Barack Obama's Remarks on Feb. 12 Primaries

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) addresses his supporters from Madison, Wis. after Tuesday's Potomac primary election results filter in. Video by AP
CQ Transcripts Wire
Tuesday, February 12, 2008; 10:26 PM

OBAMA: Wow. This is how you guys do it in Madison, huh? Look at this.


What an unbelievable crowd. Thank you so much. Thank you.

The governor tells me the three-point line is right about here, right about on this spot. I am so grateful to all of you for taking the time.

Those of you who are in the overflow room, thank you so much for your patience. Thanks for all of you who stuck around; I know we're running a little bit late. We had to come in from Washington, D.C. But I just want to say that you have lifted my spirits.

Just a few thank yous I want to say very quickly. First of all, to your outstanding governor, somebody who's working tireless on behalf of the working families of Wisconsin, Governor Jim Doyle.


I am so proud to have the governor's support. I am grateful for the first lady, Jessica Doyle, to the governor's two sons, Gus and Gabe, who have worked on our behalf, as well.

I want to thank the Milwaukee mayor, Tom Barrett, for driving over to Madison. He's been a great supporter.


But I especially want to thank our host this evening, the mayor of Madison, your own mayor, Dave, who endorsed me here today. Thank you, Major Dave Cieslewicz.


Thank you, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, for your outstanding work. I always love this city.

And I want to thank also my director of Wisconsin Students for Obama, Brian Egen (ph), who has been working like a madman to help get this organized here tonight. Thank you.

So today the change we seek swept through the Chesapeake and over the Potomac.


We won the state of Maryland.


We won the commonwealth of Virginia.


And though we won in Washington, D.C., this movement won't stop until there's change in Washington, D.C., and tonight we're on our way.


Tonight we're on our way, but we know how much further we have to go. We know it takes more than one night or even one election to overcome decades of money and the influence, the bitter partisanship and petty bickering that shut you out, let you down, told you to settle.

We know our road will not be easy, but we also know that, at this moment, the cynics can no longer say that our hope is false. We have now won east and west, north and south, and across the heartland of this country we love.


We have given young people a reason to believe, and we have brought the young at heart back to the polls who want to believe again.


We are bringing together Democrats and independents and, yes, some Republicans. I know this. I meet them when I'm shaking hands afterwards. There's one right there, an Obamacan, that's what we call them.

They whisper to me. They say, "Barack, I'm a Republican, but I support you." And I say, "Thank you."

We're bringing Democrats, independents, Republicans, blacks and whites, Latinos and Asians, and Native Americans, small states and big states, red states and blue states, all into the United States of America. That's our project. That's our mission.


This is the new American majority. This is what change looks like when it happens from the bottom up. And in this election, your voices will be heard.

Because at a time when so many people are struggling to keep up with soaring costs and a sluggish economy, we know that the status quo in Washington just won't do, not this time, not this year.

We can't keep playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and somehow expect a different result, because it's a game that ordinary Americans are losing. We are going to put this game to an end.


It's a game where lobbyists write check after check and Exxon turns record profits, while you pay the price at the pump and our planet is put at risk. That's what happens when lobbyists set the agenda, and that's why they won't drown out your voices anymore when I am president of the United States of America.


It's a game where trade deals, like NAFTA, ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with their teenagers to work for minimum wages at the local fast-food joint or at Wal-Mart.

It's what happens when the American worker doesn't have a voice at the negotiating table, when leaders change their positions on trade with the politics of the moment, and that is why we need a president who will listen not just to Wall Street, but to Main Street, a president who will stand with workers not just when it's easy, but when it's hard, and that's the kind of president I intend to be when I'm president of the United States of America.


It's a game where Democrats and Republicans fail to come together year after year after year, while another mother goes without health care for her sick child. That's why we've put -- we have to put an end to the divisions and distractions in Washington so that we can unite this nation around a common purpose, around a higher purpose.

It's a game where the only way for Democrats to look tough on national security is by talking, and acting, and voting like Bush- McCain Republicans, while our troops are sent to fight tour after tour of duty in a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged.


That's what happens when we use 9/11 to scare up votes instead of bringing together the people around a common purpose. And that's why we need to do more than end the war; we need to end the mindset that got us into war.


And that's the choice in this primary. It's about whether we choose to play the game or whether we choose to end it. It's change that polls well or change we can actually believe in.

It's the past versus future. It's about whether we're looking backwards or whether we're marching forward. And when I'm the Democratic nominee for president, that will be the choice we have in November.


Understand this: John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, is an American hero. And we honor his service to our nation.


We honor his service, but his priorities don't address the real problems of the American people because they are bound to the failed policies of the past.

George Bush won't be on the ballot this November.


George Bush won't be on this ballot. My cousin, Dick Cheney, won't be on this ballot.


But the Bush-Cheney war and the Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the wealthy, those will be on the ballot. When I am the nominee, I will offer a clear choice. John McCain won't be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq, because I opposed it from the start.


Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for 100 years in Iraq, 100 years, which is reason enough not to give him four years in the White House.


If we had chosen a different path, the right path, we could have finished the job in Afghanistan and put more resources into the fight against bin Laden. And instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Baghdad, we could have put that money into our schools and our hospitals, rebuilding our roads and our bridges, and that's what the American people need us to do right now.


I admired Senator McCain when he stood up and said that it offended his conscience to support the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in a time of war, that he couldn't support a tax cut where so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate. That's a quote.

But somewhere along the road to the Republican nomination, the "Straight Talk Express" lost its wheels, because now he's all for those same tax cuts. Well, I am not.

We can't keep spending money that we don't have in a war that shouldn't have been fought. We can't keep mortgaging our children's future on a mountain of debt. We can't keep driving a wider and wider gap between the few who are rich and the rest who are struggling to keep pace.

It is time to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history.


Yes, we can. We need a new direction in this country.

Everywhere I go, everywhere I go, I meet Americans who can't wait another day for change. They're not just showing up to hear a speech; they need to know that politics can make a difference in their lives, that it's not too late to reclaim the American dream.


It's a dream, a dream shared in big cities and small towns, across races and regions and religions, that if you work hard, you can support a family, that if you get sick, this will be health care you can afford, that you can retire with dignity and security and respect that you have earned, that your kids can get a good education, and young people can go to college, even if they're not rich.


That is our common hope. That's our common hope. That's why we don't call it Joe's dream or Sally's dream or Susan's dream or Jim's dream. We call it the American dream, because it's a dream we have for ourselves and our own families, but it's a dream we have for everybody.

It's the dream of the father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he's going to pay the bills. He needs us to restore fairness to our economy by putting tax cuts into the pockets of working people, and seniors, and struggling homeowners.

It's the dream of the woman who told me she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill. She needs us to finally come together to make health care affordable and available for every single American. That is long overdue.


It's the dream of the senior I met who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt. He doesn't need bankruptcy laws that protect banks and big lenders. He needs us to protect pensions, not CEO bonuses, and to do what it takes to make sure that the American people can count on Social Security today, tomorrow and forever. That's what he needs; that's his dream.


It's the dream of the teacher who works at a donut shop after school just to make ends meet. She needs better pay and more support and the freedom to do more than just teach to the test, because we want our children learning art and music and science and literature and history.


And if her students want to go onto college, they shouldn't fear decades of debt, which is why I'll make college affordable with an annual $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year, but you won't get it for free, young people. You're going to have to invest in community service, work at a homeless shelter, work in a veteran's home, join the Peace Corps, learn a foreign language, join the Foreign Service.

We'll invest in you. You invest in your country. Together, America will move forward. That's what we dream of.


That is our calling in this campaign. That's our calling, to reaffirm that fundamental belief: I am my brother's keeper. I am my sister's keeper. That belief that makes us one people and one nation.

It's time to stand up and reach for what's possible, because together people who love their country can change it.

Now, when I start talking like this, I have to say, some people will tell you that I've got my head in the clouds, that I'm still offering false hopes, that I need a reality check, that I'm a hope- monger.

But, you know, it's true. My own story tells me that in the United States of America there's never been anything false about hope, at least not if you're willing to work for it, not if you're willing to struggle for it, not if you're willing to fight for it.


I should not be here today. I should not be here today. I was not born into money or status. I was born to a teenage mom in Hawaii. My father left us when I was 2.

But my family gave me love, they gave me an education, and, most of all, they gave me hope...


... hope that, in America, no dream is beyond our grasp, if we reach for it and fight for it and work for it.

Understand this: Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is not ignorance of the barriers and the challenges that stand between you and your dreams. I know how hard it will be to change America.

I know it won't be easy to provide health care for all Americans like I've proposed. If it was easy, it would have already been done.

I know that it won't be easy to change our energy policy. ExxonMobil made $11 billion last quarter. They don't want to give those profits up easily.

I know how hard it will be to alleviate poverty that's built up over centuries. I know how hard it will be to improve our schools, especially because improving our schools will involve more than just money.

It will require a change in mindset, a belief that every child counts, that it's not somebody else's problem, a belief that parents have to parent, and turn off the TV set, and put away the video game, and that our students have to raise their standards of excellence.


That's not easy to do, changing attitudes, changing culture. I know it's hard, because I've fought those fights. I fought on the streets of Chicago as a community organizer to bring jobs to the jobless in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant.

I fought in the courts as a civil rights lawyer to make sure people weren't denied their rights because of what they looked like or where they came from.

I fought in the legislature to take away power from lobbyists, and to provide health care to those who didn't have it, and to fix a criminal justice system that was broken. And I've won some of those fights, but I've lost some of them, too, because I've seen good legislation die when good intentions weren't enough, when they weren't backed by a mandate for change, when the American people weren't enlisted in the process of change.

I know how hard these things are. The politics of hope does not mean hoping things come easy.

But I also understand that nothing worthwhile in this country has ever happened unless somebody somewhere is willing to hope, when somebody is willing to stand up, somebody who's willing to stand up when they're told, "No, you can't," and instead they say, "Yes, we can."


That's how this country was founded, a group of patriots declaring independence against the mighty British empire. Nobody gave them a chance, but they said, "Yes, we can."

That's how slaves and abolitionists resisted that wicked system and how a new president chartered a course to ensure we would not remain half-slave and half-free.

That's how the greatest generation -- that's how the greatest generation, my grandfather fighting in Patton's army, my grandmother staying at home with a baby and still working on a bomber assembly line, how that greatest generation overcame Hitler and fascism and also lifted themselves up out of a Great Depression.

That's how pioneers went west when people told them it was dangerous. They said, "Yes, we can."

That's how immigrants traveled from distant shores when people said their fates would be uncertain. Yes, we can.

That's how women won the right to vote, how workers won the right to organize, how young people like you traveled down South to march, and sit-in, and go to jail, and some were beaten, and some died for freedom's cause. That's what hope is.


That's what hope is. That's what hope is, Madison, that moment when we shed our fears and our doubts, when we don't settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept, because cynicism is a sorry kind of wisdom.

When we instead join arm in arm and decide we are going to remake this country, block by block, precinct by precinct, county by county, state by state, that's what hope is.

There's a moment in the life of every generation when that spirit has to come through, if we are to make our mark on history, and this is our moment. This is our time.


And where better to affirm our ideals than here in Wisconsin, where a century ago the progressive movement was born?


It was rooted in the principle that the voices of the people can speak louder than special interests, that citizens can be connected to their government and to one another, and that all of us share a common destiny, an American dream.

Yes, we can reclaim that dream. Yes, we can heal this nation. The voices of the American people have carried us a great distance on this improbable journey, but we have much further to go.

Now we carry our message to farms and factories across this state, and to the cities and small towns of Ohio, to the open plains deep in the heart of Texas, and all the way to the Democratic convention in Denver. It's the same message.

It's the same message we had when we were up, the same message when we're down, that out of many, we are one, that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, and that we can cast off our doubts and fears and cynicism because our dreams will not be deferred, and our future will not be denied, and our time for change has come.

Thank you very much, Madison. I love you guys. Thank you.


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