Saving the Best Speeches for Last – Election Night 2008

Shortly after the polls closed in California at 8:00 p.m. PST, CNN predicted that Barack Obama would be the next President of the United States. Moments later, in his home state of Arizona, John McCain took the stage at a gathering of the party faithful to give a very gracious concession speech and perhaps his best oratory of his entire campaign. As I watched this man comely, confidently urge us to come together as Americans, I wondered why he hadn’t spoken so convincingly, so presidentially before.

An hour later, Barack Obama took the stage in Chicago’s Grant Park to deliver his acceptance speech to an estimated crowd of 125,000. He began by congratulating McCain for a hard fought campaign and then thanked his supporters, family, campaign manager, wife, children and deceased mother. “This victory belongs to you, “he concluded.

He continued by reminding us that “The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep, we may not get there in one year or even in one term, but American I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.” And then, borrowing from Martin Luther King’s speech of April 1968, concluded with “I promise you, we as a people, will get there.”

He urged us to come together as a people to resolve the many challenges facing us today. “Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. “

Obama continued with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, “We are not enemies but friends. Though passion has strained, it must not break our bonds of affection’. To those who did not vote for him he said, “I need your help and I will be your President, too.”

He concluded his speech with the plight of a 106 year old African American woman, Ann Nixon Cooper, who cast her vote in Atlanta this morning. When she was born, said Obama, she couldn’t vote because she was a woman and she was black. During her life she witnessed the depression, the bombing of Japan, WWII, the civil injustice of the 60s, the landing of a man on the moon and the fall of the Berlin wall. Through those times, he said, “We were told we can’t and we pressed on with that American creed yes we can.” “And this year she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote. Because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.”

He then asked that if our children should live to the next century, “What change will they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. When people doubt us we will respond with ‘Yes we can’”.

This was a well written speech delivered passionately and flawlessly. He held the audiences’ attention by raising and lowering the tones and volume of his voice to emphasize his key points. Gone were the pesky fillers (“uh”) and non- positives (“I think”) that plagued his debates.

John McCain has served our country well and would likely have been a very capable leader. Obama has the same leadership potential, plus an important quality that challenged McCain, tremendous communication skills. We have just elected our next great communicator.

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