be the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, as quoted in "No Cushy Post for this Pioneer Harvard Law Review Chief Plans to Work in Inner City", by Allison J Pugh in The Akron Beacon-Journal (19 April 1990)
- [Americans have] a continuing normative commitment to the ideals of individual freedom and mobility, values that extend far beyond the issue of race in the American mind. The depth of this commitment may be summarily dismissed as the unfounded optimism of the average American—I may not be Donald Trump now, but just you wait; if I don't make it, my children will.
- "Race and Rights Rhetoric", a law school paper, as quoted in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (2017) by David Garrow, and reported in "Young Obama Said the American Dream Is to Be Donald Trump", Vice (12 May 2017)
- Bob Dole seems to me to be a classic example of somebody who had no reason to run. You're 73 years old, you're already the third-most-powerful man in the country. So why? He seems to be drawn by some psychological compulsion. And it's too bad because in a lot of ways, he's an admirable person. There's a great story there. And Bill Clinton? Well, his campaign's fascinating to a student of politics. It's disturbing to someone who cares about certain issues. But politically, it seems to be working.
- As quoted in "A Newcomer to the Business of Politics has Seen Enough to Reach Some Conclusions About Restoring Voters' Trust", by Joe Frolik, inThe Plain Dealer (3 August 1996)
- You got these $10,000-a-plate dinners and Golden Circles Clubs. I think when the average voter looks at that, they rightly feel they're locked out of the process. They can't attend a $10,000 breakfast and they know that those who can are going to get the kind of access they can't imagine.
- As quoted in "A Newcomer to the Business of Politics has Seen Enough to Reach Some Conclusions About Restoring Voters' Trust", by Joe Frolik, inThe Plain Dealer (3 August 1996)
- I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution — at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot.
- Loyola University conference, 1998-10-19, quoted in nick cruz (18 September 2012), "Obama In 1998: "I Actually Believe In Redistribution"", YouTube
- Throughout its history, Israel has been anxious to make peace with its Arab neighbors. If successful, the current peace process is a potential opportunity for Israel to increase its security, normalize relations with its neighbors, and create a more stable and prosperous Middle East. Resolution of the conflict depends on direct negotiations between the parties based on mutual respect and recognition. The United States’ commitment to Israel must continue so Israel can negotiate with its former and current adversaries from a position of strength... Israel can take risks for peace only because of unwavering American support.
- I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
- Remarks of Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama Against Going to War with Iraq (2 October 2002); referencing the positions of former Pentagon policy adviser Richard Perle, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and chief Bush political adviser Karl Rove.
- Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.… The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors…and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
- Remarks Against Going to War with Iraq (2 October 2002).
- We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war.
- Remarks Against Going to War with Iraq (2 October 2002).
- I'm proud of the fact that I stood up early and unequivocally in opposition to Bush's foreign policy. That opposition hasn't changed.
- Letter to The Black Commentator (19 June 2003).
- I opposed DOMA in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. … I know how important the issue of equal rights is to the LGBT community. I share your sense of urgency. If I am elected U.S. Senator, you can be confident that my colleagues in the Senate and the President will know my position.
- A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, "Huh. It works. It makes sense."
- Where the stakes are the highest, in the war on terror, we cannot possibly succeed without extraordinary international cooperation. Effective international police actions require the highest degree of intelligence sharing, planning and collaborative enforcement.
- Speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (12 July 2004)
- The [Bush] Administration's failure to be consistently involved in helping Israel achieve peace with the Palestinians has been both wrong for our friendship with Israel, as well as badly damaging to our standing in the Arab world. I do not pretend to have all the answers to this vexing problem, and untangling the issues involved is an appropriate topic for a separate speech. What I can say is this: not only must we be consistent, but we will not succeed unless we have the cooperation of the European Union and the Arab States in pressing for reforms within the Palestinian community.
- Speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (12 July 2004)
- Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism have reduced the pace of military transformation and have revealed our lack of preparation for defensive and stability operations. This Administration has overextended our military.
- Speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (12 July 2004)
- On Iraq, on paper, there's not as much difference, I think, between the Bush administration and a Kerry administration as there would have been a year ago. There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage.
- "Obama's a Star Who Doesn't Follow the Script" by John Kass in The Chigago Tribune (27 July 2004)
- That's silly talk... Talk to my wife. She'll tell me I need to learn to just put my socks on the hamper.
- "Barack the Blessed" by Jim Geraghty in National Review (27 July 2004) quoting Obama on his Presidential aspirations as stated on Meet the Press the previous Sunday.
- You know, my faith is one that admits some doubt.
- ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos (15 August 2004)
- And then, on September 11, 2001, the world fractured. It's beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day, and the days that would follow — the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass; the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves; the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I pretend to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction.
- Preface to the 2004 edition of Dreams from My Father, p. x
- No one is pro-abortion.
- Speech at Benedictine University (5 October 2004)
- Our first and immutable commitment must be to the security of Israel, our only true ally in the Middle East and the only democracy,
- There are some who might say that somebody named Barack Obama can’t be elected senator in the state of Illinois. They’re probably the same folks who said that a guy named Rod Blagojevich couldn’t be elected governor of the state of Illinois.
- On a campaign trail. 
Democratic National Convention speech (July 2004)
- Speech at the Democratic National Convention (27 July 2004)
- My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential.
- Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation—not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That is the true genius of America—a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles.
- When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.
- There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
- There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there's the United States of America.
- That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted — or at least, most of the time.
- In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? I'm not talking about blind optimism here... No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.
- We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States.
- John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded.
- Today, on this day of possibility, we stand in the shadow of a lanky, raw-boned man with little formal education who once took the stage at Old Main and told the nation that if anyone did not believe the American principles of freedom and equality, that those principles were timeless and all-inclusive, they should go rip that page out of the Declaration of Independence.
- How does America find its way in this new, global economy? What will our place in history be? Like so much of the American story, once again, we face a choice. Once again, there are those who believe that there isn’t much we can do about this as a nation. That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism—every man or woman for him or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: “You’re fired!” But there is a problem. It won’t work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it’s been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It’s been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity. That’s what’s produced our unrivaled political stability.
- Knox College Commencement Address (4 June 2005)
- Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. … Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.
- Knox College Commencement Address (4 June 2005)
- When we think of the major threats to our national security, the first to come to mind are nuclear proliferation, rogue states and global terrorism. But another kind of threat lurks beyond our shores, one from nature, not humans — an avian flu pandemic.
- New York Times Op-Ed "Grounding a Pandemic" (6 June 2005) by Barack Obama and Richard Lugar
- I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.
- "Uncovering the Real Abe Lincoln : What I See in Lincoln's Eyes" Time Magazine (26 June 2005)
- I have never seen anyone burn a flag. And if I did, it would take every ounce of restraint I had not to haul off and hit them.
- Voting against a Flag Desecration Amendment (2006), as quoted in "The Constitution, Designed to Change, Rarely Does" (4 December 2008), by Jennifer S. Forsyth, The Wall Street Journal'
- The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
- Speech on the floor of the US Senate in which he opposed raising the US debt limit. (16 March 2006)
- The American people are a welcoming and generous people. But those who enter our country illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of law. And because we live in an age where terrorists are challenging our borders, we cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked. Americans are right to demand better border security and better enforcement of the immigration laws.
- Speech on the floor of the US Senate (3 April 2006). "Obama Fence Statement", starting at about 2:05.
- Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation — at least, not just; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.
- Keynote speech: Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America conference - Washington, D.C., June 2006.
- Partially quoted out of context as "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation." in a Focus on the Family political mailer, reproduced in Hamby, Peter (31 October 2012), "Anti-Obama mail piece: ‘We are no longer a Christian nation’", CNN
- Michelle will tell you that when we get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it's like a little mini-United Nations... I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher... We've got it all.
- "Keeping Hope Alive", The Oprah Winfrey Show (18 October 2006)
- When I was a kid, I inhaled. Frequently. That was the point.
- Meeting of the American Society of Magazine Editors (Oct. 2006) — "10 politicians puffing about pot" by M. J. Lee, POLITICO (19 March 2012)
- And at some point, I know that one of my daughters will ask, perhaps my youngest, will ask, "Daddy, why is this monument here? What did this man do?" How might I answer them? Unlike the others commemorated in this place, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a president of the United States — at no time in his life did he hold public office. He was not a hero of foreign wars. He never had much money, and while he lived he was reviled at least as much as he was celebrated. By his own accounts, he was a man frequently racked with doubt, a man not without flaws, a man who, like Moses before him, more than once questioned why he had been chosen for so arduous a task — the task of leading a people to freedom, the task of healing the festering wounds of a nation's original sin. And yet lead a nation he did. Through words he gave voice to the voiceless. Through deeds he gave courage to the faint of heart. By dint of vision, and determination, and most of all faith in the redeeming power of love, he endured the humiliation of arrest, the loneliness of a prison cell, the constant threats to his life, until he finally inspired a nation to transform itself, and begin to live up to the meaning of its creed.
Like Moses before him, he would never live to see the Promised Land. But from the mountain top, he pointed the way for us — a land no longer torn asunder with racial hatred and ethnic strife, a land that measured itself by how it treats the least of these, a land in which strength is defined not simply by the capacity to wage war but by the determination to forge peace — a land in which all of God's children might come together in a spirit of brotherhood.
We have not yet arrived at this longed for place. For all the progress we have made, there are times when the land of our dreams recedes from us — when we are lost, wandering spirits, content with our suspicions and our angers, our long-held grudges and petty disputes, our frantic diversions and tribal allegiances. And yet, by erecting this monument, we are reminded that this different, better place beckons us, and that we will find it not across distant hills or within some hidden valley, but rather we will find it somewhere in our hearts.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony (13 November 2006)
- Throughout American history, there have been moments that call on us to meet the challenges of an uncertain world, and pay whatever price is required to secure our freedom. They are the soul-trying times our forbearers spoke of, when the ease of complacency and self-interest must give way to the more difficult task of rendering judgment on what is best for the nation and for posterity, and then acting on that judgment — making the hard choices and sacrifices necessary to uphold our most deeply held values and ideals. This was true for those who went to Lexington and Concord. It was true for those who lie buried at Gettysburg. It was true for those who built democracy’s arsenal to vanquish fascism, and who then built a series of alliances and a world order that would ultimately defeat communism. And this has been true for those of us who looked on the rubble and ashes of 9/11, and made a solemn pledge that such an atrocity would never again happen on United States soil; that we would do whatever it took to hunt down those responsible, and use every tool at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, and military — to root out both the agents of terrorism and the conditions that helped breed it.
- "A Way Forward in Iraq", Remarks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (20 November 2006)
- We cannot afford to be a country of isolationists right now. 9/11 showed us that try as we might to ignore the rest of the world, our enemies will no longer ignore us. And so we need to maintain a strong foreign policy, relentless in pursuing our enemies and hopeful in promoting our values around the world. But to guard against isolationist sentiments in this country, we must change conditions in Iraq and the policy that has characterized our time there – a policy based on blind hope and ideology instead of fact and reality.
Americans called for this more serious policy a few Tuesdays ago. It’s time that we listen to their concerns and win back their trust. I spoke here a year ago and delivered a message about Iraq that was similar to the one I did today. I refuse to accept the possibility that I will have to come back a year from now and say the same thing. There have been too many speeches. There have been too many excuses. There have been too many flag-draped coffins, and there have been too many heartbroken families. The time for waiting in Iraq is over. It is time to change our policy. It is time to give Iraqis their country back. And it is time to refocus America’s efforts on the wider struggle yet to be won.
- "A Way Forward in Iraq", Remarks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (20 November 2006)
- Evolution is more grounded in my experience than angels.
- Most of all, I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you've given me in anticipation of a successful career. When I actually do something, we'll let you know.
- I certainly didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago. I've been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics. So I've spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress that we so desperately need...The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years, and the problems that have been ignored, have put our country in a precarious place. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, commonsense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions.
- There are countless reasons the American people have lost confidence in the President's Iraq policy, but chief among them has been the administration's insistence on making promises and assurances about progress and victory that do not appear to be grounded in the reality of the facts. We have been told we would be greeted as liberators. We have been promised the insurgency was in its last throes. We have been assured again and again that we are making progress and that the Iraqis would soon stand up so we could stand down and our brave sons and daughters could start coming home. We have been asked to wait, we have been asked to be patient, and we have been asked to give the President and the new Iraqi Government 6 more months, and then 6 more months after that, and then 6 more months after that.
- Floor Statement on President's Decision to Increase Troops in Iraq (19 January 2007)
- I have been a consistent and strong opponent of this war. I have also tried to act responsibly in that opposition to ensure that, having made the decision to go into Iraq, we provide our troops, who perform valiantly, the support they need to complete their mission. I have also stated publicly that I think we have both strategic interests and humanitarian responsibilities in ensuring that Iraq is as stable as possible under the circumstances. Finally, I said publicly that it is my preference not to micromanage the Commander-in-Chief in the prosecution of war. Ultimately, I do not believe that is the ideal role for Congress to play. But at a certain point, we have to draw a line. At a certain point, the American people have to have some confidence that we are not simply going down this blind alley in perpetuity.
When it comes to the war in Iraq, the time for promises and assurances, for waiting and patience is over. Too many lives have been lost and too many billions have been spent for us to trust the President on another tried-and-failed policy, opposed by generals and experts, opposed by Democrats and Republicans, opposed by Americans and even the Iraqis themselves. It is time to change our policy. It is time to give Iraqis their country back, and it is time to refocus America's effort on the wider struggle against terror yet to be won.
- Floor Statement on President's Decision to Increase Troops in Iraq (19 January 2007)
- The U.S. military has performed valiantly and brilliantly in Iraq. Our troops have done all that we have asked them to do and more. But no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's civil war, nor settle the grievances in the hearts of the combatants.
It is my firm belief that the responsible course of action - for the United States, for Iraq, and for our troops - is to oppose this reckless escalation and to pursue a new policy. This policy that I've laid out is consistent with what I have advocated for well over a year, with many of the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, and with what the American people demanded in the November election.
When it comes to the war in Iraq, the time for promises and assurances, for waiting and patience, is over. Too many lives have been lost and too many billions have been spent for us to trust the President on another tried and failed policy opposed by generals and experts, Democrats and Republicans, Americans and many of the Iraqis themselves.
It is time for us to fundamentally change our policy. It is time to give Iraqis their country back. And it is time to refocus America's efforts on the challenges we face at home and the wider struggle against terror yet to be won.
- Floor Statement on Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007 (30 January 2007)
- It is important at this point that Congress offer specific constructive approaches to what’s proven to be a foreign policy disaster because we’ve got too much at stake to simply stand on the sidelines and criticize...If we simply cut off funding without any structure for how a redeployment takes place, then you could genuinely have a Constitutional crisis or at least a crisis on the ground where the president continues to send troops there but now they’re being shortchanged in terms of armaments and support...The notion that as a consequence of that [2002 Congressional] authorization, the president can continue down a failed path without any constraints from Congress whatsoever is wrong and is not warranted by our Constitution.
- I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness in this, a certain audacity, to this announcement. I know that 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. People who love their country can change it.
- We've been told that our crises are somebody else's fault. We are distracted from our real failures and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants, and as people have looked away in frustration and disillusionment, we know who has filled the void. The cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests, who've turned government into only a game they can afford to play. They write the checks while you get stuck with the bill. They get access while you get to write a letter.
- Announcement of Candidacy for President of the United States. (10 February 2007)
- The Israeli people, and Prime Minister Olmert, have made clear that they are more than willing to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in two states living side by side in peace and security. But the Israelis must trust that they have a true Palestinian partner for peace. That is why we must strengthen the hands of Palestinian moderates who seek peace and that is why we must maintain the isolation of Hamas and other extremists who are committed to Israel's destruction.
- One of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.
- Of the Arabic call to prayer — as quoted in "Obama: Man of the World" by Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times (March 6, 2007)
- In Africa, you often see that the difference between a village where everybody eats and a village where people starve is government. One has a functioning government, and the other does not. Which is why it bothers me when I hear people say that government is the enemy. They don't understand its fundamental role.
- Profile in The Independent Magazine (10 March 2007)
- Nobody's suffering more than the Palestinian people from this whole process. And I would like to see — if we could get some movement from Palestinian leadership — what I'd like to see is a loosening up of some of the restrictions on providing aid directly to the Palestinian people.
- In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died – an entire town destroyed.
- On a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people  (9 May 2007)
- Look at what happened in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit. People ask me whether they thought race was the reason the response was so slow. I say, "well, no, this administration was colorblind in its incompetence." But, everyone here knows that the disaster and the poverty happened long before the hurricane hit.
- And so God is asking us today to remember the miracle of that baby and he's asking us, he says, "Take the bullet out!" If we have more black men in prison than in our colleges and universities, then it's time to take the bullet out. If we have millions of people goin' to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma, it's time to take the bullet out. If too many of our kids don't have health insurance, it's time to take that bullet out. If we keep sending our kids to crumblin' school buildings, we keep fighting this war in Iraq, a war that should've never been authorized and should've never been waged, a war that costing us 20 cents — $275 million a day, that could have been invested in rebuilding communities all across this country, then it's time to take that bullet out!
- Now here's the thing, when 9-11 happened in New York City, they waived the Stafford Act — said, "This is too serious a problem. We can't expect New York City to rebuild on its own. Forget that dollar you gotta put in. Well, here's ten dollars." And that was the right thing to do. When Hurricane Andrew struck in Florida, people said, "Look at this devastation. We don't expect you to come up with y'own money, here. Here's the money to rebuild. We're not gonna wait for you to scratch it together — because you're part of the American family." What's happening down in New Orleans? "Where's your dollar? Where's your Stafford Act money?" Makes no sense! Tells me the bullet hasn't been taken out. Tells me that somehow, the people down in New Orleans they don't care about as much!
- We know that our faith sometimes has been used as a wedge to divide us, but we also know that with a big God, with a loving and forceful God, if we unite in his name, we can finish his work on Earth. In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. With a uniting faith, with a God powerful enough to empower us, we can take those bullets out.
- There was a team that took that bullet out of the baby, 15 years ago. She's got a scar on her arm, always will, but she will survive. Just like America will survive. Just like black folks will survive. We won't forget where we came from. We won't forget what happened 19 months ago, or 15 years ago, or 300 years ago. We know who the head surgeon is, we're on the case, we're going to pull bullet after bullet out.
- I will send a strong message that Israel is our friend, that we will assist in their security and that we don't find nuclear weapons acceptable as Iran is currently envisioning it.
- Obama says Clinton has foreign policy like Bush's 26 July 2007
- I did. It's not something that I'm proud of. It was a mistake … But you know, I'm not going to. I never understood that line. The point was to inhale. That was the point.
- Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles on a standardized test; we know that's not true.
- Barrack Obama National Education Association Speech, 2007
- I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.
- The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.”
- I know you didn't do this for me. You did this—you did this because you believed so deeply in the most American of ideas—that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.
- Years from now, you'll look back and you'll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.
- Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.
- We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.
- Remarks of Senator Barack Obama on New Hampshire Primary Night (8 January 2008)
- We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.
- Remarks of Senator Barack Obama on New Hampshire Primary Night (8 January 2008)
- We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price. But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes - a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.
- I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals..
- "Q & A : Barack Obama" Interview in Christianity Today (22 January 2008)
- Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
- There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq, until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.
- Speech in Columbus, Ohio (27 February 2008)
- The forces of division have begun to raise their ugly head again … It reminds me: We've got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. A lot of pent-up anger and mistrust and bitterness. This country wants to move beyond these kinds of things.
- John McCain once opposed these tax cuts — he rightly called them unfair and fiscally irresponsible. But now he has done an about face and wants to make them permanent, just like he wants a permanent occupation in Iraq. No matter what the costs, no matter what the consequences, John McCain seems determined to carry out a third Bush term...
- The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity — she doesn't. But she is a typical white person who, you know, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, you know, there's a reaction that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way. And that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. And what makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling a little bit less like that, and that's pretty powerful stuff.
- Interview on radio staion 610 WIP (20 March 2008), as quoted in Chris Wallace criticizes Fox & Friends for "two hours of Obama bashing" in which hosts "distort … what Obama had to say" (21 March 2008)
- I've got two daughters, nine years old and six years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby.
- I taught constitutional law for ten years. I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we're facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that's what I intend to reverse when I'm president of the United States of America.
- Townhall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (31 March 2008) video
- I am not in favor of concealed weapons. I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations.
- "Candidates' gun control positions may figure in Pa. vote" by Mike Wereschagin and David M. Brown, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (2 April 2008)
- You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, a lot like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
- Lately there has been a little typical sort of political flare up because I said something that everybody knows is true which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois who are bitter. They are angry. They feel like they have been left behind. They feel like nobody is paying attention to what they're going through. So I said well you know when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country or they get frustrated about you know how things are changing. That's a natural response. And now I didn't say it as well as I should have because you know the truth is is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation those are important. That's what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to. And so they pray and they count on each other and they count on their families. You know this in your own lives and what we need is a government that is actually paying attention. Government that is fighting for working people day in and day out making sure that we are trying to allow them to live out the American dream. And that's what this campaign is about. We've got to get past the divisions. We've got to get past the distractions of our politics and fight for each other. That is why I am running for president of the United States. And I think we've got an opportunity to bring about that change right here and right now. But I'm gonna need your help Indiana. I'm gonna need your help.
- In Muncie, Indiana on Saturday, April 12, 2008 clarifying the remarks he had made in his San Francisco speech the previous Sunday. Transcript of Obama's Remarks in Muncie, Indiana (12 April 2008)
- Gibson: And in each instance, when the [capital gains tax] rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?
Obama: Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.
- I've known Reverend Wright for almost twenty years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met twenty years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs and if Reverend Wright thinks that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well and based on his remarks yesterday, well I may not know him as well as I thought either.
- Over the last fifteen months we've traveled to every corner of the United States. I've now been in fifty...seven states... I think one left to go. One left to go — Alaska and Hawaii I was not allowed to go to, even though I really wanted to visit — but my staff would not justify it.
- Now I know that if you listen to Washington or pay attention to the pundits, you hear a lot about how divided we are as a people. But that's not what I've found as I've traveled across this great country.
Everywhere I go, I've been impressed by the values and hopes that we share. In big cities and small towns; among men and women; young and old; black, white, and brown — Americans share a faith in simple dreams.
- Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, `We're going to wipe you off the planet."
- Let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat.
- You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits, but I hope you don't. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although I believe you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get here, although I do believe you have that debt. It's because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition.
- On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today — our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.
- I’m not denouncing the church, and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church. It’s not a church worthy of denouncing.
- I am reminded every day of my life, if not by events, then by my wife, that I am not a perfect man.
- Speech in Mitchell, South Dakota; (1 June 2008)
- I honor — we honor — the service of John McCain, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.
- You know in your hearts that at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say — let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.
- America, this is our moment. This is our time, our time to turn the page on the policies of the past, our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face, our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love. The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.
- Barack Obama’s Remarks in St. Paul (3 June 2008)
- These voices blame the Middle East's only democracy for the region's extremism. They offer the false promise that abandoning a stalwart ally is somehow the path to strength. It is not, it never has been, and it never will be.
- Any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.
- Obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues, and Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations.
- If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.
- At a Philadelphia fundraiser, as quoted in "Obama: ‘If They Bring a Knife to the Fight, We Bring a Gun’", The Wall Street Journal (14 June 2008)
- We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.
- The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents -- #43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic.
- I was a little puzzled by the frenzy that I set off by what I thought was a pretty innocuous statement, which is that I am absolutely committed to ending the war. I'm not trying to dump on you guys, but I'm surprised at how finely calibrated every single word was measured. I wasn't saying anything that I hadn't said before, that I didn't say a year ago, or when I was a U.S. senator. If you look at our position, it's been very consistent. The notion that we have to get out carefully has been a consistent position. … I think what's happened is that the McCain campaign primed the pump with the press to suggest that somehow we were changing our policy when we hadn't and that just hasn't been the case. I've given no indication of a change in policy … I think John McCain's going to have a much harder time explaining how he is willing to perpetuate a presence in Iraq for 10, 20, 50 years.
- Lord — Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.
- Nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face. So what they are going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know he — oh, he's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name. You know, he doesn't look like all of those other presidents on those dollar bills.
- Campaign rally in Springfield, Missouri, July 30, 2008 
- I remain skeptical that new offshore drilling will bring down gas prices in the short-term or significantly reduce our oil dependence in the long-term, though I do welcome the establishment of a process that will allow us to make future drilling decisions based on science and fact. But I've always believed that finding consensus will be essential to solving our energy crisis and today's package represents a good faith effort at a new bipartisan beginning.
- Press statement as quoted in Countdown with Keith Olbermann (1 August 2008)
- My interest is in making sure we‘ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices. If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought out oil strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage. I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done.
- So, now the Republicans are going around — this is the kind of thing they do. I don't understand it. They are going around. They're sending like little tire gauges, making fun of this idea, as if this is Barack Obama's energy plan. Now, two points. One, they know they're lying about what my energy plan is. But the other thing is, they are making fun of a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 percent to 4 percent. It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant, you know? I mean, they think it's funny that they're making fun of something that is actually true. They need to do their homework, because this is serious business. Instead of running ads about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, they should go talk to some energy experts and actually make a difference.
- People ask me... "What do you still bring from Hawaii? How does it affect your character, how does it affect your politics?" I try to explain to them something about the Aloha Spirit. I try to explain to them this basic idea that we all have obligations to each other, that we're not alone, that if we see somebody who's in need we should help... that we look out for one another, that we deal with each other with courtesy and respect, and most importantly, that when you come from Hawaii, you start understanding that what's on the surface, what people look like — that doesn't determine who they are.
And that the power and strength of diversity, the ability of people from everywhere … whether they're black or white, whether they're Japanese-Americans or Korean-Americans or Filipino-Americans or whatever they are, they are just Americans, that all of us can work together and all of us can join together to create a better country.
And it's that spirit, that I'm absolutely convinced, is what America is looking for right now.
Because we've been divided for so long, we've been arguing for so long, a lot of times about things that aren't even worth arguing about, and ignoring the things that we should be doing to make the next generation have a better life — that I think people are hungry for a new politics, they're hungry for change, and that's why I decided to run for President of the United States.
- Well, I think that you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective. Answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade. But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion, because this is something that obviously the country wrestles with.
- Tim Kaine has a message of fiscal responsibility and generosity of spirit. That kind of message can sell anywhere.
- About Virginia governor Tom Kaine, a possible VP candidate 
- You have shown what history teaches us — that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.
- If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.
- By the way, I've been called worse on the basketball court. Its not a big deal.
- Response to remarks by Alaska governor Sarah Palin (4 September)]
- I hope you guys are up for a fight. I hope you guys are game because I haven’t been putting up with 19 months of airplanes and hotel food and missing my babies and my wife — I didn’t put up for that stuff just to come in second.
- To supporters at a fund-raising party at Jon Bon Jovi's mansion in Duryea, Pennsylvania, (5 September 2008)
- "Obama: 'I Don't Believe in Coming in Second'" by Jeff Zeleny (6 September 2008)
- Let's not play games. What I was suggesting — you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith.
- "Obama's verbal slip fuels his critics" by Christina Bellantoni, The Washington Times (7 September 2008)
- I don't think me calling House Republican members would have been that helpful. I tend not to be that persuasive on that side of the aisle.
- I know these are difficult times. I know folks are worried. But I also know that now is not the time for fear or panic. Now is the time for resolve and steady leadership. Because I know we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. This is a nation that has faced down war and depression; great challenges and great threats. We have seen always that mountaintop from the deepest valley. We have always risen to the moment when the moment was hard – and we can do it again. We can restore confidence in our economy and renew that fundamental belief – that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us.
- It is absolutely critical that we understand this is not just a challenge, it's an opportunity, because if we create a new energy economy, we can create five million new jobs, easily, here in the United States.
It can be an engine that drives us into the future the same way the computer was the engine for economic growth over the last couple of decades.
And we can do it, but we're going to have to make an investment. The same way the computer was originally invented by a bunch of government scientists who were trying to figure out, for defense purposes, how to communicate, we've got to understand that this is a national security issue, as well.
And that's why we've got to make some investments and I've called for investments in solar, wind, geothermal.
- Comments on energy and environmental policies, in the Second Presidential Debate (7 October 2008)
- My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody … I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.
- So we pulled up to this diner, where people told us that we could get some good pie. And I like pie. Do you like pie too? So, we go in there, and we say, "Oh, what kind of pie you got?' And they didn't have sweet potato pie, they didn't have pumpkin pie. They had some cream pies mostly, which is OK with me. So, I got some coconut cream pie. And Governor Strickland, he got lemon meringue pie.
So while we're waiting for our pie, the staff come and they want to take a picture with me because they say, you know, the owner of this dinner is a staunch die-hard Republican, so we want to kind of tease him a little bit by getting this picture with you. So we're taking this picture and suddenly the owner comes out with the pie. And he looks at me and I say, "Sir, I understand that you are a die-hard Republican." He says, "That's right." I said, "How's business?" He said, "Not so good." He said, "My customer, they can't afford to eat out anymore." I said, "Who's been in charge of the economy for the last eight years?" He said, "Republicans." I said, "You know, if you kept on hitting your head against a wall over and over again and it started to hurt, at some point would you stop hitting your head against the wall?" He said, "You've got a point."
- Contrary to the rumours that you've heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-El, to save the planet Earth.
- Joking in a speech at the Al Smith Dinner in New York City (17 October 2008); making allusions Jesus and Superman, in regard to impossibly high expectations of what he might do as president.
- It is true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans and go back to the rate that they paid under Bill Clinton. John McCain calls that socialism. What he forgets, conveniently, is that just a few years ago, he himself said those Bush tax cuts were irresponsible. He said he couldn't in good conscience support tax cuts where the benefit went to the wealthy at the expense of middle class Americans who most need the tax relief. That's his quote. Well, he was right then, and I am right now.
- What Senator McCain has lately been suggesting is that somehow I'm going to take money from people making over $250,000, and give it to people who "pay no taxes". What he's confusing is the fact that even if you don't pay income tax, there are a lot of people who don't pay income tax, but you're still paying a whole lot of other taxes. You're paying payroll tax, which is a huge burden on a lot of middle-income families. You're paying sales taxes. You're paying property taxes. There are a whole host of taxes that you're paying. So when we provide an offset to the waitress or the janitor, these folks are working. This isn't some giveaway to people who are on welfare. This is giving help to people who are working hard every day.
- I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. But when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that’s not what America’s about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don’t contract them.
- She was somebody who was a very humble person and a very plain spoken person. She's one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America ... They're not famous, their names aren't in the newspapers. But, each and every day, they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing. And in this crowd, there are a lot of quiet heroes like that—mothers and fathers, grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives, and the satisfaction that they get is seeing that their children and maybe their grandchildren or their great-children live a better life than they did. And that's what America is about. That's what we're fighting for. And North Carolina, with just one more day, we have the opportunity to honor all of those quiet heroes all across America and all across North Carolina. We can bring change to America to make sure that their work and their sacrifice is honored. That's what we're fighting for.
- Obama speaking about his grandmother Madelyn Dunham at a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina (3 November 2008)
- I have spoken to all of them who are living. I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any séances.
- "Barack Obama apologises to Nancy Reagan after first gaffe as President-Elect" Tim Shipman, Telegraph, 08 Nov 2008. Context: Obama mentioned the fact Nancy Reagan supposedly had spiritual sessions to talk with her late husband Ronald Reagan and used an astrologer to draw up her husband's schedule after the assassination attempt against him in 1981.
- I have never seen anyone burn a flag. And if I did, it would take every ounce of restraint I had not to haul off and hit them.
- Barack Obama, as quoted in "The Constitution, Designed to Change, Rarely Does" (4 December 2008), by Jennifer S. Forsyth, The Wall Street Journal
- The truth is that, promoting science isn't just about providing resources, it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient, especially when it's inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States, and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.
Yes, we can speech (January 2008)
- We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. They will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check; we've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.
- Yes we can.
- It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights.
- Yes we can.
- It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.
- Yes we can.
- It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.
- Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.
- And so tomorrow, as we take the campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile workers in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A.; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people, we are one nation. And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.
A More Perfect Union (March 2008)
- Speech on race relations; Delivered at the National Constitution Center across from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA (18 March 2008).
- "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy.
- The document they produced was eventually signed, but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggles, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience, and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
- This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this presidential campaign: to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together — unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction — towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.
- For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
- The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can 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, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
- But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their world-view in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years.
That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop, or the beauty shop, or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failing. And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour of American life occurs on Sunday morning.
- It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. And contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidate - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice. We have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
- For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans: the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who's been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means also taking full responsibility for our own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism. They must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
- In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - that these things are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
- This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation — the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
- Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."
"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.
But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.
A World that Stands as One (July 2008)
- Speech delivered in Berlin, Germany (24 July 2008)
- Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity. That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
- History reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.
- I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.
But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please. These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart.
- People of Berlin — and people of the world — the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.
Election victory speech (November 2008)
- 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 spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. 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.
It's the answer 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 date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.
- I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. 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. 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.
It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy 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 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.
And 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. 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.
- 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 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.
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
- Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won. So I think on that one I trump you.
- To Eric Cantor
- Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.
- At the signing of executive orders on first full day as president, as reported in "Vowing transparency, Obama OKs ethics guidelines" at CNN.com (21 January 2009)
- Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.
- You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.
- In reference to an attack on him by Rush Limbaugh who declared that he hoped Barack Obama would fail as president. "Barack Obama picks a fight with Rush Limbaugh as bipartisan spirit crumbles" in The Times (24 January 2009)
- Look, I'm at the start of my administration. One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable. You know, I've got four years. A year from now I think people are going to see that we're starting to make some progress. But there's still going to be some pain out there. If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition.
- So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.
- Then you get the argument, "Well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill." What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point! No, seriously, that's the point!
- So tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.
- First address to Congress (24 February 2009)
- But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
- First address to Congress (24 February 2009)
- I've been practicing. I bowled a 129, It was like special olympics or something.
- Our immediate task, however, is the critical work of confronting the economic crisis. As I've said, we've passed through an era of profound irresponsibility; now we cannot afford half-measures, and we cannot go back to the kind of risk-taking that leads to bubbles that inevitably bust. So we have a choice. We can shape our future, or let events shape it for us. And if we want to succeed, we can't fall back on the stale debates and old divides that won't move us forward.
- Don’t shortchange the future, because of fear in the present.
- I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.
- I've said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is--although, as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.
- We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world – including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country – I know, because I am one of them.
- Remarks by President Obama to the Turkish Parliament (April 6, 2009)
- Now, before I begin, I'd just like to clear the air about that little controversy everybody was talking about a few weeks back. I have to tell you, I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. It won't happen again. President Crow and the board of regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS.
- If you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
- If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.
But what we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system that's not making anybody's mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know and your mom know, that you know what, maybe this isn't going to help, maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.
And those kinds of decisions between doctors and patients, and making sure that our incentives are not preventing those good decisions and that the doctors and hospitals all are aligned for patient care — that's something we can achieve.
- Questions for the President: Prescription for America, ABC News, 24 June 2009
- As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent, and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not. This is about more than just holding elections; it's also about what happens between elections. Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. And no country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. This—that is not democracy; that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end. In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success: strong Parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people's everyday lives.
- Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen; it needs strong institutions. Now, America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation. The essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny.
- We toured Cape Coast Castle, a place for centuries where men, women, and children of this nation and surrounding areas were sold into slavery. I'll never forget the image of my two young daughters, the descendants of Africans and African Americans, walking through those doors of no return, but then walking back those doors of return. It was a remarkable reminder that while the future is unknowable, the winds always blow in the direction of human progress.
- My administration has a job to do as well. That job is to get this economy back on its feet. That's my job, and it's a job I gladly accept. I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, "Well this is Obama's economy." That's fine. GIVE IT TO ME. My job is to solve problems, not to stand on the sidelines and carp and gripe. So, I welcome the job. I want the responsibility.
- Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact.
- Press conference addressing Henry Louis Gates's arrest by the Cambridge, MA police. (22 July 2009)
- These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.
- Ramadan Message Washington, DC (21 August 2009)
- We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict ist not paid by us. It is paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocker will take her life in the night. It is paid by he Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own. These are God's children. And after all of the politics and all of the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. This is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land.
- Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect.
- Responsibility and leadership in the 21st century demand more. In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.
- After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday!" And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up." So it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.
- I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize — men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.
But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build — a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
- Remarks by the President on winning the Nobel Peace Prize" (9 October 2009)
- Some of the work confronting us will not be completed during my presidency. Some, like the elimination of nuclear weapons, may not be completed in my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone. This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration — it's about the courageous efforts of people around the world.
- Remarks by the President on winning the Nobel Peace Prize" (9 October 2009)
- Now, what I do reject is when folks just sit on the sidelines and they're rooting for failure — whether it's on health care or energy or the economy — or the Olympics. [..] What I reject is when scoring political points is so important that you'd rather see failure. What I reject is when some folks want to go to the policies that helped get us into this mess in the first place — as if we don't remember. [..] We don't mind cleaning up the mess that was left for us. We're busy, we got our mops, we're, you know, mopping the floor here. But I don't want the folks who made the mess to just sit there and say, you're not mopping fast enough. I don't — I don't want them saying, you're not holding the mop the right way, or, that's a socialist mop. I want them to grab a mop. Grab a mop. Grab a mop — or a broom or something. Make yourself useful.
- As America’s first Pacific president, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world.
- Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2009. 
First Inaugural Address (January 2009)
- Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents. So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
- Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.
They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
- We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness..
- In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. [...] Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
- We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
- For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
- Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
- What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.
- Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
- As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
- Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
- We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
- To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
- We can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
- As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.
- Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
- With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
A World without Nuclear Weapons (April 2009)
- We're here today because of the courage of those who stood up, and took risks, to say that freedom is a right for all people, no matter what side of a wall they live on, and no matter what they look like. We are here today because of the Prague Spring -- because the simple and principled pursuit of liberty and opportunity shamed those who relied on the power of tanks and arms to put down the will of a people. We are here today because 20 years ago, the people of this city, took to the streets to claim the promise of a new day, and the fundamental human rights that had been denied them for far too long. Sametová Revoluce--the Velvet Revolution taught us many things. It showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire and expose the emptiness of an ideology. It showed us that small countries can play a pivotal role in world events and that young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts. And it proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.
- None of these challenges can be solved quickly or easily. But all of them demand that we listen to one another and work together; that we focus on our common interests, not on occasional differences; and that we reaffirm our shared values, which are stronger than any force that could drive us apart. That is the work that we must carry on.
- Now, I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it's worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.
But make no mistake: We know where that road leads. When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. We know the path when we choose fear over hope. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy but also a cowardly thing to do. That's how wars begin. That's where human progress ends.
- There is violence and injustice in our world that must be confronted. We must confront it not by splitting apart but by standing together as free nations, as free people. I know that a call to arms can stir the souls of men and women more than a call to lay them down. But that is why the voices for peace and progress must be raised together.
- Human destiny will be what we make of it. And here in Prague, let us honor our past by reaching for a better future. Let us bridge our divisions, build upon our hopes, accept our responsibility to leave this world more prosperous and more peaceful than we found it. Together we can do it.
A New Beginning (June 2009)
- So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the co-operation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
- I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon 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.
- I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.
- As the Holy Koran tells us: "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do today - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
- As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam.
- Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.
- Islam has always been a part of America's story.
- So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
- Of course, recognising our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.
- I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations - to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
- Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.
- Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism; it is an important part of promoting peace.
- For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities.
- Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories, while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations large and small that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.
- Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the centre of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
Now, there is no straight line to realise this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure.
- Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments - provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
- Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.
- People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, and the heart, and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways. […] Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together.
- We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
- A woman who is denied an education is denied equality.
- I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity - men and women - to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.
- The face of globalisation is contradictory. The internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change to communities. In all nations - including America - this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities - those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith. But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition.
- In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.
- No development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work.
- All of us must recognise that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st Century.
- We will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities.
- I know there are many - Muslim and non-Muslim - who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort - that we are fated to disagree, and civilisations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply sceptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has build up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country - you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.
- All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort - a sustained effort - to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
- It's easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward. It is easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion: that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples, a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.
- We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
- The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
- The Talmud tells us, "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
- The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
- The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth.
School speech (September 2009)
- But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
- Arlington, Virginia September 8, 2009
Town Hall meeting in Shanghai (November 2009)
- Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. I noticed that young people — they're very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone. But I am a big believer in technology and I'm a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity. And so I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of non-censorship.
- Interview in Shanghai, as quoted in [http://learning.sohu.com/20091118/n268291186.shtml China Daily (17 November 2009)
- I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged. Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. I think people naturally are — when they're in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that's irresponsible, or — but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States. And I think the Internet has become an even more powerful tool for that kind of citizen participation.
- Interview in Shanghai, as quoted in China Daily (17 November 2009)
Nobel Prize acceptance speech (December 2009)
- I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.
And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who've received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.
But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 42 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.
Still, we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.
- Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.
- In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, children scarred.
I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.
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.
I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naïve — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
- The world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another — that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier's courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.
- I believe that all nations — strong and weak alike — must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don't.
- More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.
I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That's why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.
- I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That's why NATO continues to be indispensable. That's why we must strengthen U.N. and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries.
- Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it.
- Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it's easy, but when it is hard.
- I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to actually change behavior — for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure — and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.
- Peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.
It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.
- There has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists — a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world.
I reject these choices. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent-up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests — nor the world's — are served by the denial of human aspirations.
- There's no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.
- A just peace includes not only civil and political rights — it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.
It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can't aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.
- Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, the determination, the staying power, to complete this work without something more — and that's the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there's something irreducible that we all share.
- As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we're all basically seeking the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.
And yet somehow, given the dizzying pace of globalization, the cultural leveling of modernity, it perhaps comes as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish in their particular identities — their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we're moving backwards.
- The one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. For we are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best of intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.
- We do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached — their fundamental faith in human progress — that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.
For if we lose that faith — if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace — then we lose what's best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.
Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present condition makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him."
Let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.
- We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that's the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.
- The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries.
- We said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your — if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you're not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.
- The notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs — why would I resist that? I wouldn't. I mean, that's my point, is that — I am not an ideologue. I'm not. It doesn't make sense if somebody could tell me "You could do this cheaper and get increased results" that I wouldn't say, great — the problem is, I couldn't find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.
- Let me just make this point, John...We're not campaigning anymore. The election's over.
- Nababan: You're...quite very good in Indonesian, still remind...
Obama: Masih bisa omong sedikit [I still can speak (indonesian) a little bit]
Nababan: sedikit, masih [a little bit, do you still] practising?
Obama: No, not practising, you know, I used to be fluent but I don't get a chance to practice.
Nababan: That's what I heard
Obama: Whenever we're ready
[Beginning of Interview]
Nababan: Mr. President, thank you for permitting RCTI TV for this Interview, Apa Kabar [How are you] Mr. President?
Obama: Baik-baik, Terima Kasih [(I'm) fine, thank you]
Nababan: Masih bisa bahasa Indonesia? [(Do you) still able to speak Indonesian (language)?]
Obama: Masih bisa sedikit, saya lupa banyak tapi... [(I still) can speak a little bit, but I forget many (Indonesian vocabularies)]
Nababan: Oh, This is quite good I think, banyak latihan [often practicing], do you have practice with?
Obama: You know, I don't have a chance to practice, you know, one of the interesting things is...I think Indonesians love their country so much, they usually go back, and so there isn't a hugh Immigrant Indonesian population In the United States, so I don't meet enough Indonesians which also means there aren't enough good Indonesian restaurants here in the United States...
- Interview with Putra Nababan in the White House (March 2010)
- We have to acknowledge that those past human right abuses existed and so we can't go forward without looking back, and understanding that was enormous problem, not just for America but also problem for the Indonesian people...
- Interview with Putra Nababan in the White House (March 2010)
- Nababan: Mr. President, there is a prevailing skepticism that you will be unable to act on your stance to reach out the Muslim world, how do you respond to this?
Obama: Well, actually we made enormous progresses, obviously I made my Cairo speech last year, as it sent a clear message that United States is a friend and a partner with the Muslim world, that we obviously have a determination to defeat terrorism wherever it exists, and we wanna partner with countries to deal with that issue, but we don't want terrorism to defy our relationship to the Muslim nations around the world, we want to build on cooperation on trade, on economic development, on science and technology, on culture, and...so what we've done is all the issues that I outlined in Cairo speech we've made progress all.
- Interview with Putra Nababan in the White House (March 2010)
- I think that living in Indonesia also reminded me how big the world is, you know, I've... Indonesia such a big country, such a diverse country and so many different people there and it reminded me that we have to have a broad view of the world and recognize that we all are interconnected and that's very important...
- Interview with Putra Nababan in the White House (March 2010)
- Nababan: You mentioned about people to people...many Indonesians have high expectation that the US under your leadership is successful implementing the two-state solution today Israel-Palestinian conflict, is this a realistic expectation?
Obama: Well, it is gonna be very hard. Obviously, it's been the issue for 60 years through Democratic and Republic administrations through different governments of Israel. It is a...It is a...very difficult conflict, But I, I am going to work as hard as I can while I'm president, to make sure that we arrive to two-state solution, where Israel is secure as living side by side by a prosperous and successful Palestinian nation, and everybody in the region understands that this is the right thing to do, the question is how do we breakdown the barrier of trust, or the barrier of distrust, that exist between these countries...
- Interview with Putra Nababan in the White House (March 2010)
- They call it Armageddon, the end of freedom as we know it. After I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling, some cracks opening up in the earth. Turned out it was a nice day.
- Whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower...
- Obama: America a Superpower 'Whether We Like It or Not', FoxNews.com (15 April 2010)
- I do think at a certain point you've made enough money.
- I said very early on, as a senator, and continued to believe as a presidential candidate and now as president that we can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the, the biggest attack that ever took place on our soil, we absorbed it and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country that we live in and our people are incredibly resilient.
- July 2010 interview with Bob Woodward, recounted on World News with Diane Sawyer (27 September 2010)
- We can never say it enough. The United States and the United Kingdom enjoy a truly special relationship. We celebrate a common heritage. We cherish common values. . . . Above all, our alliance thrives because it advances our common interests. . . . When the United States and the United Kingdom stand together, our people—and people around the world—are more secure and they are more prosperous. In short, the United States has no closer ally and no stronger partner than Great Britain.
- Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality.
- I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.
- The only people who don't want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.
- Weekly Address (21 August 2010)
- And I think anybody who’s occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.
- As I said last year, each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its own people. Yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty, that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments. To put it simply, democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens.
- The world that America seeks is not one we can build on our own. For human rights to reach those who suffer the boot of oppression, we need your voices to speak out. In particular, I appeal to those nations who emerged from tyranny and inspired the world in the second half of the last century, from South Africa to South Asia, from Eastern Europe to South America. Don't stand idly by, don't be silent when dissidents elsewhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten. Recall your own history, because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.
- I'm a Christian by choice. My family didn't — frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me. I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God. But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace. That's what I strive to do. That's what I pray to do every day. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith. … One thing I want to emphasize, having spoken about something that obviously relates to me very personally, as president of the United States I'm also somebody who deeply believes that part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and no faith… that this is a country that is still predominantly Christian, but we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own.
That's part of what makes this country what it is.
- Statement during National Prayer Breakfast (27 September 2010), "Obama 'Christian By Choice': President Responds To Questioner" by Charles Babington and Darlene Superville, Associated Press (28 September 2010) - Video : President Obama: "I am a Christian By Choice" at ABC News (29 September 2010)
- Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty. Because there are aspirations that human beings share -- the liberty of knowing that your leader is accountable to you, and that you won’t be locked up for disagreeing with them; the opportunity to get an education and to be able to work with dignity; the freedom to practice your faith without fear or restriction. Those are universal values that must be observed everywhere.
- Remarks by the President at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia November 10, 2010
- The line "Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty. Because there are aspirations that human beings share - the liberty of knowing that your leader is accountable to you - and that you won't get locked up for disagreeing with them" was according to the BBC's Guy Delauney in Jakarta a thinly-veiled swipe at China, in particular its treatment of political dissidents. See Obama hails Indonesia as example for world, BBC News Asia-Pacific, 10 November 2010.
- The line "Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty" was later repeated by Obama in his remarks to the Australian Parliament on November 17, 2011 where Obama stated: "As we grow our economies, we’ll also remember the link between growth and good governance -- the rule of law, transparent institutions, the equal administration of justice. Because history shows that, over the long run, democracy and economic growth go hand in hand. And prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty."
State Of The Union (January 2010)
- The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.
- Let's try common sense. A novel concept.
2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (April 2010)
- Quotes by President Obama relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill which began on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico.
- It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.
- Reforms Slow to Arrive at Drilling Agency (April 2, 2010)
- The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.
- Speech at Solyndra, May 26, 2010. 
- I do not want to see BP nickel and diming these businesses that are having a tough time.
- Florida workers getting $5000 checks from BP -- but will it be enough?, Palm Beach Post (June 8, 2010)
- I have not spoken to him directly. Here's the reason. Because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he's gonna say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words. I'm interested in actions.
- I would have fired BP chief by now, Obama says (June 8, 2010)
- We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.
- I would have fired BP chief by now, Obama says (June 8, 2010)
- Even though I'm president of the United States, my power is not limitless. So I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck it up with a straw. All I can do is make sure that I put honest, hard-working smart people in place … to implement this thing."
- The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray.
- Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.
- Obama: Now, I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books, but that doesn't mean I don't know very well the real pain and heartbreak that deportations cause. I share your concerns and I understand them. And I promise you, we are responding to your concerns and working every day to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. [Applause] And believe me, right now dealing with Congress —
Audience: Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can!
Obama: Believe me — believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. [Laughter] I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. [Laughter] But that's not how — that's not how our system works.
Audience member: Change it!
Obama: That’s not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written. So let’s be honest. I need a dance partner here — and the floor is empty.
- Lincoln -- they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me. So democracy has never been for the faint of heart.
- Obama: I’m Just Like Lincoln (16 August 2011)
- Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do.
- Having encountered many setbacks, Havel lived with a spirit of hope, which he defined as “the ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon. He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world.
- I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln -- just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history.
Tucson Memorial Address (January 2011)
- Remarks by the President at a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona (12 January 2011), in response to the 2011 Tucson shootings - Transcript at The Washington Post.
- To the families of those we've lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.
- There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
- Gabby called it "Congress on Your Corner" — just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.
- These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned — as it was on Saturday morning.
- But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
- Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
- If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost.
- I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here — they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.
- That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us — we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.
- If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.
Remarks on Egyptian protests (January 2011)
- My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.
The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.
- I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.
At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.
Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we've cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region. But we've also been clear that there must be reform — political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
- When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.
Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people: a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people.
- Around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens. That's true here in the United States; that's true in Asia; it is true in Europe; it is true in Africa; and it’s certainly true in the Arab world, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard.
When I was in Cairo, shortly after I was elected President, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve.
Surely there will be difficult days to come. But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful.
Remarks on Egyptian political transition (February 2011)
- There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.
- I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.
Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights.
We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like.
We saw a young Egyptian say, “For the first time in my life, I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works.”
We saw protesters chant “Selmiyya, selmiyya” — “We are peaceful” — again and again.
We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect.
And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded, volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed.
We saw people of faith praying together and chanting – “Muslims, Christians, We are one.” And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.
And above all, we saw a new generation emerge — a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days…that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.
This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.
- Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.
The word Tahrir means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people — of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.
Address on the natural and nuclear energy disasters in Japan (March 2011)
- I wanted to update the American people on what we know about the situation in Japan, what we’re doing to support American citizens and the safety of our own nuclear energy, and how we are helping the Japanese people contain the damage, recover and rebuild.
- Even as Japanese responders continue to do heroic work, we know that the damage to the nuclear reactors in Fukushima Daiichi plant poses a substantial risk to people who are nearby. That is why yesterday, we called for an evacuation of American citizens who are within 50 miles of the plant. This decision was based upon a careful scientific evaluation and the guidelines that we would use to keep our citizens safe here in the United States, or anywhere in the world.
- I know that many Americans are also worried about the potential risks to the United States. So I want to be very clear: We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it’s the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific. Let me repeat that: We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific. That is the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts.
- Our nuclear power plants have undergone exhaustive study, and have been declared safe for any number of extreme contingencies. But when we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event, and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people.
That’s why I’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a comprehensive review of the safety of our domestic nuclear plants in light of the natural disaster that unfolded in Japan.
- We are working aggressively to support our Japanese ally at this time of extraordinary challenge. Search and rescue teams are on the ground in Japan to help the recovery effort. A disaster assistance and response team is working to confront the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. The U.S. military, which has helped to ensure the security of Japan for decades, is working around the clock.
- We have an alliance that was forged more than a half century ago, and strengthened by shared interests and democratic values. Our people share ties of family, ties of culture, and ties of commerce. Our troops have served to protect Japan’s shores, and our citizens have found opportunity and friendship in Japan’s cities and towns.
- I am confident that Japan will recover and rebuild because of the strength and spirit of the Japanese people. Over the last few days, they’ve opened up their homes to one another. They’ve shared scarce resources of food and water. They’ve organized shelters, provided free medical care, and looked out for their most vulnerable citizens. One man put it simply: “It’s a Japanese thing. When hard times hit, we have to help each other.”
- In the midst of economic recovery and global upheaval, disasters like this remind us of the common humanity that we share. We see it in the responders who are risking their lives at Fukushima. We show it through the help that has poured into Japan from 70 countries. And we hear it in the cries of a child, miraculously pulled from the rubble.
In the coming days, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the safety of American citizens and the security of our sources of energy. And we will stand with the people of Japan as they contain this crisis, recover from this hardship, and rebuild their great nation.
Address on interventions in Libya (March 2011)
- I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya — what we’ve done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.
I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.
Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda all across the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families. And I know all Americans share in that sentiment.
- For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That’s what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.
- If we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
- In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days.
- I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do.
That’s not to say that our work is complete.
- While our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.
- Much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all — even in limited ways — in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home.
It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country — Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.
To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
- America has an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful — yet fragile — transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling that institution’s future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.
- There is no question that Libya — and the world — would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.
The task that I assigned our forces — to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone — carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It’s also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.
- To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.
- As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do — and will do — is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Qaddafi’s side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.
- As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. I’ve made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests. That's why we’re going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.
There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security — responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us. They’re problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.
In such cases, we should not be afraid to act — but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.
- When one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States — in a region that has such a difficult history with our country — this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, “We are your friends. We are so grateful to those men who are protecting the skies.”
This voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer.
Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently to different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And then there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed.
The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference.
- I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed at one’s own people; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.
Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith — those ideals — that are the true measure of American leadership.
- My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas -- when the news is filled with conflict and change -- it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I’ve said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength here at home. That must always be our North Star -- the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring for our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.
- For generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter, if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.
Tonight, let us give thanks for the Americans who are serving through these trying times, and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward. And let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country, but for all those yearning for freedom around the world.
Remarks on death of Osama bin Laden (May 2011)
- Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
- On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
- Last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
- For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
- The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
- Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.
- Tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.
The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
UN speech to General Assembly (September 2011)
- America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.
- Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, and persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are.
- The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.
- As we meet here today, men and women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria’s borders. The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice -- protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. And the question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?
- Already, the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria’s leaders. We supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people. And many of our allies have joined in this effort. But for the sake of Syria -- and the peace and security of the world -- we must speak with one voice. There's no excuse for inaction. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.
Remarks on the economy (July 2011)
- I will not sign a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension. That is just not an acceptable approach. And if we think it’s going to be hard -- if we think it’s hard now, imagine how these guys are going to be thinking six months from now in the middle of election season where they’re all up. It’s not going to get easier. It’s going to get harder. So we might as well do it now -- pull off the Band-Aid; eat our peas. Now is the time to do it. If not now, when?
- Regarding stopgap measures for the federal budget, White House press conference (11 July 2011)
- It is easy to get to a higher number when you are not asking anything difficult from yourself.
- In response to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who, on behalf of the Republican party, wanted steeper cuts, while opposing tax rises (also termed as revenue enhancements) in a meeting about the U.S. debt ceiling on July 13, 2011.
- According to an unidentified source, as reported by blogger Sam Stien, "Obama Warns Cantor 'Don't Call My Bluff' As Debt Talks Stall," The Huffington Post, 14 July 2011
- I've been left at the altar now a couple of times.
- Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America. No matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a AAA country.
- On the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's decision to downgrade the USA's credit rating, as quoted in Obama Counsels Calm, but No Deal Is in Sight", The New York Times (8 August 2011)]
Remarks at a Dedication Ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial (October 2011)
- Barack Obama's remarks at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication at The National Mall in Washington, D.C. (16 October 2011)
- First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick. Change has never been simple, or without controversy. Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination.
- Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest. But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality. If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country -- (applause) -- with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another. He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.
- My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
- Obama: 'If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon', Politico (23 March 2012)
- 'After my election, I have more flexibility', spoken March 26, 2012 to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev while in Korea.
- By 2014, the war in Afghanistan will be over.
- Tweet (5 May 2012)
- The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government — oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don't have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.
- press conference on the economy, 2012-06-08, quoted in Little, Morgan (2012-06-10). "Obama's private sector remarks critiqued, defended on Sunday shows". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2012-06-29.
- Listen, it is absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine. That's the reason I had a press conference. That's why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month, and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger. The economy is not doing fine.
- press conference welcoming President Aquino of the Philippines, 2012-06-08, quoted in Little, Morgan (2012-06-10). "Obama's private sector remarks critiqued, defended on Sunday shows". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2012-06-29.
- posed question: "Mr. President, Mitt Romney says you're out of touch for saying the private sector is doing fine. What's your response?"
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn't — look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, "well, it must be because I was just so smart." There are a lot of smart people out there. "It must be because I worked harder than everybody else." Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges; if you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
- Campaign speech, Roanoke, Virginia, 2012-07-13, quoted in Tapper, Jake (2012-07-16). "Did Obama Say, ‘If You’ve Got a Business, You Didn’t Build That’?". ABC News. Retrieved on 2012-07-29. For further information see You didn't build that speech.
- I'll cut out government spending that's not working, that we can't afford, but I'm also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well. Just like we've tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked. That's the difference. That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term.
- Campaign speech, Oakland, California, 2012-07-24, quoted in Tapper, Jake (2012-07-26). "Obama Now Partly Running On Bill Clinton’s Record — ‘Our Plan’". ABC News. Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
- Partially quoted as "We tried our plan and it worked. That's the difference. That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term." in Mitt Romney "It Worked" campaign ad (2012-07-26)
- Now, when we came together, we knew restoring that bargain — that deal, that compact — was not going to be easy. We knew it would take more than one year or one term or maybe even one President, because we had seen what had happened in the previous decade. Jobs had moved overseas. Folks were working harder and harder, but their wages or incomes, they were staying flat, sometimes even going down. The cost of everything from health care to college was going up. And then, it all culminated in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression — a crisis that robbed too many of our friends and our neighbors of jobs, the value of their homes, their savings. And all that pushed the American Dream even further out of reach for too many working people.
- Campaign speech, Grand Junction High School, Colorado, 2012-08-08, quoted in Collins, Ben (2012-08-09). "Obama in Colorado: “We knew it was going to take longer than one term . . .”". Mitt Romney Central. Retrieved on 2012-08-10.
- Furthermore compare what Obama said in 2009
- You know, I would say Incomplete...but what I would say is the steps that we have taken in saving the auto industry, in making sure that college is more affordable and investing in clean energy and science and technology and research, those are all the things that we are going to need to grow over the long term.
- quoted in Derby, Dianne (2012-09-03). "11 News Anchor Dianne Derby Interviews President Obama". kktv.com. Retrieved on 2012-09-04.
- posed question: Your party says you inherited a bad situation. You've had three and a half years to fix it. What grade would you give yourself so far for doing that?
- Making products that we sell around the world stamped with three proud words: Made in the USA.
- Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event – Melbourne, Florida (9 September 2012)
- We need a President who is fighting for all Americans, not one who writes off nearly half the country.
- Tweet (18 Sep 2012)
- I think that I've learned some lessons over the past four years, and the most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside. That's how I got elected and that's how the big accomplishments like health care got done – was because we mobilized the American people to speak out. That's how we were able to cut taxes for middle class families. So, something that I'd really like to concentrate on in my second term is being in a much more constant conversation with the American people, so that they can put pressure on Congress to move some of these issues forward.
- Univision forum, 2012-09-20, quoted in Rothman, Noah (2012-09-20). "Obama: ‘You Can’t Change Washington From The Inside’". Mediaite.com. Retrieved on 2012-09-21.
- In every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they're willing to tolerate freedom for others. That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well. [...] I know there are some who ask why we don't just ban such a video. And the answer is enshrined in our laws: Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day -- (laughter) -- and I will always defend their right to do so. (Applause.) [...] The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect. [...] On this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. (Applause.) There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There's no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There's no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.
- Remarks by the President to the UN General Assembly (25 September 2012), quoted in "President Obama Condemns Both ‘Disgusting’ Anti-Islam Video And ‘Mindless’ Violence Before The U.N." by Andrew Kirell, mediaite.com.
- The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt — it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted "Muslims, Christians, we are one." The future must not belong to those who bully women — it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country's resources — it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support. The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: "Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit." Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.
- Speech to United Nations General Assembly, 2012-09-25, quoted in Trinko, Katrina (2012-09-25). "Obama: ‘The Future Must Not Belong To Those Who Slander the Prophet of Islam’". National Review. Retrieved on 2012-09-29.
- “Assume that in 30 minutes you will stop being president. I will take your place. Prepare me. Teach me how to be president.”
This was the third time I’d put the question to him, in one form or another. The first time, a month earlier in this same cabin, he’d had a lot of trouble getting his mind around the idea that I, not he, was president. He’d started by saying something he knew to be dull and expected but that—he insisted—was nevertheless perfectly true. “Here is what I would tell you,” he’d said. “I would say that your first and principal task is to think about the hopes and dreams the American people invested in you. Everything you are doing has to be viewed through this prism. And I tell you what every president … I actually think every president understands this responsibility. I don’t know George Bush well. I know Bill Clinton better. But I think they both approached the job in that spirit.” Then he added that the world thinks he spends a lot more time worrying about political angles than he actually does.
- The gist of Obama’s advice to any would-be president is something like this: You may think that the presidency is essentially a public-relations job. Relations with the public are indeed important, maybe now more than ever, as public opinion is the only tool he has for pressuring an intractable opposition to agree on anything. He admits that he has been guilty, at times, of misreading the public. He badly underestimated, for instance, how little it would cost Republicans politically to oppose ideas they had once advocated, merely because Obama supported them. He thought the other side would pay a bigger price for inflicting damage on the country for the sake of defeating a president. But the idea that he might somehow frighten Congress into doing what he wanted was, to him, clearly absurd. “All of these forces have created an environment in which the incentives for politicians to cooperate don’t function the way they used to,” he said. “L.B.J. operated in an environment in which if he got a couple of committee chairmen to agree he had a deal. Those chairmen didn’t have to worry about a Tea Party challenge. About cable news. That model has progressively shifted for each president. It’s not a fear-versus-a-nice-guy approach that is the choice. The question is: How do you shape public opinion and frame an issue so that it’s hard for the opposition to say no. And these days you don’t do that by saying, ‘I’m going to withhold an earmark,’ or ‘I’m not going to appoint your brother-in-law to the federal bench.’”
- Many if not most of his decisions are thrust upon the president, out of the blue, by events beyond his control: oil spills, financial panics, pandemics, earthquakes, fires, coups, invasions, underwear bombers, movie-theater shooters, and on and on and on. They don’t order themselves neatly for his consideration but come in waves, jumbled on top of each other. “Nothing comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable,” Obama said at one point. “Otherwise, someone else would have solved it. So you wind up dealing with probabilities. Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that and feel comfortable with the way you made the decision. You can’t be paralyzed by the fact that it might not work out.” On top of all of this, after you have made your decision, you need to feign total certainty about it. People being led do not want to think probabilistically.
Now that we're 18 days before the election, Mr. Severely Conservative wants you to think he was severely kidding about everything he said over the last year. He told folks he was the ideal candidate for the Tea Party, now he's telling folks, "What? Who me?" He's forgetting what his own positions are. And he's betting that you will too. I mean, he's changing up so much and backtrackin' and sidesteppin'. We've gotta name this condition that he's going though. I think it's called Romnesia. That's what it's called. I think that's what he's goin' through. Now, I'm not a medical doctor, but I do wanna go over some of the symptoms with you, because I wanna make sure nobody else catches it.
You know, if you say you're for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you'd sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work, you might have Romnesia.
If you say women should have access to contraceptive care, but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care, you might have a case of Romnesia.
If you say you'll protect a woman's right to choose, but you stand up in a primary debate and say that you'd be delighted to sign a law outlying — outlawing that right to choose in all cases — man, you definitely got Romnesia.
Now, this extends to other issues. If you say earlier in the year, "I'm gonna give a tax cut to the top 1%", and in a debate you say, "I don't know anything about giving tax cuts to rich folks", you need to get a thermometer, take your temperature, because you've probably got Romnesia.
If you say that you're a champion of the coal industry when, while you were governor, you stood in front of a coal plant and said "This plant will kill you" —[audience: Romnesia!] that's some Romnesia.
And if you come down with a case of Romnesia and you can't seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you've made over the six years you've been running for President, here's the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions. We can fix you up.. We've got a cure. We can make you well, Virginia. This is a curable disease.
- Campaign rally, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, 2012-10-19
- The sequester is not something that I proposed. It's something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.
- Third Presidential Debate (22 October 2012)
- I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's: What are our capabilities?
- When it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.
- But right now, the key is to make sure that the public is following instructions. For those of you who still need additional information about how to respond, you can go to Ready.gov -- that’s Ready.gov. And that website should provide you with all the information that your family needs in terms of how you can prepare for this storm.
- And at the time the Republican Congress and a Senate candidate by the name of Mitt Romney — [crowd boos] No, no, no — Don't boo, vote. Vote! Voting's the best revenge.
- Springfield, Ohio campaign event, 2012-11-02
- quoted in Newby, Joe (2 November 2012), "Obama to supporters: Voting 'best revenge' against Mitt Romney", Examiner, retrieved on 2012-11-03 and Clawson, Laura (3 November 2012), "Obama tells crowd 'voting is the best revenge'; Romney freaks out", Daily Kos, retrieved on 2012-11-03
- [D]emocracy is not something that is static; it’s something that we constantly have to work on. [...]democracy is a little messier than alternative systems of government, but that’s because democracy allows everybody to have a voice. And that system of government lasts, and it’s legitimate, and when agreements are finally struck, you know that nobody is being left out of the conversation. And that’s the reason for our stability and our prosperity.
- At times, we’ve disagreed on matters of policy. But one thing we’ve always shared is a notion of what public service should be. That it ought to be more than just doing what’s popular in the moment. That it ought to be about what’s right for our nation, over the long term. It ought to be about problem-solving and governance, not just how we can score political points on each other or engage in obstructionism. And where compromise is not a vice and where bipartisanship is a actually considered a virtue -- to be rewarded, not punished.
Remarks at Clinton Global Initiative (September 2012)
- Remarks by the President to the Clinton Global Initiative at Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York City, New York on September 25, 2012
- As Bill mentioned, I’ve come to CGI every year that I’ve been President, and I’ve talked with you about how we need to sustain the economic recovery, how we need to create more jobs. I’ve talked about the importance of development -- from global health to our fight against HIV/AIDS to the growth that lifts nations to prosperity. We've talked about development and how it has to include women and girls -- because by every benchmark, nations that educate their women and girls end up being more successful. And today, I want to discuss an issue that relates to each of these challenges. It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name -- modern slavery.
- Now, I do not use that word, "slavery" lightly. It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history. But around the world, there’s no denying the awful reality. When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape -- that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving -- that’s slavery. When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed -- that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family -- girls my daughters’ age -- runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists -- that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.
- Our people and our children are not for sale. But for all the progress that we’ve made, the bitter truth is that trafficking also goes on right here, in the United States. It’s the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker. The man, lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen. The teenage girl, beaten, forced to walk the streets. This should not be happening in the United States of America.
- Of course, no government, no nation, can meet this challenge alone. Everybody has a responsibility. Every nation can take action. Modern anti-trafficking laws must be passed and enforced and justice systems must be strengthened. Victims must be cared for. [...] And more broadly, as nations, let’s recommit to addressing the underlying forces that push so many into bondage in the first place. With development and economic growth that creates legitimate jobs, there’s less likelihood of indentured servitude around the globe. A sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited, that has to be burned into the cultures of every country.
- Human trafficking is not a business model, it is a crime, and we are going to stop it.
- And every business can take action. All the business leaders who are here and our global economy companies have a responsibility to make sure that their supply chains, stretching into the far corners of the globe, are free of forced labor. [...] Every faith community can take action as well, by educating their congregations, by joining in coalitions that are bound by a love of God and a concern for the oppressed. And like that Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can’t just pass by, indifferent. We’ve got to be moved by compassion. We’ve got to bind up the wounds. Let’s come together around a simple truth -- that we are our brother’s keepers and we are our sister’s keepers. And finally, every citizen can take action: by learning more; by going to the website that we helped create -- SlaveryFootprint.org; by speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the products we buy are made free of forced labor; by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women.
Re-election Speech (November 2012)
- Transcript of Barakc Obama's reelection speech as reported by FoxNews.com, (7 November 2012) Delievered at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, Illinois on November 6, 2012.
- 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. 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.
- 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. 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, 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.
- A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all 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 by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.
- 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.
- 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.
- To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner.
- 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 future we hope for. That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go -- forward. That's where we need to go. 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 or solve 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.
- The role of citizen 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. 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; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations. The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for comes with responsibilities as well as rights. And among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great.
- I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks 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.
- America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, 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, able, disabled, gay or straight, 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. 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.
Yangon University Speech (November 2012)
- [W]e were inspired by the fierce dignity of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as she proved that no human being can truly be imprisoned if hope burns in your heart.
- Even though we come from different places, we share common dreams: to choose our leaders; to live together in peace; to get an education and make a good living; to love our families and our communities. That’s why freedom is not an abstract idea; freedom is the very thing that makes human progress possible -- not just at the ballot box, but in our daily lives.
One of our greatest Presidents in the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, understood this truth. He defined America’s cause as more than the right to cast a ballot. He understood democracy was not just voting. He called upon the world to embrace four fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These four freedoms reinforce one another, and you cannot fully realize one without realizing them all.
- And to protect the freedom of all the voters, those in power must accept constraints. That's what our American system is designed to do. Now, America may have the strongest military in the world, but it must submit to civilian control. I, as the President of the United States, make determinations that the military then carries out, not the other way around. As President and Commander-In-Chief, I have that responsibility because I'm accountable to the people.
- Now, on other hand, as President, I cannot just impose my will on Congress -- the Congress of the United States -- even though sometimes I wish I could. The legislative branch has its own powers and its own prerogatives, and so they check my power and balance my power. I appoint some of our judges, but I cannot tell them how to rule, because every person in America -- from a child living in poverty to me, the President of the United States -- is equal under the law. And a judge can make a determination as to whether or not I am upholding the law or breaking the law. And I am fully accountable to that law.
- It's not enough to trade a prison of powerlessness for the pain of an empty stomach. But history shows that governments of the people and by the people and for the people more powerful in delivering prosperity.
- When ordinary people have a say in their own future, then your land can’t just be taken away from you.
- And that kind of economic growth, where everybody has opportunity -- if you work hard, you can succeed -- that's what gets a nation moving rapidly when it comes to develop. But that kind of growth can only be created if corruption is left behind. For investment to lead to opportunity, reform must promote budgets that are transparent and industry that is privately owned.
- Above all, when your voices are heard in government, it's far more likely that your basic needs will be met. And that’s why reform must reach the daily lives of those who are hungry and those who are ill, and those who live without electricity or water.
- And let us remember that in a global economy, a country’s greatest resource is its people. So by investing in you, this nation can open the door for far more prosperity -- because unlocking a nation’s potential depends on empowering all its people, especially its young people.
- No process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation. [...] National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country’s future, it is necessary to stop incitement and to stop violence.
- Every nation struggles to define citizenship. America has had great debates about these issues, and those debates continue to this day, because we’re a nation of immigrants -- people coming from every different part of the world. But what we’ve learned in the United States is that there are certain principles that are universal, apply to everybody no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what religion you practice. The right of people to live without the threat that their families may be harmed or their homes may be burned simply because of who they are or where they come from. Only the people of this country ultimately can define your union, can define what it means to be a citizen of this country. But I have confidence that as you do that you can draw on this diversity as a strength and not a weakness. Your country will be stronger because of many different cultures, but you have to seize that opportunity. You have to recognize that strength.
- In many ways, fear is the force that stands between human beings and their dreams. Fear of conflict and the weapons of war. Fear of a future that is different from the past. Fear of changes that are reordering our societies and economy. Fear of people who look different, or come from a different place, or worship in a different way. In some of her darkest moments, when Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned, she wrote an essay about freedom from fear. She said fear of losing corrupts those who wield it -- “Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” That's the fear that you can leave behind. We see that chance in leaders who are beginning to understand that power comes from appealing to people’s hopes, not people's fears.
- As one former prisoner put it in speaking to his fellow citizens, “Politics is your job. It’s not only for [the] politicians.” And we have an expression in the United States that the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen -- not President, not Speaker, but citizen.
- You're the ones who are going to have to seize freedom, because a true revolution of the spirit begins in each of our hearts.
Remarks after Sandy Hook killings (December 2012)
- As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.
May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.
Sandy Hook Prayer Vigil (December 2012)
- President Obama at Prayer Vigil for Connecticut Shooting Victims: "Newtown, You Are Not Alone" (16 December 2012)
- We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.
Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.
I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight.
And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.
- As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.
But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions.
- It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.
And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.
This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
- Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?
Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?
Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.
And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this.
If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.
- We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.
We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.
There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.
The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.
We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.
- These are our kids. This is what they’re thinking about. And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing -- not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.
- Remarks by the President and the Vice President on Gun Violence (January 16, 2013). Retrieved on 2013-01-16.
- This is the land of the free, and it always will be. As Americans, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we've also long recognized, as our Founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don’t live in isolation. We live in a society, a government of, and by, and for the people. We are responsible for each other.
- Remarks by the President and the Vice President on Gun Violence (January 16, 2013). Retrieved on 2013-01-16.
- There will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish state of Israel and those two states can, I think, will be able to deal with each other the same way all states do. I mean, you know, the United States and Canada has arguments once in a while, but they’re not the nature of arguments that can’t be solved diplomatically.
- Press conference in Ramallah (21 March 2013), as quoted in "Obama Compares Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to Arguments Between U.S. and Canada" in Wall Street Journal (21 March 2013),
- Peace is far more preferable to war.… I believe that peace is the only path to true security. … And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations.
- I am not a dictator, I am the president. I know this has been some of the conventional wisdom floating around Washington, that somehow even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.
- Press conference March 1st 
- Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people -- politically, religiously, they must seem a world away. But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want. They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning. The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza. That's where peace begins -- not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people. Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections -- that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.
- Remarks of President Barack Obama To the People of Israel at Jerusalem International Convention Center in Jerusalem, Israel (21 March 2013)
- The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight. And Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss...We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake - we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.
- A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies -- including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who's here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers -- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence. Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders -- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children. And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.
- I've heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn't make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent? I've heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. "A prop," somebody called them. "Emotional blackmail," some outlet said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don't have a right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate? So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington. But this effort is not over. I want to make it clear to the American people we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as the American people don't give up on it.
- Senate Votes to Block Expanded Background Checks for Gun Sales (17 April 2013)
- Ultimately, peace is just not about politics. It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.
- The terms of peace may be negotiated by political leaders, but the fate of peace is up to each of us.
- Remarks by President Obama and Mrs. Obama in Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland, Belfast Waterfront, Belfast, Northern Ireland (17 June 2013)
- Our scientists will keep collaborating with yours in fields like nanotechnology and clean energy and health care that make our lives better and fuel economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic –- because progress is essential to peace. And because knowledge and understanding is essential to peace, we will keep investing in programs that enrich both of us ….
- Remarks by President Obama and Mrs. Obama in Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland, Belfast Waterfront, Belfast, Northern Ireland (17 June 2013)
- Trayvon Martin could have been me thirty five years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there is lot of pain about what happened. I think it is important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at the issue through a set of experiences and a history, that doesn’t go away. There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me. There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.
- Remarks regarding the shooting of Trayvon Martin and Trial of George Zimmerman (2013). Source: Barack Obama: "Remarks on the Verdict in State of Florida v. George Zimmerman," July 19, 2013. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. For the background of this quote see this source. 'Trayvon Martin could have been me' - Barack Obama, BBC, 19 July 2013, retrieved on 2013-07-20
- And because no one who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I am going to keep making the case that we need to raise the minimum wage because it's lower right now than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. It's time for the minimum wage to go up.
- Putin is slouching…looking like that bored schoolboy in the back of the classroom.
- As free peoples, we recognize that democracy is the most effective form of government ever devised for delivering progress and opportunity and prosperity and freedom to people. And as two of the most innovative economies on Earth, we cherish that freedom that allows us to innovate and create, which is why we’re leaders in science and research and development -- those things that pioneers new industries and broaden our horizons.
- We share a belief in the dignity and equality of every human being; that our daughters deserve the same opportunities as our sons; that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters must be treated equally under the law; that our societies are strengthened and not weakened by diversity. And we stand up for universal human rights, not only in America and in Europe, but beyond, because we believe that when these rights are respected, nations are more successful and our world is safer and more just.
- "Barack Obama: The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Reinfeldt of Sweden in Stockholm" by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, atThe American Presidency Project (4 September 2013)
- But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations. It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations.
- And we did so based on the belief that while these transitions will be hard and take time, societies based upon democracy and openness and the dignity of the individual will ultimately be more stable, more prosperous, and more peaceful.
- Our overriding interest throughout these past few years has been to encourage a government that legitimately reflects the will of the Egyptian people, and recognizes true democracy as requiring a respect for minority rights and the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society.
- And while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited, although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force, and although we will at times be accused of hypocrisy and inconsistency, we will be engaged in the region for the long haul. For the hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation.
- Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues. And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided. That's putting it mildly. That's OK. That's democracy. That's how it works. We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process. And sometimes we'll be just too far apart to forge an agreement. But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree. We shouldn't fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don't think it's good politics, just because the extremes in our party don't like the word "compromise." I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done. And there's no good reason why we can't govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.
- "Transcript: President Obama’s Oct. 17 remarks on the budget deal". April 17, 2013. Retrieved on 2013-10-17.
- So let's work together to make government work better instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse. That's not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government. You don't like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don't break it.Don't break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That's not being faithful to what this country's about.
- "Transcript: President Obama’s Oct. 17 remarks on the budget deal". April 17, 2013. Retrieved on 2013-10-17.
- I’m not a particularly ideological person. There’s things, some values I feel passionately about.
- At Seattle fundraiser, 24 November 2013.
Second Inaugural Address (January 2013)
- Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.
- The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. And for more than two hundred years, we have. Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
- Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune. Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.
- Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character. But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.
- This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. [...] America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it -- so long as we seize it together. For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
- We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.
- We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
- We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
- We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.
- We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.
- We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
- It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
- That is our generation’s task -- to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
- My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
- Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Fifth State of the Union Address (February 2013)
- Fifth State of the Union Address delivered on February 12, 2013 during a joint session of the United States Congress
- Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep — but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.
- It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class. It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country — the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love. It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.
- The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together, and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.
- I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. We can’t do it. Let’s agree right here, right now to keep the people’s government open, and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.
- And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and do more to encourage fatherhood — because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.
- Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity — broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class — that has always been the source of our progress at home. It’s also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.
- At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands — because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations.
- We may do different jobs and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title — we are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.
Commencement Address at Ohio State University (May 2013)
- You were born as freedom forced its way through a wall in Berlin, and tore down an Iron Curtain across Europe. You were educated in an era of instant information that put the world’s accumulated knowledge at your fingertips. And you came of age as terror touched our shores; an historic recession spread across the nation; and a new generation signed up to go to war.
You have been tested and tempered by events that your parents and I never imagined we’d see when we sat where you sit. And yet, despite all this, or more likely because of it, yours has become a generation possessed with that most American of ideas – that people who love their country can change it. For all the turmoil; for all the times you have been let down, or frustrated at the hand you’ve been dealt; what I have seen from your generation are perennial and quintessentially American values. Altruism. Empathy. Tolerance. Community. And a deep sense of service that makes me optimistic for our future.
- I suspect that those of you who pursue more education, or climb the corporate ladder, or enter the arts or sciences or journalism, will still choose a cause you care about in your life and fight like heck to make it happen.
There is a word for this. It’s citizenship. We don’t always talk about this idea much these days, let alone celebrate it. Sometimes, we see it as a virtue from another time – one that’s slipping from a society that celebrates individual ambition; a society awash in instant technology that empowers us to leverage our skills and talents like never before, but just as easily allows us to retreat from the world. And the result is that we sometimes forget the larger bonds we share, as one American family.
- In the aftermath of darkest tragedy, we have seen the American spirit at its brightest. We’ve seen the petty divisions of color, class, and creed replaced by a united urge to help. We’ve seen courage and compassion, a sense of civic duty, and a recognition that we are not a collection of strangers; we are bound to one another by a set of ideals, and laws, and commitments, and a deep devotion to this country we love.
That’s what citizenship is. It’s the idea at the heart of our founding – that as Americans, we are blessed with God-given and inalienable rights, but with those rights come responsibilities – to ourselves, to one another, and to future generations.
But if we’re being honest, as you’ve studied and worked and served to become good citizens, the institutions that give structure to our society have, at times, betrayed your trust. In the run-up to the financial crisis, too many on Wall Street forgot that their obligations don’t end with their shareholders. In entertainment and in the media, ratings and shock value often trumped news and storytelling. And in Washington – well, this is a joyous occasion, so let me put this charitably: I think it’s fair to say our democracy isn’t working as well as we know it can. It could do better. And those of us fortunate enough to serve in these institutions owe it to you to do better, every single day.
- I don’t pretend to have all the answers. And I’m not going to offer some grand theory – not when it’s a beautiful day and you’ve got some celebrating to do. I’m not going to get partisan, either, because that’s not what citizenship is about. In fact, I am asking the same thing of you that President Bush did when he spoke at this commencement in 2002: “America needs more than taxpayers, spectators, and occasional voters,” he said. “America needs full-time citizens.”
And as graduates from a university whose motto is “Education for Citizenship,” that’s what your country expects of you. So briefly, I will ask you for two things: to participate, and to persevere.
After all, your democracy does not function without your active participation. At a bare minimum, that means voting, eagerly and often. It means knowing who’s been elected to make decisions on your behalf, what they believe in, and whether or not they deliver. If they don’t represent you the way you want, or conduct themselves the way you expect – if they put special interests above your own – you’ve got to let them know that’s not okay. And if they let you down, there’s a built-in day in November where you can really let them know that’s not okay.
- That’s precisely what the founders left us: the power to adapt to changing times. They left us the keys to a system of self-government – the tool to do big and important things together that we could not possibly do alone. To stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land grant colleges, including Ohio State. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all our citizens, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or who they love.
We, the people, chose to do these things together. Because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.
Still, you’ll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s the root of all our problems, even as they do their best to gum up the works; or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.
We have never been a people who place all our faith in government to solve our problems, nor do we want it to. But we don’t think the government is the source of all our problems, either. Because we understand that this democracy is ours. As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
The founders trusted us with this awesome authority. We should trust ourselves with it, too. Because when we don’t, when we turn away and get discouraged and abdicate that authority, we grant our silent consent to someone who’ll gladly claim it.
- Only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be. But it requires your dedicated, informed, and engaged citizenship. This citizenship is a harder, higher road to take. But it leads to a better place. It is how we built this country – together. It is the question President Kennedy posed to the nation at his inauguration; the dream that Dr. King invoked. It does not promise easy success or immediate progress. But it has led to success, and it has led to progress.
That brings me to the second thing I ask of you – I ask you to persevere.
- I lost my first race for Congress, and look at me now – I’m an honorary graduate of The Ohio State University!
The point is, in your life, you will fail. You will stumble, and you will fall. But that will make you better. You’ll get it right the next time. And that’s not only true for your personal pursuits, but for the broader causes you believe in as well. But don’t give up. Don’t lose heart, or grow cynical. The cynics may be the loudest voices – but they accomplish the least. It’s the silent disruptors – those who do the long, hard, committed work of change – that gradually push this country in the right direction, and make the most lasting difference.
Still, whenever you feel that creeping cynicism; whenever you hear those voices say you can’t make that difference; whenever somebody tells you to set your sights lower – the trajectory of America should give you hope. What young generations have done before you should give you hope. It was young folks like you who marched and mobilized and stood up and sat-in to secure women’s rights, and voting rights, and workers’ rights, and gay rights, often against incredible odds, often over the course of years, sometimes over the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. Even if their rights were already secured, they fought to secure those rights and opportunities for others. What they did should give you hope.
And where we’re going should give you hope. Because while things are still hard for a lot of people, you have every reason to believe that your future is bright.
- We are blessed to live in the greatest nation on Earth. But we can always be greater. We can always aspire to something more. That doesn’t depend on who you elect to office. It depends on you, as citizens, how big you want to be, and how badly you want it.
Look at all America has accomplished. Look at how big we’ve been.
I dare you to do better. I dare you to be better.
From what I have seen of your generation, I have no doubt you will. I wish you courage, and compassion, and all the strength you need for that tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Brandenburg Gate Speech (June 2013)
- Remarks by President Obama in front of the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz, Berlin, Germany 19 June 2013
- But the fact that we can stand here today, along the fault line where a city was divided, speaks to an eternal truth: No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart.
- Today, 60 years after they rose up against oppression, we remember the East German heroes of June 17th. When the wall finally came down, it was their dreams that were fulfilled. Their strength and their passion, their enduring example remind us that for all the power of militaries, for all the authority of governments, it is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall, or whether to tear it down.
- But I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations.
- I’d suggest that peace with justice begins with the example we set here at home, for we know from our own histories that intolerance breeds injustice. Whether it’s based on race, or religion, gender or sexual orientation, we are stronger when all our people — no matter who they are or what they look like — are granted opportunity, and when our wives and our daughters have the same opportunities as our husbands and our sons.
- When we respect the faiths practiced in our churches and synagogues, our mosques and our temples, we're more secure. When we welcome the immigrant with his talents or her dreams, we are renewed. When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well. We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness. And as long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us from those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship as we do, then we're going to have to work harder, together, to bring those walls of division down.
- Peace with justice means free enterprise that unleashes the talents and creativity that reside in each of us; in other models, direct economic growth from the top down or relies solely on the resources extracted from the earth. But we believe that real prosperity comes from our most precious resource -- our people.
- Peace with justice means extending a hand to those who reach for freedom, wherever they live. Different peoples and cultures will follow their own path, but we must reject the lie that those who live in distant places don’t yearn for freedom and self-determination just like we do; that they don’t somehow yearn for dignity and rule of law just like we do. We cannot dictate the pace of change in places like the Arab world, but we must reject the excuse that we can do nothing to support it.
- Our fates are linked, and we cannot ignore those who are yearning not only for freedom but also prosperity.
- And finally, let’s remember that peace with justice depends on our ability to sustain both the security of our societies and the openness that defines them. Threats to freedom don’t merely come from the outside. They can emerge from within -- from our own fears, from the disengagement of our citizens.
- But we must accept the challenge that all of us in democratic governments face: to listen to the voices who disagree with us; to have an open debate about how we use our powers and how we must constrain them; and to always remember that government exists to serve the power of the individual, and not the other way around. That’s what makes us who we are, and that’s what makes us different from those on the other side of the wall.
- The wall belongs to history. But we have history to make as well. And the heroes that came before us now call to us to live up to those highest ideals -- to care for the young people who can't find a job in our own countries, and the girls who aren't allowed to go to school overseas; to be vigilant in safeguarding our own freedoms, but also to extend a hand to those who are reaching for freedom abroad. This is the lesson of the ages. This is the spirit of Berlin. And the greatest tribute that we can pay to those who came before us is by carrying on their work to pursue peace and justice not only in our countries but for all mankind.
Cape Town University Address (June 2013)
- Remarks by President Obama at the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa (13 June 2013)
- I believe that none of us are fully free when others in the human family remain shackled by poverty or disease or oppression.
- We believe that societies and economies only advance as far as individuals are free to carry them forward. And just as freedom cannot exist when people are imprisoned for their political views, true opportunity cannot exist when people are imprisoned by sickness, or hunger, or darkness.
- But history tells us that true progress is only possible where governments exist to serve their people, and not the other way around.
- Now, I mentioned yesterday at the town hall -- like America’s first President, George Washington, he understood that democracy can only endure when it’s bigger than just one person. So his willingness to leave power was as profound as his ability to claim power.
- And that’s why we support societies that empower women -- because no country will reach its potential unless it draws on the talents of our wives and our mothers, and our sisters and our daughters.
- We always have the opportunity to choose our better history. We can always understand that most important decision -- the decision we make when we find our common humanity in one another. That’s always available to us, that choice. [...] it can be heard in the confident voices of young people like you. It is that spirit, that innate longing for justice and equality, for freedom and solidarity -- that’s the spirit that can light the way forward. It's in you.
"Let Freedom Ring" Ceremony (August 2013)
- Remarks by the President at the "Let Freedom Ring" Ceremony Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. (August 28, 2013)
- Five decades ago today, Americans came to this honored place to lay claim to a promise made at our founding: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In 1963, almost 200 years after those words were set to paper, a full century after a great war was fought and emancipation proclaimed, that promise -- those truths -- remained unmet. And so they came by the thousands from every corner of our country, men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others. And so they came by the thousands from every corner of our country, men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others.
- And then, on a hot summer day, they assembled here, in our nation’s capital, under the shadow of the Great Emancipator -- to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress, and to awaken America’s long-slumbering conscience. We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.
But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV. Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters. They lived in towns where they couldn’t vote and cities where their votes didn’t matter. They were couples in love who couldn’t marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home. They had seen loved ones beaten, and children fire-hosed, and they had every reason to lash out in anger, or resign themselves to a bitter fate.
And yet they chose a different path. In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in, with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us. They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglass once taught -- that freedom is not given, it must be won, through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.
- And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, a Civil Rights law was passed. Because they marched, a Voting Rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes. Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed, and Congress changed, and, yes, eventually, the White House changed. Because they marched, America became more free and more fair -- not just for African Americans, but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans; for Catholics, Jews, and Muslims; for gays, for Americans with a disability. America changed for you and for me. and the entire world drew strength from that example, whether the young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid.
- Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes. That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn't have; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
- On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.
- To dismiss the magnitude of this progress -- to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed -- that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. -- they did not die in vain. Their victory was great. But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance. And we'll suffer the occasional setback. But we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. People of goodwill, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents.
- In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination -- the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the March. For the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract ideal. They were there seeking jobs as well as justice, not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal? This idea -- that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood; that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security -- this idea was not new. Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms -- as a promise that in due time, “the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”
- The test was not, and never has been, whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many -- for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call -- this remains our great unfinished business.
- We can continue down our current path, in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations; where politics is a zero-sum game where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie -- that’s one path. Or we can have the courage to change.
- The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history; that we are masters of our fate. But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago. And I believe that spirit is there, that truth force inside each of us. I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child. I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man. It’s there when the native-born recognizing that striving spirit of the new immigrant; when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who are discriminated against and understands it as their own. That’s where courage comes from -- when we turn not from each other, or on each other, but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That’s where courage comes from.
- America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up. That’s how a movement happens. That’s how history bends. That's how when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we’re marching.
- There’s a reason why so many who marched that day, and in the days to come, were young -- for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. They dared to dream differently, to imagine something better. And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose stirs in this generation. We might not face the same dangers of 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains. We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling procession of that day so long ago -- no one can match King’s brilliance -- but the same flame that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains.
Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day -- that change does not come from Washington, but to Washington; that change has always been built on our willingness, We The People, to take on the mantle of citizenship -- you are marching.
And that’s the lesson of our past. That's the promise of tomorrow -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. That when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station, can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed, as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Remarks on Economic Mobility (December 2013)
- And your work reflects a tradition that runs through our history -- a belief that we’re greater together than we are on our own. And that’s what I’ve come here to talk about today.
- Now, the premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in the American story. And while we don’t promise equal outcomes, we have strived to deliver equal opportunity -- the idea that success doesn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit. And with every chapter we’ve added to that story, we’ve worked hard to put those words into practice.
- So let me repeat: The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe. And it is not simply a moral claim that I’m making here. There are practical consequences to rising inequality and reduced mobility. For one thing, these trends are bad for our economy. One study finds that growth is more fragile and recessions are more frequent in countries with greater inequality. And that makes sense. When families have less to spend, that means businesses have fewer customers, and households rack up greater mortgage and credit card debt; meanwhile, concentrated wealth at the top is less likely to result in the kind of broadly based consumer spending that drives our economy, and together with lax regulation, may contribute to risky speculative bubbles.
- And rising inequality and declining mobility are also bad for our families and social cohesion -- not just because we tend to trust our institutions less, but studies show we actually tend to trust each other less when there’s greater inequality. And greater inequality is associated with less mobility between generations. That means it’s not just temporary; the effects last. It creates a vicious cycle. For example, by the time she turns three years old, a child born into a low-income home hears 30 million fewer words than a child from a well-off family, which means by the time she starts school she’s already behind, and that deficit can compound itself over time.
- And finally, rising inequality and declining mobility are bad for our democracy. Ordinary folks can’t write massive campaign checks or hire high-priced lobbyists and lawyers to secure policies that tilt the playing field in their favor at everyone else’s expense. And so people get the bad taste that the system is rigged, and that increases cynicism and polarization, and it decreases the political participation that is a requisite part of our system of self-government.
- It’s true that government cannot prevent all the downsides of the technological change and global competition that are out there right now, and some of those forces are also some of the things that are helping us grow. And it’s also true that some programs in the past, like welfare before it was reformed, were sometimes poorly designed, created disincentives to work. But we’ve also seen how government action time and again can make an enormous difference in increasing opportunity and bolstering ladders into the middle class. Investments in education, laws establishing collective bargaining, and a minimum wage -- these all contributed to rising standards of living for massive numbers of Americans.
- It was Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, who once said, “They who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.” And for those of you who don’t speak old-English let me translate. It means if you work hard, you should make a decent living. If you work hard, you should be able to support a family.
- I realize we are not going to resolve all of our political debates over the best ways to reduce inequality and increase upward mobility this year, or next year, or in the next five years. But it is important that we have a serious debate about these issues. For the longer that current trends are allowed to continue, the more it will feed the cynicism and fear that many Americans are feeling right now -- that they’ll never be able to repay the debt they took on to go to college, they’ll never be able to save enough to retire, they’ll never see their own children land a good job that supports a family.
- If you still don’t like Obamacare -- and I know you don’t even though it’s built on market-based ideas of choice and competition in the private sector, then you should explain how, exactly, you’d cut costs, and cover more people, and make insurance more secure. You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you’re against. That way we can have a vigorous and meaningful debate. That’s what the American people deserve. That’s what the times demand. It’s not enough anymore to just say we should just get our government out of the way and let the unfettered market take care of it -- for our experience tells us that’s just not true.
- Look, I’ve never believed that government can solve every problem or should -- and neither do you. We know that ultimately our strength is grounded in our people -- individuals out there, striving, working, making things happen. It depends on community, a rich and generous sense of community -- that’s at the core of what happens at THEARC here every day. You understand that turning back rising inequality and expanding opportunity requires parents taking responsibility for their kids, kids taking responsibility to work hard. It requires religious leaders who mobilize their congregations to rebuild neighborhoods block by block, requires civic organizations that can help train the unemployed, link them with businesses for the jobs of the future. It requires companies and CEOs to set an example by providing decent wages, and salaries, and benefits for their workers, and a shot for somebody who is down on his or her luck. We know that’s our strength -- our people, our communities, our businesses. But government can’t stand on the sidelines in our efforts. Because government is us. It can and should reflect our deepest values and commitments. And if we refocus our energies on building an economy that grows for everybody, and gives every child in this country a fair chance at success, then I remain confident that the future still looks brighter than the past, and that the best days for this country we love are still ahead.
Eulogy of Nelson Mandela (December 2013)
- Remarks by President Obama at Memorial Service for Former South African President Nelson Mandela (10 December 2013) at First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa
- Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and his passion, but also because of his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement. And he learned the language and the customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depend upon his.
- Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough. No matter how right, they must be chiseled into law and institutions.
- It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth.
- The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today. And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
- The questions we face today -- how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war -- these things do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows that is true. South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.
- For the average person, many folks who don't have health insurance initially, they're going to have to make some choices. And they might end up having to switch doctors, in part because they're saving money.
- And so this visit, this hallowed ground, reminds us that we must never, ever take our progress for granted. We must commit perennially to peace, which binds us across oceans.
- Remarks at Flanders Field Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium on March 26, 2014.
- Those of us who have had the singular privilege to hold the office of the Presidency know well that progress in this country can be hard and it can be slow, frustrating and sometimes you’re stymied. The office humbles you. You’re reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions made by those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your vision. But the presidency also affords a unique opportunity to bend those currents -- by shaping our laws and by shaping our debates; by working within the confines of the world as it is, but also by reimagining the world as it should be.
- But we are here today because we know we cannot be complacent. For history travels not only forwards; history can travel backwards, history can travel sideways. And securing the gains this country has made requires the vigilance of its citizens. Our rights, our freedoms -- they are not given. They must be won. They must be nurtured through struggle and discipline, and persistence and faith. And one concern I have sometimes during these moments, the celebration of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the March on Washington -- from a distance, sometimes these commemorations seem inevitable, they seem easy. All the pain and difficulty and struggle and doubt -- all that is rubbed away. And we look at ourselves and we say, oh, things are just too different now; we couldn’t possibly do what was done then -- these giants, what they accomplished. And yet, they were men and women, too. It wasn’t easy then. It wasn’t certain then. Still, the story of America is a story of progress. However slow, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey, however flawed our leaders, however many times we have to take a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf -- the story of America is a story of progress. And that’s true because of men like President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
- And if there is one thing that he and this year’s anniversary should teach us, if there’s one lesson I hope that Malia and Sasha and young people everywhere learn from this day, it’s that with enough effort, and enough empathy, and enough perseverance, and enough courage, people who love their country can change it.
- What makes us Americans is something more than just the circumstances of birth, what we look like, what God we worship, but rather it is a joyful spirit of citizenship. Citizenship demands participation and responsibility, and service to our country and to one another. And few embody that more than our men and women in uniform.
- Freedom is not an accident. Progress is not an accident. Democracy is not an accident. These are things that have to be fought for. You’re part of that legacy. They must be won. And they’ve got to be tended to constantly and defended without fail.
- There is no greater nobility than offering one’s life to the nation and, Mr. President, your father offered his life so that this nation might be free.
- We have to do our best to uphold in our own lives the values that they were prepared to die for. We have to honor those who carry forward that legacy, recognizing that people cannot live in freedom unless free people are prepared to die for it.
- ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior. And people like this ultimately fail. They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy.
- You can’t contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory, causing that much havoc, displacing that many people, killing that many innocents, enslaving that many women. The goal has to be to dismantle them.
- We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last to be able to do anything about it.
- Barack Obama during the Climate change summit in New York, as quoted in The Guardian's article Climate change summit: Julie Bishop commends Australia’s emission targets by Helen Davidson (24 September 2014)
- The issue of press freedom is a constant concern in my interactions with the Chinese government. It’s an issue that I’ve raised with the President here in Burma. I’m pretty blunt and pretty frank about the fact that societies that repress journalists ultimately oppress people as well, and that if you want a society that is free and vibrant and successful, part of that formula is the free flow of information, of ideas, and that requires a free press. [...] And we believe that when governments censor or control information, that ultimately that undermines not only the society, but it leads to eventual encroachments on individual rights as well. [...] I brought up a basic principle that I stated earlier, which is that a free press is a foundation for any democracy. We rely on journalists to explain and describe the actions of our government. If the government controls the journalists, then it's very difficult for citizens to hold that government accountable.
- I am a firm believer that any legitimate government has to be based on rule of law and a recognition that all people are equal under the law.
- There have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, 'Well, I don't want those folks,' even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans.
Review of Signals Intelligence Speech (June 2014)
- Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence (17 June 2014) at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S.
- And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach -- the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security -- also became more pronounced. […] intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias not only within the intelligence community, but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate -- and oversight that is public, as well as private or classified -- the danger of government overreach becomes more acute. And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.
- [T]he combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats. It’s a powerful tool. But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.
- I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech, an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day. And given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations; I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy. Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.
- There was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically. But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.
- What’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines, or passing tensions in our foreign policy. When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed. Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas; to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world; or to forge bonds with people on other sides of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals, and for institutions, and for the international order. So while the reforms that I have announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future. One thing I’m certain of: This debate will make us stronger. And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead. It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard. And I'll admit the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating. No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account. But let’s remember: We are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity.
- As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control. Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely -- because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.
- Those values make us who we are. And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations. For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we have been willing to defend it, and because we have been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.
Sixth State of the Union Address (January 2014)
- Sixth State of the Union Address delivered on January 28, 2014 during a joint session of the United States Congress
- Tonight this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.
- And in the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress together. Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America.
- The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.
- This year let's all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
- Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they're not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we don't resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That's what America's all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.
- That's why tonight I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Help them get covered. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It'll give her some peace of mind, and plus, she'll appreciate hearing from you. After all, that -- that's the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It's the spirit of citizenship, the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.
- Citizenship means standing up for everyone's right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened, but conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it. And the bipartisan commission I appointed, chaired by my campaign lawyer and Governor Romney's campaign lawyer, came together and have offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let's support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.
- Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities.
- For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country. [...] We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone. As commander in chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us -- large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism. So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks, through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners, America must move off a permanent war footing. That's why I've imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.
- And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world.
- If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.
- And finally, let's remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe, to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America. Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known. From Tunisia to Burma, we're supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully and to have a say in their country's future. [...] We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. [...] My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might but because of the ideals we stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them.
- America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids -- a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us -- none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us [...], with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it's within our reach. Believe it.
Address to European Youth (March 2014)
- Throughout human history, societies have grappled with fundamental questions of how to organize themselves, the proper relationship between the individual and the state, the best means to resolve inevitable conflicts between states. And it was here in Europe, through centuries of struggle -- through war and Enlightenment, repression and revolution -- that a particular set of ideals began to emerge: The belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose. The belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed, and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding. And those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists across an ocean, and they wrote them into the founding documents that still guide America today, including the simple truth that all men -- and women -- are created equal. But those ideals have also been tested -- here in Europe and around the world. Those ideals have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power. This alternative vision argues that ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign. Often, this alternative vision roots itself in the notion that by virtue of race or faith or ethnicity, some are inherently superior to others, and that individual identity must be defined by “us” versus “them,” or that national greatness must flow not by what a people stand for, but by what they are against. In many ways, the history of Europe in the 20th century represented the ongoing clash of these two sets of ideas, both within nations and among nations. The advance of industry and technology outpaced our ability to resolve our differences peacefully, and even among the most civilized of societies, on the surface we saw a descent into barbarism.
- This morning at Flanders Field, I was reminded of how war between peoples sent a generation to their deaths in the trenches and gas of the First World War. And just two decades later, extreme nationalism plunged this continent into war once again -- with populations enslaved, and great cities reduced to rubble, and tens of millions slaughtered, including those lost in the Holocaust. It is in response to this tragic history that, in the aftermath of World War II, America joined with Europe to reject the darker forces of the past and build a new architecture of peace. Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall Plan. Sentinels stood vigilant in a NATO Alliance that would become the strongest the world has ever known. And across the Atlantic, we embraced a shared vision of Europe -- a vision based on representative democracy, individual rights, and a belief that nations can meet the interests of their citizens through trade and open markets; a social safety net and respect for those of different faiths and backgrounds.
- For decades, this vision stood in sharp contrast to life on the other side of an Iron Curtain. For decades, a contest was waged, and ultimately that contest was won -- not by tanks or missiles, but because our ideals stirred the hearts of Hungarians who sparked a revolution; Poles in their shipyards who stood in Solidarity; Czechs who waged a Velvet Revolution without firing a shot; and East Berliners who marched past the guards and finally tore down that wall. Today, what would have seemed impossible in the trenches of Flanders, the rubble of Berlin, or a dissident’s prison cell -- that reality is taken for granted. A Germany unified. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe welcomed into the family of democracies. Here in this country, once the battleground of Europe, we meet in the hub of a Union that brings together age-old adversaries in peace and cooperation. The people of Europe, hundreds of millions of citizens -- east, west, north, south -- are more secure and more prosperous because we stood together for the ideals we share. And this story of human progress was by no means limited to Europe. Indeed, the ideals that came to define our alliance also inspired movements across the globe among those very people, ironically, who had too often been denied their full rights by Western powers. After the Second World War, people from Africa to India threw off the yoke of colonialism to secure their independence. In the United States, citizens took freedom rides and endured beatings to put an end to segregation and to secure their civil rights. As the Iron Curtain fell here in Europe, the iron fist of apartheid was unclenched, and Nelson Mandela emerged upright, proud, from prison to lead a multiracial democracy. Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and built new democracies, and Asian nations showed that development and democracy could go hand in hand.
- Young people in the audience today, young people like Laura, were born in a place and a time where there is less conflict, more prosperity and more freedom than any time in human history. But that’s not because man’s darkest impulses have vanished. Even here, in Europe, we’ve seen ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that shocked the conscience. The difficulties of integration and globalization, recently amplified by the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, strained the European project and stirred the rise of a politics that too often targets immigrants or gays or those who seem somehow different. While technology has opened up vast opportunities for trade and innovation and cultural understanding, it’s also allowed terrorists to kill on a horrifying scale. Around the world, sectarian warfare and ethnic conflicts continue to claim thousands of lives. And once again, we are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way -- that recycled maxim that might somehow makes right. So I come here today to insist that we must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world, because the contest of ideas continues for your generation. And that’s what’s at stake in Ukraine today. Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident -- that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future.
- None of us can know for certain what the coming days will bring in Ukraine, but I am confident that eventually those voices -- those voices for human dignity and opportunity and individual rights and rule of law -- those voices ultimately will triumph. I believe that over the long haul, as nations that are free, as free people, the future is ours. I believe this not because I’m naïve, and I believe this not because of the strength of our arms or the size of our economies, I believe this because these ideals that we affirm are true; these ideals are universal.
- Yes, we believe in democracy -- with elections that are free and fair; and independent judiciaries and opposition parties; civil society and uncensored information so that individuals can make their own choices. Yes, we believe in open economies based on free markets and innovation, and individual initiative and entrepreneurship, and trade and investment that creates a broader prosperity. And, yes, we believe in human dignity -- that every person is created equal, no matter who you are, or what you look like, or who you love, or where you come from. That is what we believe. That’s what makes us strong. And our enduring strength is also reflected in our respect for an international system that protects the rights of both nations and people -- a United Nations and a Universal Declaration of Human Rights; international law and the means to enforce those laws. But we also know that those rules are not self-executing; they depend on people and nations of goodwill continually affirming them.
- Of course, neither the United States nor Europe are perfect in adherence to our ideals, nor do we claim to be the sole arbiter of what is right or wrong in the world. We are human, after all, and we face difficult choices about how to exercise our power. But part of what makes us different is that we welcome criticism, just as we welcome the responsibilities that come with global leadership.
- No amount of propaganda can make right something that the world knows is wrong.
- There will always be voices who say that what happens in the wider world is not our concern, nor our responsibility. But we must never forget that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. Our democracy, our individual opportunity only exists because those who came before us had the wisdom and the courage to recognize that our ideals will only endure if we see our self-interest in the success of other peoples and other nations.
- And it is you, the young people of Europe, young people like Laura, who will help decide which way the currents of our history will flow. Do not think for a moment that your own freedom, your own prosperity, that your own moral imagination is bound by the limits of your community, your ethnicity, or even your country. You’re bigger than that. You can help us to choose a better history. That’s what Europe tells us. That’s what the American experience is all about.
- In the end, the success of our ideals comes down to us -- including the example of our own lives, our own societies. We know that there will always be intolerance. But instead of fearing the immigrant, we can welcome him. We can insist on policies that benefit the many, not just the few; that an age of globalization and dizzying change opens the door of opportunity to the marginalized, and not just a privileged few. Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights. Instead of defining ourselves in opposition to others, we can affirm the aspirations that we hold in common. That’s what will make America strong. That’s what will make Europe strong. That’s what makes us who we are. And just as we meet our responsibilities as individuals, we must be prepared to meet them as nations. Because we live in a world in which our ideals are going to be challenged again and again by forces that would drag us back into conflict or corruption. We can’t count on others to rise to meet those tests.
- And that’s the question we all must answer -- what kind of Europe, what kind of America, what kind of world will we leave behind. And I believe that if we hold firm to our principles, and are willing to back our beliefs with courage and resolve, then hope will ultimately overcome fear, and freedom will continue to triumph over tyranny -- because that is what forever stirs in the human heart.
- It’s not a sign of strength. Anybody can make threats. Anyone can move an army. Anyone can show off a missile. That doesn’t make you strong. It does not lead to security, or opportunity, or respect. Those things don't come through force. They have to be earned. And real strength is allowing an open and participatory democracy, where people can choose their own leaders and choose their own destiny. And real strength is allowing a vibrant society, where people can think and pray and speak their minds as they please, even if it’s against their leaders -- especially if it’s against their leaders. Real strength is allowing free and open markets that have built growing, thriving middle classes and lifted millions of people out of poverty.
Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall (April 2014)
- Remarks by President Obama at Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (April 27, 2014)
- Now, one of the things that makes this region so interesting is its diversity. That diversity creates a unique intersection of humanity -- people from so many ethnic groups and backgrounds and religious and political beliefs. I gives Malaysia, as one primary example, the chance to prove -- as America constantly tries to prove -- that nations are stronger and more successful when they work to uphold the civil rights and political rights and human rights of all their citizens.
- Partnerships like those remind us that the relationship between nations is not just defined by governments, but is defined by people -- especially the young people who will determine the future long after those of us who are currently in positions of power leave the stage.
- No nation is immune to dangerous and disruptive weather patterns, so every nation is going to have to do its part. And the United States is ready to do ours. Last year, I introduced America’s first-ever Climate Action Plan to use more clean energy and less dirty energy, and cut the dangerous carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. So we want to cooperate with countries in Southeast Asia to do the same, to combat the destruction of our forests. We can’t condemn future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing. We can only do that together.
- America is the world’s oldest constitutional democracy; that means we’re going to stand up for democracy -- it’s a part of who we are. And we do this not only because we think it’s right, but because it’s been proven to be the most stable and successful form of government. In recent decades, many Asian nations have shown that different nations can realize the promise of self-government in their own way; they have their own path. But we must recognize that democracies don’t stop just with elections; they also depend on strong institutions and a vibrant civil society, and open political space, and tolerance of people who are different than you. We have to create an environment where the rights of every citizen, regardless of race or gender, or religion or sexual orientation are not only protected, but respected.
- We know that progress can always be reversed, and that positive change is achieved not through passion alone, but through patient and persistent effort. But we’ve seen things change for the better in this region and around the world because of the effort of ordinary people, together -- working together.
- And when I think back to my journey, my past, I think the most important thing for -- and maybe the most important thing for all the young people here -- is to realize that you really can have an impact on the world; you can achieve your dreams. But in order to do so, you have to focus not so much on a title or how much money you’re going to make, you have to focus more on what kind of influence and impact are you going to have on other people’s lives -- what good can you do in the world. Now, that may involve starting a business, but if you want to start a business you should be really excited about the product or the service that you’re making. It shouldn’t just be how much money I can make -- because the business people who I meet who do amazing things, like Bill Gates, who started Microsoft -- they’re usually people who are really interested in what they do and they really think that it can make a difference in people’s lives. If you want to go into government, you shouldn’t just want to be a particular government official. You should want to go into government because you think it can help educate some children, or it can help provide jobs for people who need work. So I think the most important thing for me was when I started thinking more about other people and how I could have an impact in my larger society and community, and wasn’t just thinking about myself. That’s when I think your dreams can really take off -- because if you’re only thinking about you, then your world is small; if you‘re thinking about others, then your world gets bigger.
- The world has gotten smaller and no country is going to succeed if part of its population is put on the sidelines because they’re discriminated against. [...] No society is going to succeed if half your population -- meaning women -- aren’t getting the same education and employment opportunities as men. So I think the key point for all of you, especially as young people, is you should embrace your culture. You should be proud of who you are and your background. And you should appreciate the differences in language and food. And how you worship God is going to be different, and those are things that you should be proud of. But it shouldn’t be a tool to look down on somebody else. It shouldn’t be a reason to discriminate. And you have to make sure that you are speaking out against that in your daily life, and as you emerge as leaders you should be on the side of politics that brings people together rather than drives them apart. That is the most important thing for this generation. And part of the way to do that is to be able to stand in other people’s shoes, see through their eyes. Almost every religion has within it the basic principle that I, as a Christian, understand from the teachings of Jesus. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And if you’re not doing that and if society is not respecting that basic principle, then we’re going backwards instead of going forward. [...] And when you see astronauts from Japan or from the United States or from Russia or others working together, and they’re looking down at this planet from a distance you realize we’re all on this little rock in the middle of space and the differences that seem so important to us from a distance dissolve into nothing. And so, we have to have that same perspective -- respecting everybody, treating everybody equally under the law. That has to be a principle that all of you uphold.
- So, first of all, you’ve got to try to get people involved. And a lot of people are busy in their own lives or they don’t think it’s going to make a difference or they’re scared if they’re speaking out against authority. And many of the problems that we’re facing, like trying to create jobs or better opportunity or dealing with poverty or dealing with the environment, these are problems that have been going on for decades. And so, to think that somehow you’re going to change it in a day or a week, and then if it doesn’t happen you just give up, well, then you definitely won’t succeed. So the most important thing that I learned as a young person trying to bring about change is you have to be persistent, and you have to get more people involved, and you have to form relationships with different groups and different organizations. And you have to listen to people about what they’re feeling and what they’re concerned about, and build trust. And then, you have to try to find a small part of the problem and get success on that first, so that maybe from there you can start something else and make it bigger and make it bigger, until over time you are really making a difference in your community and in that problem. But you can’t be impatient. And the great thing about young people is they’re impatient. The biggest problem with young people is they’re impatient. It’s a strength, because it’s what makes you want to change things. But sometimes, you can be disappointed if change doesn’t happen right away and then you just give up. And you just have to stay with it and learn from your failures, as well as your successes.
- But what you’ve also seen is a trend in the United States but also around the world in which even when the economy grows, it tends to benefit a lot of people at the very top, but the vast majority of people, they don't benefit as much. And you're starting to see bigger and bigger gaps in inequality and in wealth and in opportunity. And that's true not just in the United States, it's true in Europe; it's long been true in parts of Asia; it's been true in Latin America. And I believe that economies work best when growth and development is broad-based, when it's shared -- when ordinary people, if they work hard and they take responsibility, they can succeed. Not everybody is going to be rich, but everybody should be able to live a good life. Not everybody is going to be a billionaire, but everybody should be able to have a nice home and educate their children and feel some sense of security.
- Investing in people is the single most important thing in the knowledge economy. Traditionally, wealth was defined by land and natural resources. Today the most important resources is between our ears.
- Treat people with respect, whoever they are, and expect your governments to treat everybody with respect. And if you do that, then you’re going to be okay.
- [...] despite how hard sometimes the world seems to be, and all you see on television is war and conflict and poverty and violence, the truth is that if you had to choose when to be born, not knowing where or who you would be, in all of human history, now would be the time. Because the world is less violent, it is healthier, it is wealthier, it is more tolerant and it offers more opportunity than any time in human history for more people than any time in human history. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still terrible things happening around the world or in this region. We still have things like human trafficking. And we still have terrible abuse of children. And there are conflicts. And so these are things that we’re going to have to tackle and deal with. But you should know that with each successive generation things have improved just a little bit. And over time, that little bit adds to a lot. And it’s now up to you, the next generation, to make sure that 20 years from now, or 30 years from now, people look back and say, wow, things are a lot better now than they were back then. And there will still be problems 20 or 30 years from now also. But they will be different problems, because you will have solved many of the problems that exist today.
25th Anniversary of Polish Freedom Day Speech (June 2014)
- Remarks by President Obama at 25th Anniversary of Polsih Freedom Day delivered on June 4, 2014 at Castle Square, Warsaw, Poland
- Poland reminds us that sometimes the smallest steps, however imperfect, can ultimately tear down walls, can ultimately transform the world.
- For democracy is more than just elections. True democracy, real prosperity, lasting security -- these are neither simply given, nor imposed from the outside. They must be earned and built from within. They must be earned and built from within. And in that age-old contest of ideas -- between freedom and authoritarianism, between liberty and oppression, between solidarity and intolerance -- Poland’s progress shows the enduring strength of the ideals that we cherish as a free people. Here we see the strength of democracy: Citizens raising their voices, free from fear. Here we see political parties competing in open and honest elections. Here we see an independent judiciary working to uphold the rule of law. Here in Poland we see a vibrant press and a growing civil society that holds leaders accountable -- because governments exist to lift up their people, not to hold them down.
- Poland understands as few other nations do that every nation must be free to chart its own course, to forge its own partnerships, to choose its own allies.
- It’s a wonderful story, but the story of this nation reminds us that freedom is not guaranteed. And history cautions us to never take progress for granted. On the same day 25 years ago that Poles were voting here, tanks were crushing peaceful democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on the other side of the world. The blessings of liberty must be earned and renewed by every generation -- including our own.
- Our democracies must be defined not by what or who we’re against, but by a politics of inclusion and tolerance that welcomes all our citizens. Our economies must deliver a broader prosperity that creates more opportunity -- across Europe and across the world -- especially for young people. Leaders must uphold the public trust and stand against corruption, not steal from the pockets of their own people. Our societies must embrace a greater justice that recognizes the inherent dignity of every human being. And as we’ve been reminded by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, our free nations cannot be complacent in pursuit of the vision we share -- a Europe that is whole and free and at peace. We have to work for that. We have to stand with those who seek freedom.
- We stand together because we believe that people and nations have the right to determine their own destiny. And that includes the people of Ukraine. Robbed by a corrupt regime, Ukrainians demanded a government that served them. Beaten and bloodied, they refused to yield. Threatened and harassed, they lined up to vote; they elected a new President in a free election -- because a leader’s legitimacy can only come from the consent of the people.
- We stand together because we believe that upholding peace and security is the responsibility of every nation. The days of empire and spheres of influence are over. Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun or with masked men taking over buildings. And the stroke of a pen can never legitimize the theft of a neighbor’s land. So we will not accept Russia’s occupation of Crimea or its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia. Because after investing so much blood and treasure to bring Europe together, how can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define this new century?
- Thank you, Poland -- thank you for your courage. Thank you for reminding the world that no matter how brutal the crackdown, no matter how long the night, the yearning for liberty and dignity does not fade away. It will never go away. Thank you, Poland, for your iron will and for showing that, yes, ordinary citizens can grab the reins of history, and that freedom will prevail -- because, in the end, tanks and troops are no match for the force of our ideals.
- There is no change without risk, and no progress without sacrifice, and no freedom without solidarity.
Remarks to the People of Estonia (September 2014)
- Remarks by President Obama to the People of Estonia i.e. students, young professionals, civil leaders, and the people of Estonia at the Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia on September 3, 2014
- But the people of the Baltic nations also knew that freedom needs a foundation of security.
- Your experience cautions that progress is neither easy nor quick.
- We’re stronger because we’re democracies. We’re not afraid of free and fair elections, because true legitimacy can only come from one source -- and that is the people. We’re not afraid of an independent judiciary, because no one is above the law. We’re not afraid of a free press or vibrant debate or a strong civil society, because leaders must be held accountable. We’re not afraid to let our young people go online to learn and discover and organize, because we know that countries are more successful when citizens are free to think for themselves.
- Because of the work of generations, because we’ve stood together in a great alliance, because people across this continent have forged a European Union dedicated to cooperation and peace, we have made historic progress toward the vision we share -- a Europe that is whole and free and at peace. And yet, as we gather here today, we know that this vision is threatened by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. It is a brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine -- a sovereign and independent European nation. It challenges that most basic of principles of our international system -- that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun; that nations have the right to determine their own future. It undermines an international order where the rights of peoples and nations are upheld and can’t simply be taken away by brute force.
- And even as we meet conventional threats, we need to face other challenges. And that includes propaganda campaigns that try to whip up fears and divide people from one another. We reject the idea that people cannot live and thrive together, just because they have different backgrounds or speak a different language. And the best antidotes to such distorted thinking are the values that define us. Not just in the Baltics, but throughout Europe, we must acknowledge the inherent dignity and human rights of every person -- because our democracies cannot truly succeed until we root out bias and prejudice, both from our institutions and from our hearts. We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech -- because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth. We have to embrace open and inclusive societies -- because our countries are more successful and more prosperous when we welcome the talents of all our people, including minorities. That’s part of the work that we must do. That's the example we must set.
- And this brings me to the final area where our nations have to come together -- in our steadfast support for those who reach for their freedom. And, yes, that includes the people of Ukraine. And few understand this better than the Baltic peoples. You know from bitter experience that we can never take our security and liberties for granted. We want Ukrainians to be independent and strong and able to make their own choices free from fear and intimidation, because the more countries are free and strong, and free from intimidation, the more secure our own liberties are.
- In the face of violence that seems intractable and suffering that is so senseless, it is easy to grow cynical, and I think tempting to give in to the notion that peace and security may be beyond our grasp. But I say to all of you here today, especially the young people, do not give into that cynicism. Do not lose the idealism and optimism that is the root of all great change. Don’t ever lose the faith that says, if we want it, if we are willing to work for it, if we stand together, the future can be different; tomorrow can be better.
- Yes, there will be setbacks and there will be frustrations, and there will be moments of doubt and moments of despair. The currents of history ebb and flow, but over time they flow toward freedom -- more people, in every corner of the Earth, standing up and reaching to claim those rights that are universal. And that’s why, in the end, our ideals are stronger. And that’s why, in the end, our ideals will win.
- Dignity will win -- because every human being is born equal, with free will and inalienable rights. And any regime or system of government that tries to deny these rights will ultimately fail and countries that uphold them will only grow stronger.
- Justice will win -- because might does not make right, and the only path to lasting peace is when people know that their dignity will be respected and that their rights will be upheld. And citizens, like nations, will never settle for a world where the big are allowed to bully the small. Sooner or later, they fight back.
- Democracy will win -- because a government’s legitimacy can only come from citizens; because in this age of information and empowerment, people want more control over their lives, not less; and because, more than any other form of government ever devised, only democracy, rooted in the sanctity of the individual, can deliver real progress.
- And freedom will win -- not because it’s inevitable, not because it is ordained, but because these basic human yearnings for dignity and justice and democracy do not go away. They can be suppressed. At times, they can be silenced, but they burn in every human heart in a place where no regime could ever reach, a light that no army can ever extinguish. And so long as free peoples summon the confidence and the courage and the will to defend the values that we cherish, then freedom will always be stronger and our ideas will always prevail no matter what.
Statement on ISIL (September 2014)
- Statement by the President on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the State Hall of the White House in Washington, D.C. on September 10, 2014
- I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
- So this is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity. And in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.
- My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL, but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
- Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved –- especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
- Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day –- and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.
- America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia, from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East, we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform –- pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and servicemembers who support our partners on the ground. [...] And our own safety, our own security, depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation and uphold the values that we stand for –- timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
Remarks at Clinton Global Initiative (September 2014)
- Remarks by the President at Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, New York on September 23, 2014
- As we do every time this year, Presidents and Prime Ministers converge on this great city to advance important work. But as leaders, we are not the most important people here today. It is the civil society leaders who, in many ways, are going to have the more lasting impact, because as the saying goes, the most important title is not president or prime minister; the most important title is citizen. It is citizens -- ordinary men and women, determined to forge their own future -- who throughout history have sparked all the great change and progress.
- These citizens remind us why civil society is so essential. When people are free to speak their minds and hold their leaders accountable, governments are more responsive and more effective. When entrepreneurs are free to create and develop new ideas, then economies are more innovative, and attract more trade and investment, and ultimately become more prosperous. When communities, including minorities, are free to live and pray and love as they choose; when nations uphold the rights of all their people -— including, perhaps especially, women and girls -— then those countries are more likely to thrive. If you want strong, successful countries, you need strong, vibrant civil societies. When citizens are free to organize and work together across borders to make our communities healthier, our environment cleaner, and our world safer, that's when real change comes.
Address to the United Nations (September 2014)
- Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2014 in the United Nations General Assembly Hall, New York City, New York, USA.
- We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs. We choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.
- And we call upon others to join us on the right side of history -- for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.
- If the world acts together, we can make sure that all of our children enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity.
- I have made it clear that America will not base our entire foreign policy on reacting to terrorism. Instead, we’ve waged a focused campaign against al Qaeda and its associated forces — taking out their leaders, denying them the safe havens they rely on. At the same time, we have reaffirmed again and again that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them, there is only us — because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.
So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along the fault lines of tribe or sect, race or religion.
- Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone. For we will not succumb to threats, and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build — not those who destroy.
- You have demonstrated that when young people have the tools to succeed -- good schools, education in math and science, an economy that nurtures creativity and entrepreneurship -- then societies will flourish.[...] Where women are full participants in a country’s politics or economy, societies are more likely to succeed. [...] If young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state, or the lure of an extremist underground, then no counterterrorism strategy can succeed. But where a genuine civil society is allowed to flourish -- where people can express their views, and organize peacefully for a better life -- then you dramatically expand the alternatives to terror.
- Now, ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and rejecting extremism is a generational task -- and a task for the people of the Middle East themselves. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner. We will neither tolerate terrorist safe havens, nor act as an occupying power. We will take action against threats to our security and our allies, while building an architecture of counterterrorism cooperation. We will increase efforts to lift up those who counter extremist ideologies and who seek to resolve sectarian conflict. And we will expand our programs to support entrepreneurship and civil society, education and youth -- because, ultimately, these investments are the best antidote to violence.
- So this is what America is prepared to do: Taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished. The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but we will also not shy away from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.
Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall Speech (November 2014)
- Remarks by President Obama at Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall delivered on November 14, 2014 at Yangon University, Rangoon, Burma
- Whenever I travel the world, from Europe to Africa, South America to Southeast Asia, one of the things I most enjoy doing is meeting young men and women like you. It’s more fun than being in a conference room. And it’s also more important -- because you are the young leaders who will determine the future of this country and this region. So I’m going to keep my remarks short at the top, because I want to take as many questions and comments from you.
- So progress is not inevitable. History does not always march forward. History can travel sideways and sometimes backwards. Building trust after years of conflict takes time. Being able to look past the scars of violence takes courage. Securing the gains of freedom and democracy requires good faith and strength of will, and tolerance and respect for diversity, and it requires vigilance from all citizens. The American people know well that rights and freedoms are not given; they have to be won through struggle and through discipline, and persistence and faith. And it’s often young people who have led these struggles; who have compelled us to slowly but surely perfect our own union in America over time.
- We see young leaders who embrace the diversity of this region not as a weakness, but as a strength, and who realize that even though we are all individually different and come from different traditions and different communities, we're stronger when we work together.
- So the future of this region, your region, is not going to be determined by dictators or by armies, it's going to be determined by entrepreneurs and inventors and dreamers and people who are doing things in the community. And you're going to be the leaders who make that happen. Your generation has greater potential to shape society than any generation that's come before because you have the power to get knowledge from everywhere, and you have more sophistication and experiences than your parents or your grandparents. And you have now the chance to share knowledge and experiences with other young people all across this region and around the world. And that wasn't true 20 years ago or 50 years ago.
- You have the power to remind us all that human dignity is not just a universal aspiration, but a human right.
- There is no example of a country that is successful if its people are divided based on religion or ethnicity. If you look at the Middle East right now and the chaos that’s taking place in a place like Syria, so much of that is based on religious differences. Even though they’re all Muslim, Shia and Sunni are fighting each other. If you look in Northern Ireland, then Catholics and Protestants fought for decades and only now have arrived at peace. So in this globalized world where people of different faiths and cultures and races are going to meet each other inevitably -- because nobody just lives in a village anymore; people are constantly getting information from different places and new ideas and meeting people who are different from them –- it is critical for any country to abide by the basic principle that all people are equal, all people are deserving of respect, all people are equal under the law, all people can participate in the life of their country, all people should be able to express their views without fear of being repressed. And those attitudes start with each of us individually. It’s important that government play a role in making sure that it applies laws fairly, not arbitrarily, not on the basis of preferring one group over another.
- But what’s also true is that each of us have to cultivate an attitude of tolerance and mutual respect. And for young people, we have to try to encourage each other to be tolerant and respectful. So in the United States, obviously one of the biggest problems historically has been the issue of racial discrimination. And part of our efforts to overcome racial discrimination involve passing laws like the Civil Rights Law and the Voting Rights Law, and that required marches and protests and Dr. King. But part of the effort was also people changing the hearts and minds, and realizing that just because somebody doesn’t look like me doesn’t mean that they’re not worthy of respect. And when you’re growing up and you saw a friend of yours call somebody by a derogatory name, a rude name because they were different, it’s your job to say to that person, actually, that’s not the right way to think. If you are Christian and you have a friend who says I hate Muslims, then it’s up to you to say to that friend, you know what, I don’t believe in that; I think that’s the wrong attitude, I think we have to be respectful of the Muslim population. If you’re Buddhist and you say -- you hear somebody in your group say I want to treat a Hindu differently, it’s your job to speak out. So the most important thing I think is for you to, in whatever circle of influence you have, speak out on behalf of tolerance and diversity and respect. If you are quiet, then the people who are intolerant, they’ll own the stage and they’ll set the terms of the debate. And one of the things that leadership requires is saying things even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s unpopular -- especially when it’s unpopular. So I hope that as you get more influence, you’ll continue to speak out on behalf of these values.
- Okay, I’m going to go –- now, the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure that it’s fair, because one thing I didn’t say in my initial speech is societies that are most successful also treat their women and girls with respect. Otherwise, they won’t be successful.
- I’m very proud of the United States. I believe that the United States is a force for good around the world. But I wouldn’t be a good President if I don’t listen to criticism of our policies and stay open to what other countries say about us. Sometimes I think those criticisms are unfair. Sometimes I think people like to complain about the United States because we’re doing too much. Sometimes they complain because they’re doing too little. Every problem around the world, why isn’t the United States doing something about it. Sometimes there are countries that don’t take responsibility for themselves and they want us to fix it. And then when we do try to fix it, they say why are you meddling in our affairs. Yes, it’s kind of frustrating sometimes. But the fact that we are getting these criticisms means that we’re constantly thinking, okay, is this how we should apply this policy? Are we doing the right thing when we provide aid to a country, but the country is still ruled by a small elite and maybe it’s not getting down to the people? Are we doing the right thing when we engage in training a military to become more professional, but maybe the military is still engaging in repressive activity? If we’re not open to those criticisms, then we won’t get better, we won’t improve.
- But my understanding is there are many villages you go to where there’s really no schools, as a practical matter, and many of the schools still teach just how to memorize certain things rather than how to think critically about problems. And every country at this point, if it wants to succeed, needs to put in place free, compulsory education for its young people -- because they just can’t succeed unless they have some basic skills. They have to be able to read. They have to be able to do mathematics. They have to have some familiarity with computers. They have to be able to understand basic principles of science. If you don’t have those basic tools, then it’s very hard to find a decent job in today’s economy.
- But what I said to the civil society groups is, yes, it is important to protect specific ethnic groups from discrimination. And it is natural in a democracy that ethnic groups organize among themselves to be heard in the halls of power. So in the United States, for example, as its democracy developed, the Irish in big cities, they came together and they built organizations, and they were able to promote the interests of Irish Americans. And African Americans, when they were seeking their freedom, you had organizations like the NAACP that promoted the interests of African Americans. So there's nothing wrong with groups organizing around ethnic identity, or around economic interests, or around regional concerns. That's how a democracy naturally works. You get with people who agree with you or who are like you to make sure that your concerns are heard. But what I said is that it is important for a democracy that people's identities are also a national identity. If you walk down the streets of New York City, you will see people looking more different than this group right here. You'll see blue-eyed, blonde people. You'll see dark-skinned, black people. You'll see Asians. You'll see Muslims. You'll see -- but if you ask any of those people, “What are you?” -- I'm American. Now I may be an African American or an Asian American or an Irish American, but the first thing I'll say is, I'm an American. And if you don't have that sense of national unity, then it's very hard for a country to succeed -- particularly a small country like Myanmar. If people think in terms of ethnic identity before national identity, then I think over time the country will start breaking apart and democracy will not work. So there has to be a sense of common purpose. But that's not an excuse then for majority groups to say, don’t complain, to ethnic minorities -- because the ethnic minorities may have some real complaints. And part of what is important for the majority groups to do -- if, in fact, you have a national identity, that means that you've got to be concerned with a minority also because it reflects badly on your country if somebody from a minority group is not being treated fairly. America could not live up to its potential until it treated its black citizens fairly. That's just a fact, that that was a stain on America when an entire group of people couldn't vote, or didn't have legal protections. Because it made all [[United States Declarations of Independence|the Declarations of Independence and Constitution and rule of law, it made that seem like an illusion. And so when the Civil Rights Movement happened in the United States, that wasn't just a victory for African Americans, that was a victory for America because what it showed was that the whole country was going to be concerned about everybody, not just about some people. And it was a victory for America's national identity that it was treating minorities fairly. And that's I think how every country in ASEAN, including Myanmar, needs to think about these problems. You need to respect people's differences. You need to be attentive to the grievances of minorities that may be discriminated against. But both the majority and the minority, the powerful and the powerless, also have to have a sense of national identity in order to be successful.
- But I also think that from what I've heard, one of the reforms that will need to take place in universities here is to make sure that in all the departments there is the ability for universities and students to shape curriculums and to have access to information from everywhere around the world, and that it's not just a narrow process of indoctrination. Because the best universities are ones that teach you how to think not what to think, right? A good education is not just knowing facts, although you need to know facts. You need to know that two plus two is four; it's not five. That's an important fact. But you also need to know how to ask questions, and how to critically analyze a problem, and how to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion, and how to compare two different ideas.
- And this is probably a good place for me to end by just saying that the issue of climate change is a perfect example of why young people have to lead. Because old people, they've created a mess, and then they'll be gone. And then you -- (applause) -- you're the ones who have to deal with it. And also what happens is old people get set in their ways. So the older you get, the more likely you are to say, that's how it's always been so that's how I'm going to keep on doing it -- even if there's a better way to do things. Young people, they're asking, well, why do I have to do it that way? Let's try it this way. And that kind of willingness to accept challenges and try things in a new way, to not be stuck in the past, or to look towards the future, that's what all of you represent.
Queensland University Address (November 2014)
- Remarks by President Obama at the University of Queensland at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia (November 15, 2015)
- And we believe in democracy -- that the only real source of legitimacy is the consent of the people; that every individual is born equal with fundamental rights, inalienable rights, and that it is the responsibility of governments to uphold these rights.
- We do not benefit from a relationship with China or any other country in which we put our values and our ideals aside. And for the young people, practicality is a good thing. There are times where compromise is necessary. That’s part of wisdom. But it’s also important to hang on to what you believe -- to know what you believe and then be willing to stand up for it. And what’s true for individuals is also true for countries.
- As we develop, as we focus on our econ, we cannot forget the need to lead on the global fight against climate change. [...] Here in the Asia Pacific, nobody has more at stake when it comes to thinking about and then acting on climate change. Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands. Here in Australia, it means longer droughts, more wildfires. The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threated. Worldwide, this past summer was the hottest on record. No nation is immune, and every nation has a responsibility to do its part. [...] We are mindful of the great work that still has to be done on this issue. But let me say, particularly again to the young people here: Combating climate change cannot be the work of governments alone. Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices, because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable. But that is not going to happen unless you are heard. It is in the nature of things, it is in the nature of the world that those of us who start getting gray hair are a little set in our ways, that interests are entrenched -- not because people are bad people, it’s just that’s how we’ve been doing things. And we make investments, and companies start depending on certain energy sources, and change is uncomfortable and difficult. And that’s why it’s so important for the next generation to be able to step and say, no, it doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power to imagine a new future in a way that some of the older folks don’t always have.
- America supports free and fair elections, because citizens must be free to choose their own leaders -- as in Thailand where we are urging a quick return to inclusive, civilian rule. We support freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, a free and open Internet, strong civil societies, because the voices of the people must be heard and leaders must be held accountable -- even though it’s uncomfortable sometimes. [...] We support strong institutions and independent judiciaries and open government, because the rule of force must give way to the rule of law. And in that same fashion, the United States will continue to stand up for the inherent dignity of every human being. Now, dignity begins with the most basic of needs -- a life free of hunger and disease and want.
- We’ll advance human dignity by standing up for the rights of minorities, because no one’s equality should ever be denied. We will stand up for freedom of religion -- the right of every person to practice their faith as they choose -- because we are all children of God, and we are all fallible. And the notion that we, as a majority, or the state should tell somebody else what to believe with respect to their faith, is against our basic values. We will stand up for our gay and lesbian fellow citizens, because they need to be treated equally under the law. We will stand up for the rights and futures of our wives and daughters and partners, because I believe that the best measure of whether a nation is going to be successful is whether they are tapping the talents of their women and treating them as full participants in politics and society and the econ.
- It’s a partnership not just with nations, but with people, with you, for decades to come. Bound by the values we share, guided by the vision we seek, I am absolutely confident we can advance the security and the prosperity and the dignity of people across this region. And in pursuit of that future, you will have no greater friend than the United States of America.
Address to the Nation on Immigration (November 2014)
- Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Immigration at the Cross Hall of White Hous in Washington, D.C. (November 20, 2015)
- I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.
- Because for all the back and forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.
Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?
Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works together to keep them together?
Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America?
That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.
- Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government, and at risk any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love. These people –- our neighbors, our classmates, our friends –- they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.
- Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too.
- My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal -– that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.
Statement on Cuban policy (December 2014)
- Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.
In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.
- Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else. And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people. Today, Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago. Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party. Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.
- While I have been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way –- the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years. Over many months, my administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship. His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.
Today, Alan returned home –- reunited with his family at long last. Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds. Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba, and who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades. This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today, as well as other spies in the United States. This man is now safely on our shores.
Having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country, I’m now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy.
- I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961. Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.
Where we can advance shared interests, we will — on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response. Indeed, we’ve seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before. It was a Cuban, Carlos Finlay, who discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever; his work helped Walter Reed fight it. Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease. Now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly -– as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba. But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement. After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.
- Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people, and I believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.
- I believe in the free flow of information. Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe. So I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba. Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.
- I’m under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans. The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there. While Cuba has made reforms to gradually open up its economy, we continue to believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.
Moreover, given Cuba’s history, I expect it will continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with American interests. I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight. But I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century.
- To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today, let me say that I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy. The question is how we uphold that commitment. I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result. Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. Even if that worked — and it hasn’t for 50 years — we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos. We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help.
- To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship. Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom. Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future. José Martí once said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest.” Today, I am being honest with you. We can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination. Cubans have a saying about daily life: “No es facil” –- it’s not easy. Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.
To those who have supported these measures, I thank you for being partners in our efforts. In particular, I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is; the government of Canada, which hosted our discussions with the Cuban government; and a bipartisan group of congressmen who have worked tirelessly for Alan Gross’s release, and for a new approach to advancing our interests and values in Cuba.
- Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections. A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together -- not to maintain power, not to secure vested interest, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.
- My fellow Americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana. Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami -- on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts. Today, Miami is often referred to as the capital of Latin America. But it is also a profoundly American city -– a place that reminds us that ideals matter more than the color of our skin, or the circumstances of our birth; a demonstration of what the Cuban people can achieve, and the openness of the United States to our family to the South. Todos somos Americanos.
- Change is hard –- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations. And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders. But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do. Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future –- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world.
- It's time to close Gitmo.
- It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.
- No religion is responsible for terrorism — people are responsible for violence and terrorism.
- At the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (18 February 2015)
- Today is a chance for Americans, especially our young people, to say thank you for all the things we love from Japan. Like karate and karaoke. Manga and anime. And, of course, emojis.
- As quoted in Comicbook.com (2015/04/29)
- We do know that once again innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.
- "President Obama calls Charleston shooting 'senseless,' criticizes gun laws" by Jose A. DelReal and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post (18 June 2015)
- Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins.
- But the fall of Ramadi has galvanized the Iraqi government. So, with the additional steps I ordered last month, we’re speeding up training of ISIL forces, including volunteers from Sunni tribes in Anbar Province.
- What the marchers on Washington knew, what the marchers in Selma knew, what folks like Julian Bond knew, what the marchers in this room still know, is that justice is not only the absence of oppression, it is the presence of opportunity. Justice is giving every child a shot at a great education no matter what zip code they’re born into. Justice is giving everyone willing to work hard the chance at a good job with good wages, no matter what their name is, what their skin color is, where they live. Justice is living up to the common creed that says, I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper. Justice is making sure every young person knows they are special and they are important and that their lives matter -- not because they heard it in a hashtag, but because of the love they feel every single day not just love from their parents, not just love from their neighborhood, but love from police, love from politicians. Love from somebody who lives on the other side of the country, but says, that young person is still important to me. That’s what justice is.
- Remarks by the President at the NAACP Conference at Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (July 14, 2015)
- We are joined today by inspiring entrepreneurs from more than 120 countries and many from across Africa. And all of you embody a spirit that we need to take on some of the biggest challenges that we face in the world -- the spirit of entrepreneurship, the idea that there are no limits to the human imagination; that ingenuity can overcome what is and create what needs to be. And everywhere I go, across the United States and around the world, I hear from people, but especially young people, who are ready to start something of their own -- to lift up people’s lives and shape their own destinies. And that’s entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world -- it’s the spark of prosperity. It helps citizens stand up for their rights and push back against corruption. Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves. Entrepreneurship means ownership and self-determination, as opposed to simply being dependent on somebody else for your livelihood and your future. Entrepreneurship brings down barriers between communities and cultures and builds bridges that help us take on common challenges together. Because one thing that entrepreneurs understand is, is that you don't have to look a certain way, or be of a certain faith, or have a certain last name in order to have a good idea.
- And as I’ve said elsewhere, a free press helps make a nation stronger and more successful, and it makes us leaders more effective because it demands greater accountability.
- I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law, and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. And I say that, recognizing that there may be people who have different religious or cultural beliefs. But the issue is how does the state operate relative to people. If you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating people differently -- not because of any harm they’re doing anybody, but because they’re different -- that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen. And when a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. And as an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong.
- So I’m unequivocal on this. If somebody is a law-abiding citizen who is going about their business, and working in a job, an obeying the traffic signs and doing all the other things that good citizens are supposed to do, and not harming anybody -- the idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong. Full stop. And the state does not need to weigh in on religious doctrine. The state just has to say we’re going to treat everybody equally under the law. And then everybody else can have their own opinions.
- And this is something that I emphasize wherever I go -- democracy does not stop on Election Day. For a real democracy to work, and for a society to thrive and continually improve, it requires that people continue to participate. And there have to be laws in place to protect that space and facilitate people’s ability to participate.
- And one of the rules of good civil society I believe is that you’re respectful of the people who disagree with you. And that's part of what makes civil society work. If you can have civil disagreements, and you can listen to each other and not just shout, that's what creates an environment that leads to progress over the long term.
- But as I said in the press conference yesterday, one of the important lessons that we've learned is that you can't just fight terrorism through military and the police. You also have to change people’s hearts and minds, and give them a sense that they’re included in the society and enlist them in assisting in fighting against terrorism.
- Remarks by President Obama in Conversation with Members of Civil Society at YALI Regional Leadership Center, Kenyatta University,Nairobi, Kenya (July 26, 2015)
- The only certainty in war is human suffering, uncertain costs, unintended consequences.
- But how can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives; that has been agreed to by Iran; that is supported by the rest of the world; and that preserves our options if the deal falls short? How could we justify that to our troops? How could we justify that to the world or to future generations? In the end, that should be a lesson that we’ve learned from over a decade of war. On the front end, ask tough questions. Subject our own assumptions to evidence and analysis. Resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war. Worry less about being labeled weak; worry more about getting it right.
- Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.
- I've said this before and I will keep repeating it -- one of the best indicators of whether a country will succeed is how it treats its women. When women have an education, when women have a job, their children are more likely to get an education, their families are healthier and more prosperous. Their communities and countries do better, as well. So every nation -- all of our nations -- must invest in the education and health and skills of our women and girls.
- We're also increasing the number of Syrian and other refugees we admit to the U.S. to 100,000 per year for the next two years.
- Most of the time I got a ticket, I deserved it. I knew why I was pulled over. But there were times when I didn’t. The data shows that this is not an aberration. It doesn’t mean each case is a problem. It means that when you aggregate all the cases and you look at it, you’ve gotta say that there’s some racial bias in the system.
- We’ve got to resist the false trap that says either there should be no accountability for police or that every police officer is suspect no matter what they do.
- I refuse to accept the notion that we couldn’t have prevented some of those murders, and suicides, and kept more families whole. I know we won’t all agree on this issue. But it’s time to be honest — fewer gun safety laws don’t mean more freedom, they mean more fallen officers. They mean more grieving families, and more Americans terrified that they or their loved ones could be next.
- Part of our job, together, is to work to reject such extremism that infects too many of our young people. Part of that effort must be a continued rejection by Muslims of those who distort Islam to preach intolerance and promote violence, and it must also a rejection by non-Muslims of the ignorance that equates Islam with terror.
- Remarks by President Obama to the United Nations General Assembly (September 28, 2015)
- I don’t think they’re gaining strength, what is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria, they’ll come in, they’ll leave. But you don’t see this systematic march by ISIL across the terrain.
- Once again, we've seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.
- Statement by the President on the Situation in Paris (November 13, 2015)
- I don't want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible for this.
- Statement by the President on the Situation in Paris (November 13, 2015)
- The reason is not simply because of my opinion of him. It is because it is unimaginable that you can stop the civil war there when the overwhelming majority of people in Syria consider him to be a brutal, murderous dictator.
- But I do believe that there are basic values that we all share. And one of those values is that countries work best when everybody has a voice that can be respected, and that the press is able to report on what is happening in current affairs, and people can organize politically peacefully to try to bring about change, and that there's transparency and accountability. And when you look at which countries have done best in terms of development, typically over time, those countries that have some accountability and some measure of personal freedom tend to do better. And those countries that don't, have more problems.
- I think the most important thing for young people is that they're not trapped in the past. And human progress is driven by looking at a problem with fresh eyes, with new eyes. [...] And that's the power of young people, is asking why. Little kids, they naturally do that, right? When you talk to a four-year-old or a five-year-old, six-year-old, you tell them to do something -- "Why?" "Why?" And sometimes, as parents, we try to say, "because I told you so." And we don't want to talk about it, right? But that impulse to ask why is actually what drives human progress. [...] Vision is important, but then you also have to have the persistence to keep working to make progress. And I always tell young people to have big dreams, but then also be willing to work for those dreams. It's not going to come right away.
- And I think the job of a leader is not to try to do everything yourself, but it's to try to organize people, each of whom have different talents and skills. Make sure that they are joined in a common vision about what needs to get done, but then go ahead and let them -- give them the tools so that they can do what they need to do. [...] Very few things, great things are done by yourself. Maybe if you're a Picasso or Mozart you can go off into a room and you can produce great things. But most great accomplishments, human accomplishments, they're done as a group. And you're job as a leader then, is to be able to assemble to bring together people in a common vision.
- Next week, I will be joining President Hollande and world leaders in Paris for the global climate conference. What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children.
- Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.
- This [mass shootings] just doesn't happen in other countries.
- Obama Speaking in Paris: Mass Shootings 'Don't Happen in Other Countries' by Alex Griswold, mediaite.com (1 December 2015)
- OK, everybody, I got to get to Star Wars.
- "Obama cuts off press conference to go see 'Star Wars'", The Hill (18 December 2015)
State of the Union Address (January 2015)
- Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address at U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (January 20, 2015)
- The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.
- We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.
- Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system.
- And in fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the Internet -- tools they needed to go as far as their effort and their dreams will take them. That’s what middle-class economics is -- the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success, we want everyone to contribute to our success.
- When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military -- then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do. I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now. And around the globe, it is making a difference. [...] That’s how America leads -- not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.
- Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading -- always -- with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. That’s why we have to keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards -- our own.
- A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives. A politics -- a better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking them to join in the great mission of building America. If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments, but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.
- Because I want this chamber, I want this city to reflect the truth -- that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, to help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world. I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood, your life matters, and we are committed to improving your life chances as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids. I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen -- man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters. I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.
- 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
- You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America or a conservative America; a black America or a white America -- but a United States of America.
Address to the People of India (January 2015)
- So today, let me say: Sisters and brothers of India — my confidence in what our nations can achieve together is rooted in the values we share. For we may have our different histories and speak different languages, but when we look at each other, we see a reflection of ourselves.
- We’ll continue to help India deal with the impacts of climate change -- because you shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone. As we keep working for a strong global agreement on climate change, it's young people like you who have to speak up, so we can protect this planet for your generation. I'll be gone when the worst effects happen. It's your generation and your children that are going to be impacted.
- Because in big and diverse societies like ours, progress ultimately depends on something more basic, and that is how we see each other. And we know from experience what makes nations strong. And Neha I think did a great job of describing the essence of what’s important here. We are strongest when we see the inherent dignity in every human being.
- The point is, is that the aim of our work must be not to just have a few do well, but to have everybody have a chance, everybody who is willing to work for it have the ability to dream big and then reach those dreams.
- Our nations are strongest when we uphold the equality of all our people -- and that includes our women. Now, you may have noticed, I’m married to a very strong and talented woman. Michelle is not afraid to speak her mind, or tell me when I’m wrong -- which happens frequently. And we have two beautiful daughters, so I’m surrounded by smart, strong women. And in raising our girls, we’ve tried to instill in them basic values -- a sense of compassion for others, and respect for themselves, and the confidence that they can go as far as their imaginations and abilities will carry them. [...] We know from experience that nations are more successful when their women are successful. When girls go to school -- this is one of the most direct measures of whether a nation is going to develop effectively is how it treats its women. When a girl goes to school, it doesn’t just open up her young mind, it benefits all of us -- because maybe someday she’ll start her own business, or invent a new technology, or cure a disease. And when women are able to work, families are healthier, and communities are wealthier, and entire countries are more prosperous. And when young women are educated, then their children are going to be well educated and have more opportunity. So if nations really want to succeed in today’s global economy, they can’t simply ignore the talents of half their people. And as husbands and fathers and brothers, we have to step up -- because every girl’s life matters. Every daughter deserves the same chance as our sons. Every woman should be able to go about her day -- to walk the streets or ride the bus -- and be safe, and be treated with respect and dignity. She deserves that.
- Our nations are strongest when we see that we are all God’s children -- all equal in His eyes and worthy of His love. Across our two great countries we have Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, and Jews and Buddhists and Jains and so many faiths. And we remember the wisdom of Gandhiji, who said, “for me, the different religions are beautiful flowers from the same garden, or they are branches of the same majestic tree.” Branches of the same majestic tree. Our freedom of religion is written into our founding documents. It’s part of America’s very first amendment. Your Article 25 says that all people are “equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” In both our countries -- in all countries -- upholding this fundamental freedom is the responsibility of government, but it's also the responsibility of every person.
- In our lives, Michelle and I have been strengthened by our Christian faith. But there have been times where my faith has been questioned – by people who don't know me – or they've said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing.
- No society is immune from the darkest impulses of man. And too often religion has been used to tap into those darker impulses as opposed to the light of God. Three years ago in our state of Wisconsin, back in the United States, a man went to a Sikh temple and, in a terrible act of violence, killed six innocent people -- Americans and Indians. And in that moment of shared grief, our two countries reaffirmed a basic truth, as we must again today -- that every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.
- The peace we seek in the world begins in human hearts. And it finds its glorious expression when we look beyond any differences in religion or tribe, and rejoice in the beauty of every soul. [...] Do we act with compassion and empathy. [...] we have to guard against any efforts to divide ourselves along sectarian lines or any other lines.
- And, finally, our nations are strongest when we empower our young people –- because ultimately, you're the one who has to break down these old stereotypes and these old barriers, these old ways of thinking. Prejudices and stereotypes and assumptions -- those are what happens to old minds like mine. I'm getting gray hair now. I was more youthful when I first started this office. And that’s why young people are so important in these efforts.
- Jai Hind!
Bloody Sunday Speech (March 2015)
- Remarks by the President at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches at Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama (March 7, 2015)
- What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people –- 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 a 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’re 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. [...] These are not just words. They’re 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.
- 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, as well, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.
- There’s nothing America can’t handle if we actually look squarely at the problem. And this is work for all Americans, 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, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.
- With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don’t accept a free ride for anybody, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity. And if we really mean it, if we’re not just giving lip service to it, but if we really mean it and are willing to sacrifice for it, then, yes, we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts sights and gives those children the skills they need. 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.
- What’s 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? Why are we pointing to somebody else when we could take the time just to go to the polling places? We give away our power.
- 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. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe old 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 habit and convention. Unencumbered by what is, because you’re ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there’s new ground to cover, there are more 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.” That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone.
Town Hall meeting with Young Leaders of the Americas (April 2015)
- Remarks by President Obama in Town Hall with Young Leaders of the Americas at University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica (April 9, 2015)
- But I believe that engagement is a more powerful force than isolation, and the changes we are making can help improve the lives of the Cuban people.
- And that impulse to make the world better, to push back on those who try to make it worse, that’s something that your generation has to hold on to. And you have to remember, it’s never easy; there are no days off. But if there’s one thing that I know from my own life, it’s that with hard work and with hope, change is always within our reach.
- But I do believe there are certain principles that are universal. I think that all people want basic dignity and want basic freedom, and want to be able to worship as they please without being discriminated against, or they should be able to speak their mind about an important issue pertaining to their community without being arrested.
- More broadly, I think that the -- if you look at some of the most successful countries in the world, they’re actually pretty small countries -- like Singapore, for example -- that on paper look like they have no assets, and yet, if you go to Singapore, it has one of the highest standards of living in the world. What is it that Singapore did that might be replicable? Well, one of the most important things they did was they made an enormous investment in their people. And if you’ve got a highly skilled, highly educated workforce, if you’ve set up rules of law and governance that are transparent and non-corrupt, then you can attract actually a lot of service industries to supplement the tourist industry, because people would want to locate in your country. You could envision people wanting to operate and have offices there where you’ve got a trained workforce. And these days, so many businesses are operating over the Internet that if you’ve got a really skilled workforce that provides value added, you will attract companies and you’ll attract businesses.
- What deters people from investing in most countries is conflict, corruption, and a lack of skills or infrastructure. And those countries that are able to address those problems have rule of law and eliminate corruption. Make sure that you are investing in the education of your people and it’s a continuous education; it doesn’t just stop at the lower grades, but you give people constant opportunities to upgrade their skills. You have a decent infrastructure -- you’re going to be able to succeed. That’s the recipe, the formula for a 21st-century economy.
- Because what it turns out is, is that if a -- the best way for a country to reduce its debt is to grow really fast, and to generate more income.
- And I think the question that the people of Jamaica, just like the people of the United States and everywhere else, should be asking is: If the government is spending money right now, is it on something that is going to help create long-term growth and help people succeed? If the answer is no, you shouldn’t spend that money. Spending money just for the sake of spending money is not -- that’s not the formula for success. But if the money is being spent on what we talked about -- early childhood education; if it’s being spent on infrastructure; if it’s being spent on research; if it’s being spent on building skills for workers -- those are good investments.
Remarks at Panama Civil Society Forum (April 2015)
- Remarks by President Obama at the Panama Civil Society Forum at Hotel El Panama, Panama City, Panama (April 10, 2015)
- We believe that strong, successful countries require strong and vibrant civil societies. We know that throughout our history, human progress has been propelled not just by famous leaders, not just by states, but by ordinary men and women who believe that change is possible; by citizens who are willing to stand up against incredible odds and great danger not only to protect their own rights, but to extend rights to others.
- It's the dreamers -- no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless -- that are able to change the course of human events. We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid. We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War. It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians.
- So civil society is the conscience of our countries. It’s the catalyst of change. It’s why strong nations don’t fear active citizens. Strong nations embrace and support and empower active citizens.
- We also know that our support for civil society is not just about what we’re against, but also what we’re for. Because we’ve noticed that governments that are more responsive and effective are typically governments where the people are free to assemble, and speak their minds, and petition their leaders, and hold us accountable.
- We know that our economies attract more trade and investment when citizens are free to start a new business without paying a bribe. We know that our societies are more likely to succeed when all our people -- regardless of color, or class, or creed, or sexual orientation, or gender -- are free to live and pray and love as they choose. [...] And, increasingly, civil society is a source of ideas -- about everything from promoting transparency and free expression, to reversing inequality and rescuing our environment.
Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality (June 2015)
- Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality at the White House Rose Garden, Washington, District of Columbia, USA (June 26, 2015)
- Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times -- a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American. Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.
- This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love. [...] This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.
- In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.
- This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case. It's a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights. It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other. It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades, working and praying for change to come. And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.
- I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact; recognize different viewpoints; revere our deep commitment to religious freedom. But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone. That’s always been our story. We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.
- What an extraordinary achievement. What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.
Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney (June 2015)
- Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney at College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. (June 26, 2015)
- This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals -- the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
- As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other -- but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
- For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge -- including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now. Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought -- the cause of slavery -- was wrong -- the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.
- But I don't think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it, so that we're guarding against not just racial slurs, but we're also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American -- by doing that, we express God’s grace.
- For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed -- the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place. The vast majority of Americans -- the majority of gun owners -- want to do something about this. We see that now. And I'm convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country -- by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.
- We don’t earn grace. We're all sinners. We don't deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway. And we choose how to receive it. It's our decision how to honor it.
- None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk. None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires -- this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual -- that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change -- that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
- Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past -- how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind -- but, more importantly, an open heart. That’s what I’ve felt this week -- an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think -- what a friend of mine, the writer Marilynne Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.” That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.
Remarks to the Kenyan People (July 2015)
- Remarks by President Obama to the Kenyan People at Safaricom Indoor Arena, Nairobi, Kenya (July 26, 2015)
- We know a history so that we can learn from it. We learn our history because we understand the sacrifices that were made before, so that when we make sacrifices we understand we're doing it on behalf of future generations. There’s a proverb that says, “We have not inherited this land from our forebears, we have borrowed it from our children.” In other words, we study the past so it can guide us into the future, and inspire us to do better.
- I want to be very clear here -- a politics that’s based solely on tribe and ethnicity is a politics that's doomed to tear a country apart.
- In the United States, I always say that what makes America exceptional is not the fact that we’re perfect, it's the fact that we struggle to improve. We're self-critical. We work to live up to our highest values and ideals, knowing that we're not always going to achieve them perfectly, but we keep on trying to perfect our union.
- You can't be complacent and accept the world just as it is. You have to imagine what the world might be and then push and work toward that future. Progress requires that you honestly confront the dark corners of our own past; extend rights and opportunities to more of your citizens; see the differences and diversity of this country as a strength, just as we in America try to see the diversity of our country as a strength and not a weakness. So you can choose the path to progress, but it requires making some important choices.
- And the ability of citizens to organize and advocate for change -- that's the oxygen upon which democracy depends.
- Democracy is sometimes messy, and for leaders, sometimes it's frustrating. Democracy means that somebody is always complaining about something. Nobody is ever happy in a democracy about their government. If you make one person happy, somebody else is unhappy. Then sometimes somebody who you made happy, later on, now they’re not happy. They say, what have you done for me lately? But that's the nature of democracy. That's why it works, is because it's constantly challenging leaders to up their game and to do better.
- Because corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life. It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could. If you need to pay a bribe and hire somebody’s brother -- who’s not very good and doesn’t come to work -- in order to start a business, well, that’s going to create less jobs for everybody. If electricity is going to one neighborhood because they’re well-connected, and not another neighborhood, that’s going to limit development of the country as a whole. If someone in public office is taking a cut that they don't deserve, that’s taking away from those who are paying their fair share. So this is not just about changing one law -- although it's important to have laws on the books that are actually being enforced. It’s important that not only low-level corruption is punished, but folks at the top, if they are taking from the people, that has to be addressed as well. But it's not something that is just fixed by laws, or that any one person can fix. It requires a commitment by the entire nation -- leaders and citizens -- to change habits and to change culture. [...] People who break the law and violate the public trust need to be prosecuted. NGOs have to be allowed to operate who shine a spotlight on what needs to change. And ordinary people have to stand up and say, enough is enough.
- Every country and every culture has traditions that are unique and help make that country what it is. But just because something is a part of your past doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean that it defines your future. [...] Just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right.
- Well, so around the world, there is a tradition of repressing women and treating them differently, and not giving them the same opportunities, and husbands beating their wives, and children not being sent to school. Those are traditions. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens, those are bad traditions. They need to change. They’re holding you back.
- Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence. There’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation. There’s no place in civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century. These are issues of right and wrong -- in any culture. But they’re also issues of success and failure. Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allowing them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in a global economy.
- You know, we're in a sports center. Imagine if you have a team and you don't let half of the team play. That's stupid. That makes no sense. And the evidence shows that communities that give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons, they are more peaceful, they are more prosperous, they develop faster, they are more likely to succeed. [...] And that's why one of the most successful development policies you can pursue is giving girls and education, and removing the obstacles that stand between them and their dreams. And by the way, if you educate girls -- they grow up to be moms -- and they, because they’re educated, are more likely to produce educated children.
- Terrorists who try to sow chaos, they must be met with force and they must also be met, though, with a forceful commitment to uphold the rule of law, and respect for human rights, and to treat everybody who’s peaceful and law-abiding fairly and equally.
- So we can all appreciate our own identities, our bloodlines, our beliefs, our backgrounds -- that tapestry is what makes us who we are. But the history of Africa -- which is both the cradle of human progress and a crucible of conflict -- shows us that when define ourselves narrowly, in opposition to somebody just because they’re of a different tribe, or race, or religion -- and we ignore who is a good person or a bad person, are they working hard or not, are they honest or not, are they peaceful or violent -- when we start making distinctions solely based on status and not what people do, then we're taking the wrong path and we inevitably suffer in the end. This is why Martin Luther King called on people to be judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character. And in the same way, people should not be judged by their last name, or their religious faith, but by their content of their character and how they behave. Are they good citizens? Are they good people?
Remarks to the People of Africa (July 2015)
- Remarks by President Obama to the People of Africa at Mandela Hall, African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (July 28, 2015)
- For us, for our children, Africa and its people teach us a powerful lesson -- that we must uphold the inherent dignity of every human being. Dignity -- that basic idea that by virtue of our common humanity, no matter where we come from, or what we look like, we are all born equal, touched by the grace of God. Every person has worth. Every person matters. Every person deserves to be treated with decency and respect. Throughout much of history, mankind did not see this. Dignity was seen as a virtue reserved to those of rank and privilege, kings and elders. It took a revolution of the spirit, over many centuries, to open our eyes to the dignity of every person. And around the world, generations have struggled to put this idea into practice in laws and in institutions.
- Africa’s progress will depend on unleashing economic growth -- not just for the few at the top, but for the many, because an essential element of dignity is being able to live a decent life. That begins with a job. And that requires trade and investment.
- It is not unique to Africa -- corruption exists all over the world, including in the United States. But here in Africa, corruption drains billions of dollars from economies that can't afford to lose billions of dollars -- that's money that could be used to create jobs and build hospitals and schools. And when someone has to pay a bribe just to start a business or go to school, or get an official to do the job they’re supposed to be doing anyway -- that’s not “the African way.” It undermines the dignity of the people you represent.
- But, ultimately, the most powerful antidote to the old ways of doing things is this new generation of African youth. History shows that the nations that do best are the ones that invest in the education of their people. You see, in this information age, jobs can flow anywhere, and they typically will flow to where workers are literate and highly skilled and online.
- Africa’s progress will depend on development that truly lifts countries from poverty to prosperity -- because people everywhere deserve the dignity of a life free from want.
- I believe Africa’s progress will also depend on democracy, because Africans, like people everywhere, deserve the dignity of being in control of their own lives. We all know what the ingredients of real democracy are. They include free and fair elections, but also freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly. These rights are universal. […] And I have to proclaim, democracy is not just formal elections. When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, or activists are threatened as governments crack down on civil society then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance. And I'm convinced that nations cannot realize the full promise of independence until they fully protect the rights of their people.
- No country is perfect, but we have to be honest, and strive to expand freedoms, to broaden democracy. The bottom line is that when citizens cannot exercise their rights, the world has a responsibility to speak out.
- I have to also say that Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end. […] When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife -- as we’ve seen in Burundi. And this is often just a first step down a perilous path. And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, well, I'm the only person who can hold this nation together. If that's true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation. […] Nobody should be president for life. And your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas. I'm still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. It will be good for yours, too, in some cases.
- Africa’s progress will also depend on security and peace -- because an essential part of human dignity is being safe and free from fear.
- Our efforts to ensure our shared security must be matched by a commitment to improve governance. Those things are connected. Good governance is one of the best weapons against terrorism and instability. Our fight against terrorist groups, for example, will never be won if we fail to address legitimate grievances that terrorists may try to exploit, if we don’t build trust with all communities, if we don’t uphold the rule of law. There’s a saying, and I believe it is true -- if we sacrifice liberty in the name of security, we risk losing both.
- And finally, Africa’s progress will depend on upholding the human rights of all people -- for if each of us is to be treated with dignity, each of us must be sure to also extend that same dignity to others.
- Our girls have to be treated the same. We can’t let old traditions stand in the way. The march of history shows that we have the capacity to broaden our moral imaginations. We come to see that some traditions are good for us, they keep us grounded, but that, in our modern world, other traditions set us back. When African girls are subjected to the mutilation of their bodies, or forced into marriage at the ages of 9 or 10 or 11 -- that sets us back. That's not a good tradition. It needs to end. […]
- And when girls cannot go to school and grow up not knowing how to read or write -- that denies the world future women engineers, future women doctors, future women business owners, future women presidents -- that sets us all back. That's a bad tradition -- not providing our girls the same education as our sons. I was saying in Kenya, nobody would put out a football team and then just play half the team. You’d lose. The same is true when it comes to getting everybody and education. You can't leave half the team off -- our young women.
- [...] let girls learn so they grow up healthy and they grow up strong. And that will be good for families. And they will raise smart, healthy children, and that will be good for every one of your nations. Africa is the beautiful, strong women that these girls grow up to become. The single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how it treats its women. When women have health care and women have education, families are stronger, communities are more prosperous, children do better in school, nations are more prosperous. Look at the amazing African women here in this hall. If you want your country to grow and succeed, you have to empower your women. […] Let’s work together to stop sexual assault and domestic violence. Let’s make clear that we will not tolerate rape as a weapon of war -- it’s a crime.And those who commit it must be punished. Let’s lift up the next generation of women leaders who can help fight injustice and forge peace and start new businesses and create jobs -- and some might hire some men, too. We’ll all be better off when women have equal futures.
- In this tree of humanity, with all of our branches and diversity, we all go back to the same root. We’re all one family -- we're all one tribe. And yet so much of the suffering in our world stems from our failure to remember that -- to not recognize ourselves in each other. We think because somebody’s skin is slightly different, or their hair is slightly different, or their religious faith is differently expressed, or they speak a different language that it justifies somehow us treating them with less dignity. And that becomes the source of so many of our problems. And we think somehow that we make ourselves better by putting other people down. And that becomes the source of so many of our problems. When we begin to see other as somehow less than ourselves -- when we succumb to these artificial divisions of faith or sect or tribe or ethnicity -- then even the most awful abuses are justified in the minds of those who are thinking in those ways. And in the end, abusers lose their own humanity, as well.
- Every one of us is equal. Every one of us has worth. Every one of us matters. And when we respect the freedom of others -- no matter the color of their skin, or how they pray or who they are or who they love -- we are all more free. Your dignity depends on my dignity, and my dignity depends on yours. Imagine if everyone had that spirit in their hearts. Imagine if governments operated that way. Just imagine what the world could look like -- the future that we could bequeath these young people.
- Yes, in our world, old thinking can be a stubborn thing. That's one of the reasons why we need term limits -- old people think old ways. […] The old ways can be stubborn. But I believe the human heart is stronger. I believe hearts can change. I believe minds can open. That’s how change happens. That’s how societies move forward. It's not always a straight line -- step by halting step -- sometimes you go forward, you move back a little bit. But I believe we are marching, we are pointing towards ideals of justice and equality.
- New thinking. Unleashing growth that creates opportunity. Promoting development that lifts all people out of poverty.Supporting democracy that gives citizens their say. Advancing the security and justice that delivers peace. Respecting the human rights of all people. These are the keys to progress -- not just in Africa, but around the world.
Young African Leaders Initiative Presidential Summit Town Hall speech (August 2015)
- Remarks by the President at the Young African Leaders Initiative Presidential Summit Town Hall at Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. (August 3, 2015)
- The best measure of how a country does economically in terms of development is how does it treat its women. And as I said in a speech -- a couple of the speeches that I gave while I was in Kenya and Ethiopia -- if you’re mistreating your women, then you’re just holding yourself back, you’re holding yourself down. You may have some false sense of importance, but ultimately you don’t benefit if women are being discriminated against, because that means when they’re working, your family is going to have less income. If they’re not educated, that means your children are less likely to be well educated, because, typically, the mother is the first educator of a child. So if they see you disrespecting your wife, then what lesson is your -- not just your girls, but what lessons are your sons learning from you? […] You do not lift yourself up by holding somebody else down.
- And the one thing I’ve learned, both in my personal life and in my political life, is that if you want more authority, then you also have to be more responsible. You can’t wear the crown if you can’t bear the cross. […] So my attitude is, if you want to participate then you have to recognize that you have broader responsibilities. […] And that is part of leadership. That’s true, by the way, for you individually as well. You have to be willing to take some risks and do some hard things in order to be a leader. A leader is not just a name, a title, and privileges and perks.
- But what we’ve also said is in order to defeat these extremist ideologies, it can’t just be military, police and security. It has to be reaching into communities that feel marginalized and making sure that they feel that they’re heard; making sure that the young people in those communities have opportunity. […] And that’s why, when I was in Kenya, for example, and I did a town hall meeting there, I emphasized what I had said to President Kenyata -- be a partner with the civil society groups. Because too often, there’s a tendency -- because what the extremist groups want to do is they want to divide. That’s what terrorism is all about. The notion is that you scare societies, further polarizes them. The government reacts by further discriminating against a particular group. That group then feels it has no political outlet peacefully to deal with their grievances. And that then -- that suppression can oftentimes accelerate even more extremism. And that’s why reaching out to civil society groups, clergy, and listening and asking, okay, what is it that we need to do in order to make sure that young people feel that they can succeed? What is it that we need to do to make sure that they feel that they’re fully a part of this country and are full citizens, and have full rights? How do we do that? Bringing them into plan and design messages and campaigns that embrace the diversity of these countries -- those are the things that are so important to do.
- Societies evolve based on new understandings and new science and new appreciation of who we are.
- And so we can preserve great traditions -- music, food, dance, language, art -- but if there’s a tradition anywhere in Africa, or here in the United States, or anywhere in the world that involves treating people differently because you’re scared of them, or because you're ignorant about them, or because you want to feel superior to them, it's a bad tradition. And you have to challenge it. And you can't accept excuses for it. […] But the truth of the matter is, is that if you’re treating people differently just because of who they love and who they are, then there’s a connection between that mindset and the mindset that led to racism, and the mindset that leads to ethnic conflict. It means that you’re not able to see somebody else as a human being. And so you can’t, on the one hand, complain when somebody else does that to you, and then you’re doing it to somebody else. You can’t do it. There’s got to be some consistency to how you think about these issues. And that’s going to be up to young people -- because old people get stuck in their ways. […] And that doesn’t mean that everything suddenly is perfect. It just means that, young people, you can lead the way and set a good example. But it requires some courage, because the old thinking, people will push back at you. And if you don’t have the convictions and the courage to be able to stand up for what you think is right, then cruelty will perpetuate itself.
Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism speech (September 2015)
- Remarks by President Obama at the Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York (September 29, 2015)
- Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they’re defeated by better ideas -- a more attractive and compelling vision.
- I’ve said this before -- when human rights are denied and citizens have no opportunity to redress their grievances peacefully, it feeds terrorist propaganda that justifies violence. Likewise, when political opponents are treated like terrorists and thrown in jail, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the real path to lasting stability and progress is not less democracy; I believe it is more democracy in terms of free speech, and freedom of religion, rule of law, strong civil societies. All that has to play a part in countering violent extremism.
- And finally, we recognize that our best partners in protecting vulnerable people from succumbing to violent extremist ideologies are the communities themselves -- families, friends, neighbors, clerics, faith leaders who love and care for these young people. Remember that violent extremism is not unique to any one faith, so no one should be profiled or targeted simply because of their faith.
Remarks after the Umpqua Community College shooting (October 2015)
- Remarks by President Obama from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room after the Umpqua Community College shooting (1 October 2015)
- In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives. And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.
But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.
We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.
Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.” And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day! Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.
We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.
And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.
- We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.
- We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?
This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.
Remarks to the United Nations General Assembly (September 2015)
- Remarks by President Obama to the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York (September 29, 2015)
- I recognize that democracy is going to take different forms in different parts of the world. The very idea of a people governing themselves depends upon government giving expression to their unique culture, their unique history, their unique experiences. But some universal truths are self-evident. No person wants to be imprisoned for peaceful worship. No woman should ever be abused with impunity, or a girl barred from going to school. The freedom to peacefully petition those in power without fear of arbitrary laws -- these are not ideas of one country or one culture. They are fundamental to human progress.
- I believe a government that suppresses peaceful dissent is not showing strength; it is showing weakness and it is showing fear. History shows that regimes who fear their own people will eventually crumble, but strong institutions built on the consent of the governed endure long after any one individual is gone. That's why our strongest leaders -- from George Washington to Nelson Mandela -- have elevated the importance of building strong, democratic institutions over a thirst for perpetual power. Leaders who amend constitutions to stay in office only acknowledge that they failed to build a successful country for their people -- because none of us last forever. It tells us that power is something they cling to for its own sake, rather than for the betterment of those they purport to serve.
- I understand democracy is frustrating. Democracy in the United States is certainly imperfect. At times, it can even be dysfunctional. But democracy -- the constant struggle to extend rights to more of our people, to give more people a voice -- is what allowed us to become the most powerful nation in the world. It's not simply a matter of principle; it's not an abstraction. Democracy -- inclusive democracy -- makes countries stronger. When opposition parties can seek power peacefully through the ballot, a country draws upon new ideas. When a free media can inform the public, corruption and abuse are exposed and can be rooted out. When civil society thrives, communities can solve problems that governments cannot necessarily solve alone. When immigrants are welcomed, countries are more productive and more vibrant. When girls can go to school, and get a job, and pursue unlimited opportunity, that’s when a country realizes its full potential. […] And I believe that what is true for America is true for virtually all mature democracies. And that is no accident. We can be proud of our nations without defining ourselves in opposition to some other group. We can be patriotic without demonizing someone else. We can cherish our own identities -- our religion, our ethnicity, our traditions -- without putting others down. Our systems are premised on the notion that absolute power will corrupt, but that people -- ordinary people -- are fundamentally good; that they value family and friendship, faith and the dignity of hard work; and that with appropriate checks and balances, governments can reflect this goodness.
Address to the Nation by the President on San Bernardino (December 2015)
- Address to the Nation by the President (6 December 2015)
- The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know. The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife. So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home. But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West. They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs. So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.
- As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people. As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and coworkers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino. I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris. And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.
- With American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process – and timeline – to pursue ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war. Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country, including our allies, but also countries like Russia, to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL – a group that threatens us all.
- To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.
- I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies - no matter how effective they are - cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do - and must do - is make it harder for them to kill.
- We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world -- including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.
- My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history. We were founded upon a belief in human dignity -- that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law. Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges -- whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks -- by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people. So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.
Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment (December 2015)
- Remarks by the President at Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (9 December 2015)
- “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.” That’s what President Lincoln once wrote. “Honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” Mr. Speaker, leaders and members of both parties, distinguished guests: We gather here to commemorate a century and a half of freedom -- not simply for former slaves, but for all of us. Today, the issue of chattel slavery seems so simple, so obvious -- it is wrong in every sense. Stealing men, women, and children from their homelands. Tearing husband from wife, parent from child; stripped and sold to the highest bidder; shackled in chains and bloodied with the whip. It’s antithetical not only to our conception of human rights and dignity, but to our conception of ourselves -- a people founded on the premise that all are created equal.
- At its heart, the question of slavery was never simply about civil rights. It was about the meaning of America, the kind of country we wanted to be –- whether this nation might fulfill the call of its birth: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” that among those are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. President Lincoln understood that if we were ever to fully realize that founding promise, it meant not just signing an Emancipation Proclamation, not just winning a war. It meant making the most powerful collective statement we can in our democracy: etching our values into our Constitution. He called it “a King’s cure for all the evils.” A hundred and fifty years proved the cure to be necessary but not sufficient. Progress proved halting, too often deferred. Newly freed slaves may have been liberated by the letter of the law, but their daily lives told another tale. They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t fill most occupations. They couldn’t protect themselves or their families from indignity or from violence. And so abolitionists and freedmen and women and radical Republicans kept cajoling and kept rabble-rousing, and within a few years of the war’s end at Appomattox, we passed two more amendments guaranteeing voting rights, birthright citizenship, equal protection under the law.
- And that’s what we celebrate today. The long arc of progress. Progress that is never assured, never guaranteed, but always possible, always there to be earned -– no matter how stuck we might seem sometimes. No matter how divided or despairing we may appear. No matter what ugliness may bubble up. Progress, so long as we’re willing to push for it; so long as we’re willing to reach for each other.
- We would do a disservice to those warriors of justice -- Tubman, and Douglass, and Lincoln, and King -- were we to deny that the scars of our nation’s original sin are still with us today. We condemn ourselves to shackles once more if we fail to answer those who wonder if they’re truly equals in their communities, or in their justice systems, or in a job interview. We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms.
- But we betray our most noble past as well if we were to deny the possibility of movement, the possibility of progress; if we were to let cynicism consume us and fear overwhelm us. If we lost hope. For however slow, however incomplete, however harshly, loudly, rudely challenged at each point along our journey, in America, we can create the change that we seek. All it requires is that our generation be willing to do what those who came before us have done: To rise above the cynicism and rise above the fear, to hold fast to our values, to see ourselves in each other, to cherish dignity and opportunity not just for our own children but for somebody else’s child. To remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others -– regardless of what they look like or where they come from or what their last name is or what faith they practice. To be honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. To nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth. To nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth. That is our choice. Today, we affirm hope.
Naturalization Ceremony speech (December 2015)
- Remarks by the President at Naturalization Ceremony at National Archives in Washington, D.C. (15 December 2015).
- Just about every nation in the world, to some extent, admits immigrants. But there’s something unique about America. We don’t simply welcome new immigrants, we don’t simply welcome new arrivals -- we are born of immigrants. That is who we are. Immigration is our origin story. And for more than two centuries, it’s remained at the core of our national character; it’s our oldest tradition. It’s who we are. It’s part of what makes us exceptional.
- We can never say it often or loudly enough: Immigrants and refugees revitalize and renew America.
- We celebrate this history, this heritage, as an immigrant nation. And we are strong enough to acknowledge, as painful as it may be, that we haven’t always lived up to our own ideals. We haven’t always lived up to these documents. [...] We succumbed to fear. We betrayed not only our fellow Americans, but our deepest values. We betrayed these documents. It’s happened before. And the biggest irony of course was -- is that those who betrayed these values were themselves the children of immigrants. How quickly we forget. One generation passes, two generation passes, and suddenly we don’t remember where we came from. And we suggest that somehow there is “us” and there is “them,” not remembering we used to be “them.”
- On days like today, we need to resolve never to repeat mistakes like that again. We must resolve to always speak out against hatred and bigotry in all of its forms -- whether taunts against the child of an immigrant farmworker or threats against a Muslim shopkeeper. We are Americans. Standing up for each other is what the values enshrined in the documents in this room compels us to do -– especially when it’s hard. Especially when it’s not convenient. That’s when it counts. That’s when it matters -- not when things are easy, but when things are hard.
- The truth is, being an American is hard. Being part of a democratic government is hard. Being a citizen is hard. It is a challenge. It’s supposed to be. There’s no respite from our ideals. All of us are called to live up to our expectations for ourselves -- not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s inconvenient. When it’s tough. When we’re afraid. The tension throughout our history between welcoming or rejecting the stranger, it’s about more than just immigration. It’s about the meaning of America, what kind of country do we want to be. It’s about the capacity of each generation to honor the creed as old as our founding: “E Pluribus Unum” -- that out of many, we are one.
- America: A place where we can be a part of something bigger. A place where we can contribute our talents and fulfill our ambitions and secure new opportunity for ourselves and for others. A place where we can retain pride in our heritage, but where we recognize that we have a common creed, a loyalty to these documents, a loyalty to our democracy; where we can criticize our government, but understand that we love it; where we agree to live together even when we don’t agree with each other; where we work through the democratic process, and not through violence or sectarianism to resolve disputes; where we live side by side as neighbors; and where our children know themselves to be a part of this nation, no longer strangers, but the bedrock of this nation, the essence of this nation.
- Our system of self-government depends on ordinary citizens doing the hard, frustrating but always essential work of citizenship -- of being informed. Of understanding that the government isn’t some distant thing, but is you. Of speaking out when something is not right. Of helping fellow citizens when they need a hand. Of coming together to shape our country’s course. And that work gives purpose to every generation. It belongs to me. It belongs to the judge. It belongs to you. It belongs to you, all of us, as citizens. To follow our laws, yes, but also to engage with your communities and to speak up for what you believe in. And to vote -- to not only exercise the rights that are now yours, but to stand up for the rights of others.
- If you ever wonder whether America is big enough to hold multitudes, strong enough to withstand the forces of change, brave enough to live up to our ideals even in times of trial, then look to the generations of ordinary citizens who have proven again and again that we are worthy of that. That’s our great inheritance -- what ordinary people have done to build this country and make these words live. And it’s our generation’s task to follow their example in this journey -- to keep building an America where no matter who we are or what we look like, or who we love or what we believe, we can make of our lives what we will. You will not and should not forget your history and your past. That adds to the richness of American life. But you are now American. You’ve got obligations as citizens. And I’m absolutely confident you will meet them.
- I continue to believe that Mr. Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people.
- Speaking at the Asean economic summit in California, as quoted in "Donald Trump will not be president, says Barack Obama", BBC (17 February 2016)
- My view is that this is the beginning, not the end, of what is going to be a journey that takes some time.
- Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence.
- In late January 2016, as quoted in "The Obama Doctrine" by Jeffrey Goldberg, in The Atlantic (April 2016)
- Iran so far has followed the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of the agreement involves Iran also sending signals to the world community and businesses that it is not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that might scare business off. When they launch ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous.
- As quoted in "U.S. to clarify Iran rules, but Tehran must reassure wary firms" (April 2016)
- We belong on the cutting edge of innovation. That's an idea as old as America itself. We're a nation of tinkerers, and dreamers, and believers in a better tomorrow.
- Remarks about the first White House Science Fair in 2010. “It’s a prototype!” Tune in for President Obama’s Last Science Fair, April 13th (quote from video published on April 12, 2016)
- I think it's fair to say that maybe some point down the line, there might be a UK-U.S. trade agreement, but it's not going to happen anytime soon, because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done, and the UK is going to be in the back of the queue.
- The end of the Republic has never looked better.
- Remarks by the President at the White House Correspondents' Dinner (April 30, 2016)
- There's been a trend around the country of trying to get college to disinvite speakers with a different point of view or disrupt a politician's rally. Don't do that, no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths... If the other side has a point, learn from them! If they're wrong, rebut them, teach them, beat them on the battlefield of ideas!
- Commencement speech at Howard University, as quoted in "Obama: Students Need to Stop Shutting Down Speech of People They Disagree With" by Josh Feldman, Mediaite (7 May 2016)
- Big nations should not bully smaller ones. Disputes should be resolved peacefully.
- War, no matter what our intentions may be, brings suffering and tragedy.
- It’s very hard to prosper in this modern economy if you haven’t fully unleashed the potential of your people. And your people’s potential, in part, derives from their ability to express themselves and express new ideas, to try to right wrongs that are taking place in the society.
- There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war -- memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism; graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity. Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction; how the very spark that marks us as a species -- our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will -- those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction. [...] Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds; to cure disease and understand the cosmos. But those same discoveries can be turned into ever-more efficient killing machines. The wars of the modern age teach this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution, as well.
- But for those folks who have lost their job right now because a plant went down the Mexico, that isn't going to make you feel better. And so what we have to do is to make sure that folks are trained for the jobs that are coming in now because some of those jobs of the past are just not going to come back, and when somebody says, like the person you just mentioned who I'm not going to advertise for, that he's going to bring all these jobs back, well how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There's — there's no answer to it. He just says, "Well, I'm going to negotiate a better deal." Well, how — what — how exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually, the answer is he doesn't have an answer.
- Questions for President Obama: A Town Hall Special with Gwen Ifill, PBS NewsHour (1 June 2016)
- If we turn against each other based on divisions of race or religion. I-i-i-if-if-if-if-if-if-if-if-if-if-if we fall for, you know, a bunch of okie-doke, just because, you know it-it-it. You know, it-it-it-it-it-it sounds funny or the tweets are provocative, then we're not going to build on the progress we started.
- "Obama Tries to Trash Donald Trump and Turns into a Stuttering Mess" (YouTube video) — "WATCH: President Obama's Bizarre Stuttering Attack Against Donald Trump", Hannity.com (2 June 2016); "Watch: Obama ‘Trips Over His Tongue’ When He Goes Off Teleprompter To Bash Trump" by Jack Davis, Western Journalism (2 June 2016).
- We saw in San Jose these protesters starting to pelt stuff [at] Trump supporters. That's not what our democracy is about. That's not what you do. There's no room for violence. There's no place for shouting. There's no room for a politics that fails to at least listen to the other side — even if you vehemently disagree.
- At a DNC fundraiser in Florida, as quoted in "Obama condemns violence at Trump rally" by Evelyn Rupert, The Hill (3 June 2016)
- When people say "Black Lives Matter," that doesn't mean blue lives don't matter; it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.
- Statement by the President (7 July 2016)
- We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.
One of the great things about America is that individual citizens and groups of citizens can petition their government, can protest, can speak truth to power. And that is sometimes messy and controversial. But because of that ability to protest and engage in free speech, America, over time, has gotten better. We've all benefited from that.
The abolition movement was contentious. The effort for women to get the right to vote was contentious and messy. There were times when activists might have engaged in rhetoric that was overheated and occasionally counterproductive. But the point was to raise issues so that we, as a society, could grapple with it. The same was true with the Civil Rights Movement, the union movement, the environmental movement, the anti-war movement during Vietnam. And I think what you're seeing now is part of that longstanding tradition.
What I would say is this -- that whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause. First of all, any violence directed at police officers is a reprehensible crime and needs to be prosecuted. But even rhetorically, if we paint police in broad brush, without recognizing that the vast majority of police officers are doing a really good job and are trying to protect people and do so fairly and without racial bias, if our rhetoric does not recognize that, then we're going to lose allies in the reform cause.
Now, in a movement like Black Lives Matter, there's always going to be some folks who say things that are stupid, or imprudent, or overgeneralized, or harsh. And I don't think that you can hold well-meaning activists who are doing the right thing and peacefully protesting responsible for everything that is uttered at a protest site.
- If police organizations and departments acknowledge that there's a problem and there's an issue, then that, too, is going to contribute to real solutions. And, as I said yesterday, that is what's going to ultimately help make the job of being a cop a lot safer.
- Our hearts go out to those who may have been injured. It’s still an active situation. And Germany is one of our closest allies, so we are going to pledge all the support that they may need in dealing with these circumstances. It's a good reminder of something that I've said over the last couple of weeks, which is our way of life -- our freedoms, our ability to go about our business every day, raising our kids and seeing them grow up and graduate from high school -- and now about to leave their dad -- (laughter) -- I'm sorry, I'm getting a little too personal -- getting a little too personal there -- (laughter) -- that depends on law enforcement. It depends on the men and women in uniform every single day who are, under some of the most adverse circumstances imaginable at times, making sure to keep us safe.
- Remarks by the President at a Drop-By of 21st Century Policing Event (22 July 2016). Quoted in: "Grinning Obama JOKES during statement on Munich carnage as he shifts gears to say he'll miss daughter Malia when she leaves the nest for college" by David Martosko, Daily Mail (22 July 2016).
- If you you're in the United States, sometimes you can feel lazy and think we're so big we don't have to really know anything about other people.
- Remarks by President Obama at YSEALI Town Hall (7 September 2016)
- Usually, if you see the environment destroyed, it’s not because that's necessary for development. It's usually because we're being lazy, and we're not being as creative as we could be about how to do it in a smarter, sustainable way.
- Remarks by President Obama at YSEALI Town Hall (7 September 2016)
- My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration – that's on the ballot right now! And there is one candidate who will advance those things. And there's another candidate whose defining principle, the central theme of his candidacy is opposition to all that we've done. There's no such thing as a vote that doesn't matter. It all matters. And after we have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African-American community, I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote.
- The great historian John Hope Franklin, who helped to get this museum started, once said, “Good history is a good foundation for a better present and future.” He understood the best history doesn’t just sit behind a glass case; it helps us to understand what’s outside the case. The best history helps us recognize the mistakes that we’ve made and the dark corners of the human spirit that we need to guard against. And, yes, a clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable, and shake us out of familiar narratives. But it is precisely because of that discomfort that we learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect.
- As President Bush just said, a great nation doesn’t shy from the truth. It strengthens us. It emboldens us. It should fortify us.
- But he understood from hard-earned experience that true security comes through making peace with your neighbors.
- He knew, better than the cynic, that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear but with hope.
- But he understood that it is better to live to the very end of his time on Earth with a longing not for the past but for the dreams that have not yet come true -- an Israel that is secure in a just and lasting peace with its neighbors.
- The demographics of the country are going to change. It's inevitable. The Latino community in America is going to grow. If you stopped all immigration today, just by virtue of birth rates, this is going to be a browner country.
- NPR's Exit Interview With President Obama (19 December 2016)
- No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland.
State of the Union address (January 2016)
- State of the Union address (12 January 2016), Washington, D.C.
- Our best corporate citizens are also our most creative... Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn't argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon. That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. We're Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. We're Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. We're every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world. And over the past seven years, we've nurtured that spirit.
- The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. 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. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that's the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is high... When it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead; they call us.
- 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 and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s 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, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.
- When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country... What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, 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. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into 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, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.
- When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.
- Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not something separate, not charity.
- We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what 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.
- But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn't – 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. [...] 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. 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.
Remarks to the People of Cuba (March 2016)
- Remarks by President Obama to the People of Cuba at Gran Teatro de la Habana in Havana, Cuba on March 22, 2016
- And this is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality, or race, or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can -- and will -- defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.
- For all of our differences, the Cuban and American people share common values in their own lives. A sense of patriotism and a sense of pride -- a lot of pride. A profound love of family. A passion for our children, a commitment to their education. And that's why I believe our grandchildren will look back on this period of isolation as an aberration, as just one chapter in a longer story of family and of friendship. But we cannot, and should not, ignore the very real differences that we have -- about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies. Cuba has a one-party system; the United States is a multi-party democracy. Cuba has a socialist economic model; the United States is an open market. Cuba has emphasized the role and rights of the state; the United States is founded upon the rights of the individual.
- And I've always believed in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now” -- we should not fear change, we should embrace it.
- And today, I want to share with you my vision of what our future can be. I want the Cuban people -- especially the young people -- to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope; not the false promise which insists that things are better than they really are, or the blind optimism that says all your problems can go away tomorrow. Hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape, and that you can build for your country.
- And I can tell you as a friend that sustainable prosperity in the 21st century depends upon education, health care, and environmental protection. But it also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas. If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential. And over time, the youth will lose hope.
- Before 1959, some Americans saw Cuba as something to exploit, ignored poverty, enabled corruption. And since 1959, we’ve been shadow-boxers in this battle of geopolitics and personalities. I know the history, but I refuse to be trapped by it.
- I believe that every person should be equal under the law. Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads. I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights. I believe that every person should have the freedom to practice their faith peacefully and publicly. And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections. Not everybody agrees with me on this. Not everybody agrees with the American people on this. But I believe those human rights are universal. I believe they are the rights of the American people, the Cuban people, and people around the world.
- We do have challenges with racial bias -- in our communities, in our criminal justice system, in our society -- the legacy of slavery and segregation. But the fact that we have open debates within America’s own democracy is what allows us to get better. In 1959, the year that my father moved to America, it was illegal for him to marry my mother, who was white, in many American states. When I first started school, we were still struggling to desegregate schools across the American South. But people organized; they protested; they debated these issues; they challenged government officials. And because of those protests, and because of those debates, and because of popular mobilization, I’m able to stand here today as an African-American and as President of the United States. That was because of the freedoms that were afforded in the United States that we were able to bring about change.
- There’s still enormous problems in our society. But democracy is the way that we solve them. That's how we got health care for more of our people. That's how we made enormous gains in women’s rights and gay rights. That's how we address the inequality that concentrates so much wealth at the top of our society. Because workers can organize and ordinary people have a voice, American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living.
- The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution -- America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world -- those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy. Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not. And we -- like every country -- need the space that democracy gives us to change. It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better.
- There’s already an evolution taking place inside of Cuba, a generational change. Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down -- but I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new.
- Sometimes the most important changes start in small places. The tides of history can leave people in conflict and exile and poverty. It takes time for those circumstances to change. But the recognition of a common humanity, the reconciliation of people bound by blood and a belief in one another -- that’s where progress begins. Understanding, and listening, and forgiveness.
Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Town Hall (March 2016)
- Remarks by President Obama in Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Town Hall at Usina Del Arte in Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 23, 2016
- I was honored to be the first U.S. President to visit Cuba in almost 90 years. And we still have differences with the Cuban government, but what I said to President Castro is we can't be imprisoned by the past. When something doesn't work for 50 years, we have to try something new. And I believe that engagement and dialogue is more powerful than isolation, and that the changes that we're making can improve the lives of the Cuban people.
- I believe that under the surface all people are the same. […] people are all essentially the same. Similar hopes, similar dreams, similar strengths, similar weaknesses. But we're also all bound by history and culture and habits. And so conflicts arise, in part, because of some weaknesses in human nature. When we feel threatened, then we like to strike out against people who are not like us. When change is happening too quickly, and we try to hang on to those things that we think could give us a solid foundation. And sometimes the organizing principles are around issues like race, or religion. When there are times of scarcity, then people can turn on each other. And so I don't underestimate the very real challenges that we continue to face, and I don't think it is inevitable that the world comes together in a common culture and common understanding. But overall, I am hopeful. And the reason I'm hopeful is, if you look at the trajectory of history, humanity has slowly improved.
- And I think one of the things that's important for bringing about further progress is that we listen to each other and we understand our differences. I don't think it's necessary for us to all speak one language, or all have the same foods, or all have the same customs. But I do believe that there are some universal principles that are important. I believe that the most important principle is a very simple one that is at the heart of most of the world’s great religions, which is treat somebody the same way you’d want to be treated. And if you start with that basic premise, then we will continue to make progress. But I also think that in order for us to make progress, we have to have that fellow feeling and we have to combine that with the use of our brains and reason, and our intellect. […] That requires not just a strong heart, but also using our heads. And if we do those two things, then I feel confident that we'll make progress.
- And so you have to be practical in asking yourself how can you achieve the goals of equality and inclusion, but also recognize that the market system produces a lot of wealth and goods and services. And it also gives individuals freedom because they have initiative. And so you don't have to be rigid in saying it’s either this or that, you can say -- depending on the problem you're trying to solve, depending on the social issues that you're trying to address what works. And I think that what you’ll find is that the most successful societies, the most successful economies are ones that are rooted in a market-based system, but also recognize that a market does not work by itself. It has to have a social and moral and ethical and community basis, and there has to be inclusion. Otherwise it’s not stable. And it’s up to you -- whether you're in business or in academia or the nonprofit sector, whatever you're doing -- to create new forms that are adapted to the new conditions that we live in today.
- A reason that Presidents can't just solve things right away is because every leader in every country is gathering and expressing a very particular set of interests and history and institutional arrangements. And those interests oftentimes constrain what a leader can do, even if he or she wants to do it. […] And so what happens is, is that most politicians are constantly making decisions based on what they're hearing from their various constituencies. And their constituencies -- they want what they want. They don't want to compromise sometimes. They don't want to understand the nuances of things. And then it turns out that in politics, sometimes making somebody afraid of somebody else or creating an enemy is more successful in stirring up passion than trying to say let's understand this other person or these other people. So there are leaders who I think do a better job of focusing on the common good, and there are other leaders who are very narrowly focused on just how do I stay in power. And ultimately, if you're lucky enough to live in a democracy, then part of making sure that your leaders can act well is the citizens, the constituency, have to also be well-informed and be willing to give him or her the room to do things that may not be convenient for you right now, but may actually be the right thing to do.
- [T]he most important position in a democracy is not the office of the President. The most important office is the office of citizen, because if you have citizens who are informed and know about other countries, and recognize that if we provide foreign aid to some distant country in Africa, that ultimately may make us healthier. And if you have a citizenry that recognizes that even if I have to pay slightly more in taxes — which nobody likes paying taxes -- but if I do, maybe I can provide that young child who lives in a poorer neighborhood an opportunity for a better life. And then because she has a job and a better life, she can pay taxes, and then everybody has more, and the society is better off. If you don't have citizens like that, then you're going to get leaders who think very narrowly and you'll be disappointed. So the job — one thing I always tell young people, don't just think that you elect somebody and then you expect them to solve all your problems and then you just sit back and complain when it doesn't happen. You have to work as a citizen also to provide the leaders the space and the direction to do the right thing. It's just as important for you to challenge ignorance or discrimination or people who are always thinking in terms of war — it's just as important for you to do that as the President because I don't care how good the person, the leader you elect is, if the people want something different. In a democracy, at least, that's what's going to happen.
Howard University commencement address (May 2016)
- Address at Howard University, as quoted in "Obama's full remarks at Howard University commencement ceremony", Politico (7 May 2016)
- Racism persists. Inequality persists. Don’t worry — I’m going to get to that. But I wanted to start, Class of 2016, by opening your eyes to the moment that you are in. If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be — what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you’d be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you'd be born into — you wouldn’t choose 100 years ago. You wouldn’t choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies. You’d choose right now. If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, “young, gifted, and black” in America, you would choose right now.
I tell you all this because it's important to note progress. Because to deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice, to the legions of foot soldiers; to not only the incredibly accomplished individuals who have already been mentioned, but your mothers and your dads, and grandparents and great grandparents, who marched and toiled and suffered and overcame to make this day possible. I tell you this not to lull you into complacency, but to spur you into action — because there’s still so much more work to do, so many more miles to travel. And America needs you to gladly, happily take up that work.
- I’d like to offer some suggestions for how young leaders like you can fulfill your destiny and shape our collective future — bend it in the direction of justice and equality and freedom.
First of all — and this should not be a problem for this group — be confident in your heritage. … Be confident in your blackness. One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there's no one way to be black. Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I'm black enough. … In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office. There’s no straitjacket, there's no constraints, there's no litmus test for authenticity.
- You can create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality. Think about an icon we just lost — Prince. He blew up categories. People didn’t know what Prince was doing. … And folks loved him for it.
You need to have the same confidence. Or as my daughters tell me all the time, “You be you, Daddy.” … Sometimes Sasha puts a variation on it — "You do you, Daddy." … And because you’re a black person doing whatever it is that you're doing, that makes it a black thing. Feel confident.
After the Orlando nightclub shooting (June 2016)
- Now, those who were killed and injured here were gunned down by a single killer with a powerful assault weapon. The motives of this killer may have been different than the mass shooters in Aurora or Newtown. But the instruments of death were so similar. And now another 49 innocent people are dead; another 53 are injured; some are still fighting for their lives; some will have wounds that will last a lifetime. We can’t anticipate or catch every single deranged person that may wish to do harm to his neighbors or his friends or his coworkers or strangers. But we can do something about the amount of damage that they do. Unfortunately, our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for a terrorist or just a disturbed individual like those in Aurora and Newtown to buy extraordinarily powerful weapons, and they can do so legally.
- In Orlando after the Orlando nightclub shooting (Rhodan, Maya (June 16, 2016). "President Obama: Orlando Families' Grief Is 'Beyond Description'". Time. Retrieved on September 2, 2018. ; Zezima, Katie; Nakashima, Ellen (June 16, 2016). "‘Our hearts are broken, too’: Obama visits survivors of Orlando rampage". The Washington Post. Retrieved on September 2, 2018. ; Korte, Gregory (June 16, 2016). "After meeting with Orlando victims, Obama renews call for gun control". USA Today. Retrieved on September 6, 2018. ).
Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers (July 2016)
- Remarks by President Obama at Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers at Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas on July 12, 2016 in response to the 2016 shooting of Dallas police officers
- Scripture tells us that in our sufferings there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Sometimes the truths of these words are hard to see. Right now, those words test us. Because the people of Dallas, people across the country, are suffering.
- No, the reward comes in knowing that our entire way of life in America depends on the rule of law; that the maintenance of that law is a hard and daily labor; that in this country, we don’t have soldiers in the streets or militias setting the rules. Instead, we have public servants -- police officers -- like the men who were taken away from us.
- First, the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, and the protests, then the targeting of police by the shooter here -- an act not just of demented violence but of racial hatred. All of it has left us wounded, and angry, and hurt. It’s as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened. And although we know that such divisions are not new -- though they have surely been worse in even the recent past -- that offers us little comfort.
- Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged. We wonder if an African-American community that feels unfairly targeted by police, and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs, can ever understand each other’s experience. We turn on the TV or surf the Internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn, and people retreat to their respective corners, and politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout. We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won't hold and that things might get worse. I understand how Americans are feeling. But, Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds. I know we’ll make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life, what I’ve seen of this country and its people -- their goodness and decency --as President of the United States. [...] I see what's possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving of equal respect, all children of God. That’s the America that I know.
- I've seen how a spirit of unity, born of tragedy, can gradually dissipate, overtaken by the return to business as usual, by inertia and old habits and expediency. I see how easily we slip back into our old notions, because they’re comfortable, we’re used to them. I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been. And so I’m reminded of a passage in *John’s Gospel [First John]: Let us love not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth. If we’re to sustain the unity we need to get through these difficult times, if we are to honor these five outstanding officers who we’ve lost, then we will need to act on the truths that we know. And that’s not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. But we’re going to have to be honest with each other and ourselves.
- We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally. They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn. And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety. And as for those who use rhetoric suggesting harm to police, even if they don’t act on it themselves -- well, they not only make the jobs of police officers even more dangerous, but they do a disservice to the very cause of justice that they claim to promote.
- We also know that centuries of racial discrimination -- of slavery, and subjugation, and Jim Crow -- they didn’t simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation. They didn’t just stop when Dr. King made a speech, or the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were signed. Race relations have improved dramatically in my lifetime. Those who deny it are dishonoring the struggles that helped us achieve that progress. But we know -- but, America, we know that bias remains. We know it. Whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or of Middle Eastern descent, we have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point. [...] Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent. No institution is entirely immune. And so when African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer -- “yes, sir,” “no, sir” -- but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy -- when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid. We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism. To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again -- it hurts. Surely we can see that, all of us.
- [S]o much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves. As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book and then we tell the police “you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.” We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience. Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over. We know these things to be true. They’ve been true for a long time. [...] And if we cannot even talk about these things -- if we cannot talk honestly and openly not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those who look different than us or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle.
- In the end, it's not about finding policies that work; it’s about forging consensus, and fighting cynicism, and finding the will to make change. Can we do this? Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other? Can we see in each other a common humanity and a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us? And it doesn’t make anybody perfectly good or perfectly bad, it just makes us human.
- That’s what we must pray for, each of us: a new heart. Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens. [...] Because with an open heart, we can learn to stand in each other’s shoes and look at the world through each other’s eyes, so that maybe the police officer sees his own son in that teenager with a hoodie who's kind of goofing off but not dangerous and the teenager -- maybe the teenager will see in the police officer the same words and values and authority of his parents. With an open heart, we can abandon the overheated rhetoric and the oversimplification that reduces whole categories of our fellow Americans not just to opponents, but to enemies. With an open heart, those protesting for change will guard against reckless language going forward, look at the model set by the five officers we mourn today, acknowledge the progress brought about by the sincere efforts of police departments like this one in Dallas, and embark on the hard but necessary work of negotiation, the pursuit of reconciliation. With an open heart, police departments will acknowledge that, just like the rest of us, they are not perfect; that insisting we do better to root out racial bias is not an attack on cops, but an effort to live up to our highest ideals. [...] With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right. [...] We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.
- For all of us, life presents challenges and suffering -- accidents, illnesses, the loss of loved ones. There are times when we are overwhelmed by sudden calamity, natural or manmade. All of us, we make mistakes. And at times we are lost. And as we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things -- not even a President does. But we do have control over how we respond to the world. We do have control over how we treat one another.
- America does not ask us to be perfect. Precisely because of our individual imperfections, our founders gave us institutions to guard against tyranny and ensure no one is above the law; a democracy that gives us the space to work through our differences and debate them peacefully, to make things better, even if it doesn’t always happen as fast as we’d like. America gives us the capacity to change.
- Only by working together can we preserve those institutions of family and community, rights and responsibilities, law and self-government that is the hallmark of this nation. For, it turns out, we do not persevere alone. Our character is not found in isolation. Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down; it is found by lifting others up.
Statement on the Shootings in Baton Rouge (July 2016)
- Statement by President Obama on the Shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 17, 2016 in response to the 2016 shooting of Baton Rouge police officers
- Five days ago, I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the officers who were slain there. I said that that killer would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other. Nor will today’s killer. It remains up to us to make sure that they fail. That decision is all of ours. The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst -- that’s up to us.
- We have our divisions, and they are not new. Around-the-clock news cycles and social media sometimes amplify these divisions, and I know we’re about to enter a couple of weeks of conventions where our political rhetoric tends to be more overheated than usual. And that is why it is so important that everyone -- regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you are a part of -- everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further. We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts -- all of us. We need what we saw in Dallas this week, as a community came together to restore order and deepen unity and understanding. We need the kind of efforts we saw this week in meetings between community leaders and police -- some of which I participated in -- where I saw people of good will pledge to work together to reduce violence throughout all of our communities. That’s what’s needed right now. And it is up to all of us to make sure we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.
- Someone once wrote, “A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.” My fellow Americans, only we can prove, through words and through deeds, that we will not be divided. And we’re going to have to keep on doing it “again and again and again.” That’s how this country gets united. That’s how we bring people of good will together. Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children. That’s who we are, and that’s who we always have the capacity to be. And that’s the best way for us to honor the sacrifice of the brave police officers who were taken from us this morning.