"Do we believe in an America that says some folks are more American than others or more worthy than others or more valued than others?" Obama said. "Or do we believe in an America where that Declaration (of Independence) means what it says: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident ... that all people are created equal?'"
Obama's legacy is already safe, Brinkley said, simply because he won again.
History is much kinder to presidents who got voter approval to finish what they started.
For Obama, Brinkley said, that means protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in a time when the country leans right-center and demands to contain the debt are soaring. "His role is to be the firewall," Brinkley said.
Even discussing one's legacy can be politically tricky for any White House.
The word itself can convey that the president is too focused on his place in history, or too close to nearing dreaded lame-duck status.
But Gibbs, who served as Obama's press secretary for the first half of the first term, said legacy-shaping is inherent in every big decision in the West Wing.
"People are exceedingly aware of the fact that, for better or worse, presidents are judged on their time in office," Gibbs said. "What are their ultimate, lasting contributions? Everybody understands that. Maybe it's the elephant in the room, but it's in each and every room."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Former AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller covered the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama
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