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"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."
—Barack Obama, November 4, 2008

Following his victory in the United States presidential election, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama gave his victory speech[1] at Grant Park in his home city of Chicago, Illinois,[2] before an estimated crowd of 240,000.[3][4] Considered one of the most widely-watched and repeated political addresses in history,[5] Obama's speech focused on the major issues facing the United States and the world, all echoed through his campaign slogan of change.[6] He also emotionally mentioned his grandmother, who had died two nights earlier.


References in the speech

The speech heavily referenced the inaugural addresses of former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, and also referred to speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Echoing Martin Luther King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address, he declared, "But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America" and "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."[1] At another point in the speech he again referenced King when referring to the "arc of history", a phrase King used regularly, most notably after the Selma to Montgomery marches saying "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice".

Obama directly quoted Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address, by saying "As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

Obama also referred to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address by saying "...that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth"

Obama proclaimed, "It's been a long time coming, but...change has come to America," an allusion to the Sam Cooke song "A Change Is Gonna Come."[7][8]

Obama also made a reference to a prospective presidential pet for his daughters.[9][10]

Sasha and Malia … I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us … to the White House.


Obama spoke of the core issues facing the United States today, among them the economy, the Iraq War and the onset of global warming.[11]

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.[1]

On the economic crisis:

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

A message to America's enemies and friends:

To those — 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.


In his speech, Obama reflected on the hard times of the campaign and the "challenges that America would face ahead." TV coverage of the speech showed Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey weeping in the crowd.[12][13] Obama's speech also marked the first time a President-elect referred positively to gay Americans in an acceptance speech. Sam Perry experienced a brief moment of fame when Oprah Winfrey leaned on him while crying on his shoulder.

Grant Park was the location of many protests of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which were significant for ending in violence, riots and police brutality. CNN declared, "History gave Grant Park another chance Tuesday as the scene of a peaceful and jubilant celebration of Barack Obama's presidential victory."[14] Obama's speech has been praised as having "...the rare ability to cultivate the things that are common to all human beings, regardless of artificial and arbitrary distinctions."[15]

Ann Nixon Cooper

One of the primary references within Obama's speech was to Ann Nixon Cooper, a then-106-year-old resident of Atlanta, Georgia.

“She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky, when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.”[16]

Obama also made reference to his popular campaign chant, Yes We Can:

“And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t; and the people who pressed on with that American creed: 'Yes, we can.'”[16]


Due to the high security threat involved, Obama delivered the speech protected by two pieces of bulletproof glass (2 inches (5.1 cm) thick, 10 feet (3.0 m) high, 15 feet (4.6 m) long) to each side of the lectern to deflect any shots from the skyscrapers overlooking Grant Park.[17][18] There was no glass shield in front of the lectern.[19] A no-fly zone was also imposed over the area, with only police helicopters allowed in the air.[18][19] The gathering involved the deployment of thousands of police, Army and Secret Service personnel. The event cost the Obama campaign an estimated $2 million.[20][21] Even with the large threat at hand, no arrests were made related to the event.


Prior to Obama's emergence onto the stage, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder, "Only in America" by Brooks & Dunn, and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson were played. When Obama, Joe Biden, and their families appeared onstage following the speech, music from the films Remember the Titans, composed by Trevor Rabin, and The Patriot, composed by John Williams, was played.[22][23][24] "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen was also played following the speech (Springsteen had endorsed Obama).

See also


  1. ^ a b c CQ Transcripts Wire (Wednesday, November 5, 2008; 12:02 AM). "Sen. Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech in Chicago, Ill.". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  2. ^ "Obama Acceptance Speech". Times of the Internet. Obama Acceptance Speech. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  3. ^ "Chicago News - 11/05/08". ABC. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  4. ^ "Rally crowd heads home for the night". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  5. ^ Press Trust Of India (London November 08, 2008, 0:46 IST). "Acceptance speech partly written in London: Report". Business Standard. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  6. ^ Gilbert, Debbie (November 6, 2008). "Residents relate the personal significance of this election". Gainseville Times. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  7. ^ "David Hinckley, Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come' theme song for Barack Obama's presidency", New York Daily News, Nov. 7 2008
  8. ^ "Kerry Candaele Barack Obama And Sam Cooke on Election Night", Huffington Post, Nov. 7 2008
  9. ^ Spillius, Alex (9:32PM GMT 07 Nov 2008). "Nation debates the Obama's White House puppy". Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  10. ^ "Obama's girls about to go into the fishbowl". CNN. November 7, 2008 -- Updated 2124 GMT (0524 HKT. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  11. ^ TAPPER, JAKE (November 7, 2008). "Economy Dominates Obama's Speech". Abc News. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  12. ^ "Barack Obama's win: News to make Jesse Jackson weep | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  13. ^ Colleen Mastony (November 11, 2008). "No-longer-a-mystery man and Oprah reunite -".,0,4895792.story. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  14. ^ "Chicago's Grant Park turns into jubilation park -". Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  15. ^ "Obama Helps Us Believe, & We Help Him" / American Satellite Magazine (Retrieved November 6, 2008)
  16. ^ a b Brown, Chandler (3:09 p.m. November 05, 2008). "106-year-old that Obama cited has led active life in Atlanta". AJC. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  17. ^ Winnett, Robert (6:28PM GMT 05 Nov 2008). "Fears grow for Barack Obama's security". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  18. ^ a b ERWIN, MILES (Thursday, November 6, 2008). "Bullet-proof glass at Obama victory rally". Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  19. ^ a b Thompson, Paul (12:42 AM on 06th November 2008). "Bulletproof glass shields Obama for victory speech as security is stepped up for President-elect". Mail online. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  20. ^ "Daley puts Obama rally tab at $2 million | Clout Street - local political coverage". Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  21. ^ ":: - Southern Illinois' Homepage ::". Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  22. ^ "Patrick Goldstein, The Big Picture; Hey, Obama, Name That Tune, November 6, 2008",
  23. ^ "Disney music used after Obama’s speech, November 11, 2008",
  24. ^ Live Blogging election night

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