As President Obama is set to give his first speech of the second term of his presidency here is a look at the five best speeches of Obama’s political career up to this point.
1. “The Audacity of Hope,” 2004 Democratic National Convention, Boston Massachusetts
How could any other speech take the top spot on the list? As the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 the then-Senate candidate Barack Obama was not only thrust onto the national stage, but the notoriety gained from the speech would help propel Obama into the White House. The speech, which began by Obama introducing his own story to a nationwide audience, was premised on optimism within our political system and nationwide unity, will go down as arguably the best political speech in modern American history.
2. Tuscon, Arizona, 2011
Perhaps the most moving moment of Obama’s first term as president came when he spoke at the memorial for victims of the shooting that killed nine people and injured 13 more, including Congresswoman Gabby Gifford. Obama, who teared up at one point and had to collect himself, not only tried to console the nation following the shooting (more than 30 million Americans tuned in to watch the speech live), but he also attempted to rise above the intensely partisan political discourse which was said to have motivated shooter Jared Loughner by calling for a new era in civility in our nation. While we all continue to wait for that moment, there is no question that this was Obama as the nation’s leader at his very best.
3. Election Night, 2008
Obama’s victory speech in 2008 was a masterpiece of political speechwriting. The speech which was thoughtful and reflective included numerous references to Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Obama and his team were well aware of the moment in history which they were presented with and gave us a speech that millions will remember for decades to come. One has to look no further than the opening lines of the speech to see the magnitude of the words that then President-elect Obama would go on to speak: “if there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
4. Newtown, Connecticut
Much like his speech almost two years before in Tuscon, Obama used the opportunity to address the nation not only as its healer-in-chief but also as its leader. However, following the horrific events at Sandy Hook a largely different Obama stood on stage at the memorial service for what was the fourth mass shooting of his presidency. Obama not only spoke to a grieving nation, but a very also a confused and angry nation. Obama spoke to the nation’s gun laws and used powerful phrases such as “we will have to change” that he did not come close to using in Tuscon. The speech included moments in which the clearly emotional Obama read the names of each Sandy Hook victims and was both touching and powerful.
5. Philadelphia, 2008
This was the speech that saved Obama’s presidential bid and stopped his campaign from derailing following incendiary remarks made by the Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright. The speech spoke to racial issues in the United States and was perhaps the biggest indication that Obama was indeed presidential (a query that was often posed by pundits during Obama’s campaign).