November 4, 2018

On This Day: Obama 2008 Victory Speech

Significant Speeches , On This Day , Seen|Read|Heard , Presidents Day


"Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity."

– Barack Obama, referencing Abraham Lincoln in his 2008 victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama made history when he was elected the first black president in the United States.

Shielded with bulletproof glass on a stage at Grant Park in Chicago, Obama gave his victory speech to an estimated crowd of 240,000 people. 

Alexa Grant, who was 18 years old at the time, was in the crowd. She was interviewed by Slate for a story. Here’s how she remembered the speech:

It was absolutely wild; there were so many emotions. There was a woman right next to me I’ll never forget. She was an older black woman, and she was all decked out in Obama stuff. All decked out, like she had stuff on her jean jacket, she had pins, she had photos on her.

It was pretty cool, I’m not gonna lie. It was kind of surreal because the polls were fluctuating so much. And you know like when it’s a big crowd, you feel the emotion, you feel the hype. You feel like how everyone was so excited and how everyone was so hopeful. I was so young at the time. I was like fresh—fresh into college, fresh outta high school. At the time for a black man to be elected, it was huge. I just remember being like—holy cow, this is history. And I remember everyone was saying that around us too.

Obama's speech referenced Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln. He also gave context to the historic moment through the story of Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106-year-old Atlanta woman, saying:

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.

On a personal note, he also paid tribute to his grandmother who had died just two days earlier and he promised his daughters they could have a puppy at the White House.

An article about Obama’s then 27-year-old chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, says Favreau wrote two speeches for that night—one for victory and another for defeat.

Find a full transcript of the speech here and a video of it below:

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