Before he arrived on stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 to deliver his keynote address, almost no one had heard the name Barack Hussein Obama. But the then-Senate candidate from Illinois wowed the crowd with his oratory and set the stage for his presidential run four years later.
Now that the end of his presidency is nearing, he graced the stage of the DNC once again to promote the next Democratic presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton. But the America he addressed this week is one that is deeply divided, not only along racial lines, but across political lines and even within the parties, than it was back in '04. The comparison of his words says it all.
In '04, Obama spoke like a uniter, not a divider, like he has over the last eight years.
"There is not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is the United States of America," the younger Obama proclaimed. "There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America."
But Obama 2016 concedes to the divided America he helped create:
"I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together -- black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. That's what I see. That's the America I know!"
When he addressed the crowd in 2004, Obama appealed to his "fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, Independents." Now it's, "Hello, Democrats!" He even stated that it is the "contest" between the left and the right that "pushes our country forward." Not like before when he said there's no left, no right, only U.S.A.
Then-Senate candidate Obama was backing John Kerry and praised him in similar ways as he did Clinton. What he didn't do was bash the opposition, which is another difference in his two speeches. Obama was on the attack this time around, railing against Donald Trump at mockery level:
"You know, the Donald is not really a plans guy. He’s not really a facts guy, either…
"America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump."
And it wouldn't be a President Obama speech without knocking around the GOP:
"But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican -- and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems -- just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate."
Meanwhile, outside the convention center during the latest rousing speech from the president, Obama's America was on full display. Disgruntled Democrats were busy burning American flags (sometimes themselves), cursing Hillary Clinton, breaching the wall around the building (yes, they had a wall), shouting "Black Lives Matter," and condemning white privilege. They considered it their revolution, their new occupy moment.
And Obama, from the safety of a highly-secure podium, spoke as if nothing was wrong:
"That is America. Those bonds of affection; that common creed. We don’t fear the future; we shape it. We embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own. That’s what Hillary Clinton understands -- this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot -- that’s the America she’s fighting for…
"So this year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me -- to reject cynicism and reject fear, and to summon what is best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation."
The Freedom Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Therefore we do not endorse political candidates either in primary or general elections. However, as defenders of America’s social contract, we insist that the rules laid down by both parties at the outset of campaigns be respected, and that the results be decided by free elections. We will oppose any attempt to rig the system and deny voters of either party their constitutional right to elect candidates of their choice.