Best Speeches of
Barack Obama
through his 2009 Inauguration

Most Recent Speeches are Listed First

• Barack Obama -
Election Night Victory / Presidential Acceptance Speech - Nov 4 2008

Barack Obama - Night Before the Election - the Last Rally - Manassas Virginia - Nov 3 2008

• Barack Obama - Democratic Nominee Acceptance Speech
2008 National Democratic Convention

Barack Obama - "A World that Stands as One" - Berlin Germany - July 2008

• Barack Obama - Final Primary Night:
Presumptive Nominee Speech

• Barack Obama - North Carolina Primary Night

• Barack Obama - Pennsylvania Primary Night

• Barack Obama - AP Annual Luncheon

• Barack Obama - A More Perfect Union
“The Race Speech”

• Barack Obama - Texas and Ohio Primary Night

• Barack Obama - Potomac Primary Night

• Barack Obama - Super Tuesday

Barack Obama - Iowa Caucus Night

Barack Obama - California Democratic Convention - April 28, 2007

Barack Obama - Announcement For President - Feb 10 2007

Barack Obama - Floor Statement on Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007

Barack Obama - The Time Has Come for Universal Health Care

Barack Obama - Floor Statement on President's Decision to Increase Troops in Iraq

Barack Obama - Race Against Time - World AIDS Day Speech

Barack Obama - A Way Forward in Iraq

Barack Obama - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony

Barack Obama - Military Commission Legislation

Barack Obama - Floor Statement on the Habeas Corpus Amendment

Barack Obama - Energy Independence: A Call for Leadership

Barack Obama - An Honest Government, A Hopeful Future

Barack Obama - Xavier University Commencement Address

Barack Obama - AFSCME National Convention

Barack Obama - Vote against the Gulf of Mexico Energy Bill

Barack Obama - Support of H.R. 9, the Voting Rights Act

Barack Obama - Statement of Support for Stem Cell Research

Barack Obama - Campus Progress Annual Conference

Barack Obama - “Call to Renewal” Keynote Address

Barack Obama - Iraq Debate

Barack Obama - Northwestern University Commencement Address

Barack Obama - Katrina Reconstruction

Barack Obama - Take Back America

Barack Obama - Network Neutrality

Barack Obama - Federal Marriage Amendment

Barack Obama - University of Massachusetts at Boston Commencement Address

Barack Obama - General Michael Hayden Nomination

Barack Obama - Opposition to the Amendment Requiring a Photo ID to Vote

Barack Obama - Employment Verification Amendment for the Immigration Bill

Barack Obama - Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Commencement Address

Barack Obama - Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans

Barack Obama - EMILY's List Annual Luncheon

Barack Obama - A Real Solution for High Gas Prices

Barack Obama - Immigration Rallies

Barack Obama - Amendment to Stop No-Bid Contracts for Gulf Coast Recovery and Reconstruction

Barack Obama - Updates on Darfur, Immigration, Gas Prices

Barack Obama - Immigration Reform

Barack Obama - Energy Independence and the Safety of Our Planet

Barack Obama - Immigration Reform

Barack Obama - Improving Chemical Plant Security

Barack Obama - 21st Century Schools for a 21st Century Economy

Barack Obama - Meals Amendment

Barack Obama - Debate on Lobbying and Ethics Reform

Barack Obama - Energy Security is National Security - Governor's Ethanol Coalition

Barack Obama - Floor Statement S.2271 - PATRIOT Act Reauthorization

Barack Obama - Darfur: Current Policy Not Enough

Barack Obama - Foreign Relations Committee regarding Lugar-Obama legislation S.1949

Barack Obama - Hurricane Katrina Child Assistance Amendment

Barack Obama - Supreme Court Nomination of Samuel Alito - Podcast

Barack Obama - Confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito, Jr. - Speech

Barack Obama - Lobbying Reform Summit National Press Club

Barack Obama - Meeting on Iraq with President Bush

Barack Obama - Remarks: Honest Leadership and Open Government

Barack Obama - From the Road: Israel and the Palestinian territories

Barack Obama - From the Road: Speaking with American Troops in Iraq

Barack Obama - The PATRIOT Act

Barack Obama - Moving Forward in Iraq - Chicago Council on Foreign Relations

Barack Obama - Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Ceremony

Barack Obama - National Women's Law Center

Barack Obama - "Sex on TV 4" Report

Barack Obama - Non-Proliferation and Russia: The Challenges Ahead

Barack Obama - Chicago White Sox

Barack Obama - Death of Rosa Parks

Barack Obama - Teaching Our Kids in a 21st Century Economy

Barack Obama - Avian Flu

Barack Obama - Confirmation of Judge John Roberts

Barack Obama - Resources for the Future

Barack Obama - Statement on Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts

Barack Obama - AFL-CIO National Convention

Barack Obama - Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill and the Avian Flu

Barack Obama - American Legion Conference

Barack Obama - Literacy and Education in a 21st-Century Economy

Barack Obama - Pritzker School of Medicine Commencement

Barack Obama - Nomination of Justice Janice Rogers Brown

Barack Obama - Knox College Commencement

Barack Obama - Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

Barack Obama - America’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Policy Remarks

Barack Obama - Rockford Register Star Young American Awards

Barack Obama - NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner

Barack Obama - National Press Club

Barack Obama - SIUC College of Agriculture's 50th Anniversary

Barack Obama - Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Barack Obama - Amendment for Meals/Phone Service to Wounded Veterans

Barack Obama - The Nuclear Option

Barack Obama - Confirmation Hearing of John Bolton

Barack Obama - Herblock Foundation Annual Lecture

Barack Obama - American Legion Legislative Rally

Barack Obama - CURE Keynote Address

Barack Obama - Remarks of TechNet

Barack Obama - S256, the Bankruptcy Abuse & Prevention Act of 2005

Barack Obama - John Lewis's 65th Birthday Gala

Barack Obama - Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention

Barack Obama - 2002 Speech Against the Iraq War


TOPIC: Civil Rights
May 1st, 2005
NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner
Detroit, MI
Complete Text

Thank you. Half a century after the first few hundred people sat for justice and equality at these tables, I am honored to be here with this crowd of thousands at the 50th NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner.

Founded at a time when we were constantly reminded how the world around us was separate and unequal...when the idea of legal rights for black folks was almost a contradiction in terms...when lunch counters and bus seats and water fountains were luxuries you had to fight for and march for, the 50th anniversary of the Fight for Freedom Dinner reminds us of just how far our struggle has come.

I was reminded of this last month, when I had the honor of going to Atlanta to speak at John Lewis's 65th birthday celebration. Many of the luminaries of the Civil Rights Movement were down there, and I had the great honor of sitting between Ethel Kennedy and Coretta Scott King, who both turned to me and said "we're really looking forward to hearing you speak." Now that's a really intimidating thing!

And as I stood up there next to John Lewis, not a giant in stature, but a giant of compassion and courage, I thought to myself, never in a million years would I have guessed that I'd be serving in Congress with John Lewis.

And then I thought, you know, there was once a time when John Lewis might never have guessed that he'd be serving in Congress. And there was a time not long before that when people might never have guessed that someday, black folks would be able to go to the polls, pick up a ballot, make their voice heard, and elect that Congress.

But we can, and many of us are here, because people like John Lewis believed. Because people feared nothing and risked everything for those beliefs. Because they saw injustice and endured pain in order to right what was wrong. We're here tonight because of them, and to them we owe the deepest gratitude.

The road we have taken to this point has not been easy. But then again, the road to change never is.

Some of you might know that I taught Constitutional Law at the Chicago Law school for awhile. And one of the courses I taught was a course in race and law, where we chronicled the history of race in this country and people's struggle to achieve freedom in the courts and on the streets. And often times my students would come up to me and say things like, "Boy I wish I could've been around at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Because things seemed so clear at the time. And while there may have been room for debate on some things, the clarity of the cause and the need for the movement were crystal clear, and you didn't have the ambiguities you have today.

Because it's one thing to know that everyone has a seat at the lunch counter, but how do we figure out how everyone can pay for the meal? It was easy to figure out that blacks and whites should be able to go to school together, but how do we make sure that every child is equipped and ready to graduate? It was easy to talk about dogs and fire hoses, but how do we talk about getting drugs and guns off the streets?" This is what they told me.

And of course, I reminded them that it wasn't very easy at all. That the moral certainties we now take for granted - that separate can never be equal, that the blessings of liberty enshrined in our Constitution belong to all of us, that our children should be able to go to school together and play together and grow up together - were anything but certain in 1965.

I reminded them that even within the African-American community, there was disagreement about how much to stir things up. We have a church in Chicago that's on what use to be known as State Park Way. After Dr. King's assassination, the street was renamed to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. But the pastor of the church - a prominent African-American in the community - hated Dr. King so bad that he actually changed the address of the church.

And so it's never been clear. And it's never been easy. To get to where we are today it took struggle and sacrifice, discipline and tremendous courage.

And sometimes, when I reflect on those giants of the Civil Rights movement, I wonder - where did you find that courage? John Lewis, where did you find that courage? Dorothy Height, where did you find that courage? Rosa Parks, where did you find that courage?

When you're facing row after row of state troopers on horseback armed with billy clubs and tear gas...when they're coming toward you spewing hatred and violence, how do you simply stop, kneel down, and pray to the Lord for salvation?

Where do you find that courage?

I don't know. But I do know that it's worth examining because the challenges we face today are going to require this kind of courage. The battle lines may have shifted and the barriers to equality may be new, but what's not new is the need for everyday heroes to stand up and speak out for what they believe is right.

Fifty years ago this country decided that Linda Brown shouldn't have to walk miles and miles to school every morning when there was a white school just four blocks away because when it comes to education in America, separate can never be equal.

Now that ruling came about because the NAACP was willing to fight tirelessly and risk its reputation; because everyday Americans - black and white - were willing to take to the streets and risk their freedom. Because people showed courage.

Fifty years later, what kind of courage are we showing to ensure that our schools are foundations of opportunity for our children?

In a world where kids from Detroit aren't just competing with kids from Macomb for middle-class jobs, but with kids from Malaysia and New Delhi, ensuring that every American child gets the best education possible is the new civil rights challenge of our time.

A student today armed with only a high school diploma will earn an average of only $25,000 a year - if you're African-American, it's 14% less than that. Meanwhile, countries like China are graduating twice as many students with a college degree as we do. We're falling behind, and if want our kids to have the same chances we had in life, we must work harder to catch up.

So what are we doing about it?

When we see that America has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the industrialized world - even higher for African-Americans and Hispanics, what are we doing about it?

When we see that our high school seniors are scoring lower on their math and science tests than almost any other students in the world at a time when expertise in these areas is the ticket to a high-wage job, what are we doing about it?

When we see that for every hundred students who enter ninth grade, only eighteen - eighteen - will earn any kind of college degree within six years of graduating high school, what are we doing about it?

And when we see broken schools, old textbooks, and classrooms bursting at the seams, what are we doing about that?

I'll tell you what they've been doing in Washington. In Washington, they'll talk about the importance of education one day and sign big tax cuts that starve our schools the next. They'll talk about Leaving No Child Behind but then say nothing when it becomes obvious that they've left the money behind. In the budget they passed this week in Congress, they gave out over $100 billion in tax cuts, on top of the trillions they've already given to the wealthiest few and most profitable corporations.

One hundred billion dollars. Think about what that could do for our kids if we invested that in our schools. Think of how many new schools we could build, how many great teachers we could recruit, what kind of computers and technology we could put in our classrooms. Think about how much we could invest in math and science so our kids could be prepared for the 21st century economy. Think about how many kids we could send to college who've worked hard, studied hard, but just can't afford the tuition.

Think about all that potential and all that opportunity. Think about the choice Washington made instead. And now think about what you can do about it.

I believe we have a mutual responsibility to make sure our schools are properly funded, our teachers are properly paid, and our students have access to an affordable college education. And if we don't do something about all that, than nothing else matters.

But I also believe we have an individual responsibility as well.

Our grandparents use to tell us that being Black means you have to work twice as hard to succeed in life. And so I ask today, can we honestly say our kids are working twice as hard as the kids in India and China who are graduating ahead of us, with better test scores and the tools they need to kick our butts on the job market? Can we honestly say our teachers are working twice as hard, or our parents?

One thing's for sure, I certainly know that Washington's not working twice as hard - and that's something each of us has a role in changing. Because if we want change in our education system - if we want our schools to be less crowded and funded more equitably; if we want our children to take the courses that will get them ready for the 21st century; if we want our teachers to be paid what they're worth and armed with the tools they need to prepare our kids; than we need to summon the same courage today that those giants of the Civil Rights movement summoned half a century ago.

Because more than anything else, these anniversaries - of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act and Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner - they remind us that in America, ordinary citizens can somehow find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things. That change is never easy, but always possible. And it comes not from violence or militancy or the kind of politics that pits us against each other and plays on our worst fears; but from great discipline and organization, and from a strong message of hope.

And when we look at these challenges and think, how can we do this? How can we cut through the apathy and the partisanship and the business-as-usual culture in Washington? When we wonder this, we need to rediscover the hope that people have been in our shoes before and they've lived to cross those bridges.

Personally, I find that hope in thinking about a trip I took during my campaign for the U.S. Senate.

About a week after the primary, Dick Durbin and I embarked on a nineteen city tour of Southern Illinois. And one of the towns we went to was a place called Cairo, which, as many of you might know, achieved a certain notoriety during the late 60s and early 70s as having one of the worst racial climates in the country. You had an active white citizen's council there, you had cross burnings, Jewish families were being harassed, you had segregated schools, race riots, you name it - it was going on in Cairo.

And we're riding down to Cairo and Dick Durbin turns to me and says, "Let me tell you about the first time I went to Cairo. It was about 30 years ago. I was 23 years old and Paul Simon, who was Lieutenant Governor at the time, sent me down there to investigate what could be done to improve the racial climate in Cairo."

And Dick tells me how he diligently goes down there and gets picked up by a local resident who takes him to his motel. And as Dick's getting out of the car, the driver says "excuse me, let me just give you a piece of advice. Don't use the phone in your motel room because the switchboard operator is a member of the white citizen's council, and they'll report on anything you do."

Well, this obviously makes Dick Durbin upset, but he's a brave young man, so he checks in to his room, unpacks his bags and a few minutes later he hears a knock on the door. He opens up the door and there's a guy standing there who just stares at Dick for a second, and then says, "What the hell are you doing here?" and walks away.

Well, now Dick is really feeling concerned and so am I because as he's telling me this story, we're pulling in to Cairo. So I'm wondering what kind of reception we're going to get. And we wind our way through the town and we go past the old courthouse, take a turn and suddenly we're in a big parking lot and about 300 people are standing there. About a fourth of them are black and three fourths are white and they all are about the age where they would have been active participants in the epic struggle that had taken place thirty years earlier.

And as we pull closer, I see something. All of these people are wearing these little buttons that say "Obama for U.S. Senate." And they start smiling. And they start waving. And Dick and I looked at each other and didn't have to say a thing. Because if you told Dick thirty years ago that he - the son of Lithuania immigrants born into very modest means in east St. Louis - would be returning to Cairo as a sitting United States Senator, and that he would have in tow a black guy born in Hawaii with a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas named Barack Obama, no one would have believed it.

But it happened. And it happened because John Lewis and scores of brave Americans stood on that bridge and lived to cross it.

You know, two weeks after Bloody Sunday, when the march finally reached Montgomery, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to the crowd of thousands and said "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." He's right, but you know what? It doesn't bend on its own. It bends because we help it bend that way. Because people like John Lewis and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and thousands of ordinary Americans with extraordinary courage have helped bend it that way. And as their examples call out to us from across the generations, we continue to progress as a people because they inspire us to take our own two hands and bend that arc.

Congratulations to all of you here at the NAACP who are busy bending that arc. Thank you.


You can only imagine how many different ways people type the name Barack Obama. Here is a sampling for his first name: Barac, Barach, Baracks, Barak, Baraka, Barrack, Barrak, Berack, Borack, Borak, Brack, Brach, Brock even, Rocco. There are just as many for his last name: Abama, Bama, Bamma, Obma, Obamas, Obamma, Obana, Obamo, Obbama, Oboma, Obomba, Obombma, Obomha, Oblama, Omaba, Oblamma and (ready for this?) Ohama. And of course there's Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein. Here are some of the ways it comes out: Hissein, Hussain, Husein, Hussin, Hussane and Hussien.