He’s no John Boehner, but President Obama teared up pretty good while thanking campaign workers in Chicago yesterday. For those people who like Obama, it may strike them as the best speech of his entire campaign.
I try to picture myself when I was your age — and I first moved to Chicago at the age of 25 –and I had this vague inkling about making a difference. I didn’t really know how to do it. I didn’t have the structure. There wasn’t a presidential campaign at the time I could attach myself too. Ronald Reagan had just been re-elected and was incredibly popular.
So I came to Chicago, knowing that somehow I wanted to make sure that my life attached itself to helping kids get a great education, or helping people live in poverty get decent jobs, to be able to have work dignity, to make sure that people didn’t have to go to the emergency room to get health care.
And I ended up being a community organizer on the south side of Chicago. A group of churches were willing to hire me. I didn’t know at all what I was doing.
The work that I did in those communities changed me much more than I changed the communities. Because it taught me the hopes and aspirations and the grit and the resilience of ordinary people. And it taught me the fact that under the surface differences, we all have common hopes, and we all have common dreams. It taught me something about how I handled disappointment and what it meant to work hard on a common endeavor. I grew up. I became a man during that process.
So when I come here and I look at all of you, what comes to mind is not that you guys actually remind me of myself. It’s the fact that you are so much better than I was, in so many ways. You’re smarter, and you’re better organized. You’re more effective.
So I’m absolutely confident that all of you are going to do just amazing things in your lives. What Bobby Kennedy called “the ripples of hope” that come out when you throw a stone in a lake, that’s going to be you.
Wherever you guys end up … whether you’re in the private sector or not for profit, or some of you decide to go into public service, you’re just gonna do great things. That’s why even before last night’s results, I felt that the work that I had done in running for office (chokes up) had come full circle. Because what you guys had done means that the work I’m doing is important. And I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud of all of you. (Starts to tear up and pauses, then applause)
What you guys accomplished, it will go down in the annals of history. People will read about it, and people will marvel about it, but the most important thing you need to know is your journey’s just beginning, you’re just starting. And whatever good we do over the next four years will pale in comparison to what you guys end up accomplishing for years and years to come. That’s been my source of hope. That’s why during the last four years, when people ask me “how do you put up with this or that or the frustration of Washington,” I just think about what you guys are gonna do. And that’s the source of my hope, the source of my strength and inspiration. And I know that you guys won’t disappoint me, because I’ve already seen who you guys are. And you all are just remarkable people, and you’ve lifted me up each and every step of the way. (The president walked off the podium, wiping his eyes.)