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Hope Through the Years


May 15, 2020
A man with a light skin tone in a white hat and suit sits besides President Obama in an stadium during the day. They watch white hats fly in the air

Since rising to prominence in 2004 with a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, President and Mrs. Obama have delivered hundreds of speeches that offer hope and wisdom gleaned from their own journeys, and reflect on what defines America’s story. What’s most striking when you revisit their remarks is that no matter the setting, the message is consistent: Ordinary people have a voice, and collectively hold the power to bring about change. That idea is core to our mission at the Obama Foundation and central to the story that will be told at the Obama Presidential Center. As the Obamas’ celebrate the class of 2020, here are some of their most memorable words that power our work years later.

“It's that fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. ‘E pluribus Unum.’ Out of many, one.”
- Democratic National Convention Keynote Address, 2004
President Obama stands at a podium smiling and pointing.

A young State Senator named Barack Obama burst on the political scene with this speech to a national audience at the 2004 Democratic Convention. The world was about to change.

“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.”
- New Hampshire Primary speech, January 8, 2008
President Obama stands on stage with a microphone speaking to a crowd of people

After unexpectedly losing the New Hampshire primary, then-Senator Obama revived his supporters by citing “a creed written into the founding documents...” that became a rallying cry for his campaign.

“...I believe that each of us — no matter what our age or background or walk of life — each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation…”
- Democratic Convention Speech, 2008
 Michelle Obama stands at a podium in front of a crowd

Mrs. Obama would later recall that the stakes felt so high for this nationally televised address that she rehearsed until “I could place the commas in my sleep.”

“When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe — that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.”
- Notre Dame Commencement Ceremony, 2009
President Obama stands at a podium in a blue gown speaking to people

In one of his first graduation ceremonies as president, President Obama visited South Bend, Indiana, and stressed the importance of finding common ground with those who disagree in order to deliver change.

“You may not always have a comfortable life. And you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems all at once. But don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”
- Young African Women Leaders Forum, 2011
The figure of someone speaking on stage

Inside a Soweto church that played an important role in the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Mrs. Obama offers a call to action to women from across the continent.

“You can’t give up your passion if things don’t work right’s those folks who stay at it, 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.”
- The Ohio State University Commencement, 2013
President Obama is dressed in a black robe,and is being shown on a stadium screen at Ohio State University's commencement ceremony. The stadium seats below the screen are filled with people, there are two bright lights in the center of the photo and several men wearing ceremonial tams are shown from behind.

Speaking at the Ohio State University’s commencement ceremony, President Obama made a pitch for civic engagement as a lifelong pursuit.

“Loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo.”
- 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches, 2015
President Obama holding hands with people as they all march with many other people behind them

On the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches, President Obama and the First Family joined thousands of Americans to honor veterans of the Civil Rights movement who bled on Edmund Pettus Bridge in support of voting rights.

“I want people across this country to know...the real story of the South Side....I want you all to know, graduates, that with your roots in this community and your education from this school, you have everything you need to succeed.”
- Martin Luther King Preparatory High School Commencement Address, 2015
Michelle Obama speaks on a stage with a black gown on

A daughter of the South Side testifies to the strength, resilience, and potential of this community at the King College Prep Class of 2015 commencement.

“You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.”
- Remarks at Howard University Commencement, 2016
President Obama stands at a podium

Seven months before the end of his term, President Obama called on Howard University graduates to empathize, listen, and strategize to bring about change.

“...something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it…”
- First Lady Honors School Counselor of the Year, 2017
 Michelle Obama hugging someone

In her final speech as First Lady, Mrs. Obama called on young people to “lead by example with hope, never fear."

“Democracy has always been needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.”
- Farewell Address, January 2017
President Obama stands on stage with his wife and one of his daughters

The President’s farewell address, delivered in Chicago, looked back on his eight years and ended with his one last ask of the American people: “I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change—but in yours.”

“Michelle and I, when we decided what are we going to do next, there are a bunch of issues we care about and will work on, but the most important thing we figured we could do is pass the baton to as many people as possible and cultivate as much talent as possible at every level.”
- Obama Foundation Summit, 2019
President Obama speaks at a Obama Foundation Summit

At our 2019 Obama Foundation Summit, President Obama shares why he and Mrs. Obama chose to focus the rest of their lives on empowering a new generation of leaders.