Barack Obama: ‘We Are Not As Divided As Our Politics Suggest’

At his victory rally in Chicago, President Obama began the process of bringing a polarized nation together. Here is what he said.

RECONCILER IN CHIEF: Barack Obama stands on stage at Chicago’s McCormick Place after being re-elected president of the United States during his election night watch party on November 6, 2012. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.com/Newscom)

In his victory speech at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, President Barack Obama echoed many of the themes that inspired his supporters when he first arrived on the national scene — themes of hope, empathy, and reconciliation. In the wake of a bruising campaign that time and again revealed America’s deep ideological, cultural, and racial divides, President Obama sought to begin the process of healing and unifying the nation for the challenges ahead. Below is the transcript of his speech.

BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.

I want to thank every American who participated in this election … whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time.

By the way, we have to fix that.

Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference.

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign.

We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.

In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America’s happy warrior, the best vice president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden.

And I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago.

Let me say this publicly: Michelle, I have never loved you more. I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation’s first lady.

Sasha and Malia, before our very eyes you’re growing up to become two strong, smart beautiful young women, just like your mom.

And I’m so proud of you guys. But I will say that for now one dog’s probably enough.

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics. The best. The best ever. Some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together and you will have the life-long appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way, through every hill, through every valley.

You lifted me up the whole way and I will always be grateful for everything that you’ve done and all the incredible work that you put in.

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics that tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym, or saw folks working late in a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you’ll discover something else.

You’ll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer who’s working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity.

You’ll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who’s going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift.

You’ll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse whose working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home.

That’s why we do this. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter. It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.

That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future. We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers.

A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.

We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this — this world has ever known.

But also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war, to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being. We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag.

To the young boy on the South Side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner.

To the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president — that’s the future we hope for. That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go — forward.

That’s where we need to go.

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path.

By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over.

And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.

You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.

But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth.

The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations. The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights. And among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.

I am hopeful tonight because I’ve seen the spirit at work in America. I’ve seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors, and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job.

I’ve seen it in the soldiers who reenlist after losing a limb and in those SEALs who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back.

I’ve seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm.

And I saw just the other day, in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter, whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care.

I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father, but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes, because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That’s who we are. That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your president.

And tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future.

I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.

I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States.

  1. Do we really think with the election results (the popular vote) that this is not a very divided nation? Do we think that President Obama, considering his rhetoric after he won the first time (“…elections have consequences…”) and his rhetoric during his re-election campaign that he is capable of uniting America?

    The Bible asks the question in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” One thing that both candidates stated that was true. This was a choice between two different visions for America. The only way that uniting will take place is that one side or the other gives in. Since President Obama won, it will be the Republicans. Why will the Republicans give in? Because they want to win. This means they will seek to enlarge their tent. They will go harder after the Woman’s vote as well as the Hispanic vote. This means they’ll have to compromise their stances on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration reform. Conservative believers better get their life-rafts because we are about to be thrown overboard!

    • But this is what the Left wants. Obama has been waging a war against religious freedom. The war against the Catholics is just the start.

      Half the people voted for this person that just spits out anything he feels like that will will make him look good for his base.

      The other day, in his speech, he said:

      “We tried our ideas. They worked. The economy grew. We created jobs. Deficits went down,” Obama said Monday

      Really???

      Deficits down???

      Unemployment up (up one percent this month).

      But people still by it. He uses the to rev up his followers.

      You mention the Republicans giving in. If they do, they lose everything. If they don’t, they lose everything.

      His attack is all about giving in on values and principles. Now of the half of the people that voted for Obama. How many are believers that want the republicans to betray their principles?

      It is being said that Romney didn’t get his message out. I think he did and everyone heard it and half of them didn’t care.

      • What this shows is that this really isn’t about the candidates. This is about we, the people, who vote them into office. The candidates tell us what they think we want to hear. The candidates and their respective parties want to win badly. Why? Because of the power and influence tied to victory. This is why Republicans will eventually throw conservative believers overboard. They can’t hold this constituency and appeal to women voters on the fence (Independents) as well as Hispanics, as well as socially liberal Independents who might lean more conservative economically. I just heard a famous Libertarian who is economically conservative state that it is social conservatives who handed the election to President Obama. You better believe there are Republicans who are thinking the same thing.

        Look at the make up of the country. It is becoming increasingly dominated (politically-speaking) by women and minorities. Look at how close the popular vote was. Where did Republicans lose? With women and minorities. Whose vote are they going to court come next election? Women and minorities.

        Like I said earlier, “Better get your life rafts!” if you’re a conservative believer.

        • And don’t forget young people. Watching them at Obamas accepting speech was telling. They were at a party celebrating their own destruction and they didn’t seem to know it.

          If you want to bankrupt the next generation and call yourself compassionate – do so. Any young person that votes Left is a fool.

          When Dennis Prager told kids at Northwestern University – my generation is bankrupting your generation. The kid’s eyes didn’t blink. They had never been told this.

          If you vote left, you are voting your own economic destruction.

          There should have been a Republican following Obama from University to University telling the kids that they have been sold a bill of goods. That if they vote Left, they are voting your own economic destruction.

          These kids are spoon fed Leftism from High School to college since the 60′s. Few see the other side and when the arguments are based on emotion and you are dealing with brains that are made of mush – what do you expect. They rarely have any idea what they are talking about when they are protesting or pushing some Leftist agenda. Of course, the same could be said for older people as well but I suppose their brains are still made of mush. :)

          Remember the old saying (Churchhill, I believe):

          If you are not liberal at 20
          you have no heart
          If you are not conservative at 40
          you have no head

          Never more appropriate than now.

      • I agree with you friend. I too had the epiphany that the left who voted for Obama heard Romney’s call for a real opportunity to help our country by working hard at a good job, but they preferred the government paycheck. They don’t want the opportunity to make a mark in this world and to become great and help others. They want the paycheck and to veg out. And if it occurs to any of them intellectually that this cannot sustain itself without the workers growing in their support, this too doesn’t matter, because tomorrow isn’t here. The only thing that will matter is when there isn’t any more government support, and then they will not be equipped to help themselves. The left hasn’t only increased its ability to help those who are dependent, but has increased the number of dependents, thereby insuring democratic re-election. However, it is short term just by the nature of it not being able to maintain itself.
        I am expecting something rather different to happen in this country…a kind of worker’s revolt of sorts, and maybe a red state or two to suceed from the union. If you look at the map of this country it is highly red, and the blue states depend on the red states for their general support, and right now there isn’t any kind of collaborative understanding motivating this administration. This liberal administration is by far the most extreme left in my memory, downright socialist and extremely alienating to entrepreneurs and a healthy market. It is a junction in history where for some for the first time they are actually considering leaving this country because it has become so weird and encourages dependency. Just my feelings at this point. Hang in there.

  2. There is a truth that emanates from our creator, which cannot be reconfigured to fit into our pretty little Norman Rockwell image of reality. Nor can this truth be repackaged and exploited in divisive carnal ideologies of; left vs. right, rich vs. poor, black vs. white, etc. This philosophy is being rejected whole heartedly by a world that is deeply seeking truth.

    It is time to strike a match once again, to kindle the warmth of God’s love that burns for unity and allows us to shine together, as we continue the conversation of “Building the Bridge Together” We must now do as the scripture has instructed and pray for our leaders,”all of them”.

  3. I watched the political coverage on TV, namely PBS, and it was refreshing change from the network and cable TV. I feel proud that I stood by my convictions and didn’t vote for this orient again based on his support for gay marriage and dream act. Though it’s nice ideally fir the president to be so inspiring, but I felt this speech to be more of the same. Government will still be divided, including more partisan bickering will continue in this term.

    • I hear this from people all the time. Partisan bickering.

      This comes from the Left constantly. If you don’t give in, you creating gridlock – which is code for: you are not giving in on your principles. So what do you want? For the conservatives to give up on values? There was no mandate here. Approximately half the country voted against Obamas policies. The other half voted for goodies.

      Let us suppose that we are dealing with partial birth abortion. Should the right just abandon their values and not protect the unborn? Because if they do, they will be accused of obstruction and partisan bickering. Is that what is really going on here. The problem with the term partisan bickering is that it sounds like they are fighting over inconsequential issues. This is not the case.

      Now let’s talk about a tactic the Left does all the time. You have a bill that they want to pass – partial birth abortion, for example. They know that the Right will oppose it. And they want the Right to look bad. So what they do is add a rider to the bill – add support for a milk fund for poor kids. The right will not pass that bill because of the partial birth abortion. So the Left accuses the conservatives of being hateful and against children. How could they deny milk for these poor kids?

      Now the problem is that because of this, it is the Left that is denying the kids their milk. But that is perfectly fine. The ends justify the means.

      So should they have given in on the partial birth abortion issue? Now you might say that they could have compromised with the Left on the issue and maybe separated the bill. But that is not what would happen since the issue was to demonize the conservatives and their values. Now the media will plaster all the papers and liberal stations with “Hateful Right refuses milk to kids”. Liberal pundits will hit all the talk shows and claim that the conservatives are hateful and are the cause for partisan bickering. And that is all the half of the country that voted for Obama will hear because the liberal media is all they listen to. This actually happened to Ronald Reagan.

      Here is another example, Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic Party: “Our moral values, in contradiction to the Republicans’, is we don’t think kids ought to go to bed hungry at night.” Do you honestly think the Republican Party wants kids to go to bed hungry at night? But that is the clear implication and what the liberals will hear and believe.

      I guess the question is – do you want a party that stands up for what is right. The right compromises all the time and when they do they get attacked for it. Remember, the “Read my lips – no new taxes” promise. When Bush compromised with the Left to raise some taxes in return for spending cuts, he was destroyed and it was all over the front page. He lost the election mainly because of this. And by the way, the taxes were enacted but no spending cuts weren’t.

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