Four Historic Obama Speech Moments

AP photoAs President Barack Obama moves more and more into his second term, scholars will begin making note of some of his most memorable speeches and public remarks that might mark his presidency and his two successful campaigns. Recognizing that the list will change and there will be additions and deletions, here are four very different speeches and remarks that I believe will go down in history as significant.

The Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic Convention in BostonJuly 27, 2004. Then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was asked by the Democratic Party Nominee for President John Kerry to present the Keynote Address at the 2004 Convention.  Obama’s  speech was drawn, in part, from both of his bestselling books, Dreams from My Father and Audacity of Hope.  The speech was stirring, measured, thoughtful, and delivered powerfully by the future President of the United States.  The line most remembered from the Obama Keynote Address was, ‘We are not liberal or conservative states—we are the United States of America.’  The applause was deafening.

“A More Perfect Union” Address in PhiladelphiaMarch 18, 2008.  This speech was intended to be a major address on race relations in America for presidential  candidate, U. S. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.  But because of a unexpected released video at the same time  of Obama’s pastor at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, it became a “make or break” address for his campaign.  The video showed pastor Rev. Wright criticizing America for its’ failings of minorities in graphic terms, especially African Americans.  Obama decided to risk his whole campaign on a response to the Rev. Wright video while talking about race relations that day in Philadelphia.  His address was riveting—outlining his independence from some of Rev. Wright’s more inflammatory rhetoric, yet still supporting the Reverend’s right to express his sometimes offensive opinions.  This speech was so profound and acclaimed, it eliminated race as a major campaign issue, and propelled Obama to election in the fall of 2008.

“Annie Oakley” Remarks on Gun ControlApril 21, 2008.  During the 2008 primary campaign, Senator Hillary Clinton was the strong favorite to win the Democratic primary, although upstart U.S. Senator Barack Obama was giving her fits, especially in the televised debates.  Clinton’s campaign decided to try and distance her from what they felt were Obama’s liberal leanings.  They produced a mailing suggesting Obama had a very liberal position on gun control, and adding that Senator Clinton “was a hunter.”  When questioned about the Clinton mailing, Obama smiled and then broke up, saying ‘Ah come on now, we’re not talking about Annie Oakley here…is she saying she is packing a six shooter, now?’  Clinton is not remembered for attacking Obama on gun control again in the campaign that Obama went on to win.

Remarks After Senate Defeat of 2013 Gun Background Check Bill.  April 17, 2013.  Led by Senate Republicans, the compromise Gun Background Check bill fell short of the necessary 60 votes this month.  Visibly angry at a rose garden press conference at the White House, the President said the opponents and the National Rifle Association lied about the legislation.  The President described the action as “shameful,” very unusual language to be used by a President about the senate, especially coming from a former member.   Perhaps most important for  the proponents of the legislation, the President left the door open for a re-visit of the issue and tasked the supporters to get the necessary votes for passage.

Robert W. McKnight is a former Florida state senator and representative.  He is the author of two nationally acclaimed books on Florida politics and provides political commentary for the Huffington Post, The Contributor and multiple media outlets.  His Blog is

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