The 12 Most Memorable Political Convention Speeches

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Barack Obama’s "One America," 2004

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Ron Edmonds/AP Photo

When state Sen. Barack Obama learned he would give the keynote at the 2004 Democratic convention, he knew very quickly what he wanted to do. “Almost immediately, he said to me, ‘I know what I want to do—I want to talk about my story as part of the American story.’ He had a very clear concept in his head,” aide David Axelrod later told Chicago magazine. Obama wrote it on a yellow legal pad in snatches of free time—sometimes ducking into the men’s room to get some quiet—while legislating in Springfield, Ill. Other challenges included learning to read a speech from a Teleprompter. In both speech, and delivery, however, Obama rose to the occasion in a way that stunned and captivated the nation.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us—the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes,’” he said. “Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America.” He continued about how “we worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states.”

While he originally had a passage about all Americans standing together for the red, white, and blue, convention speechwriters took it out because Democratic nominee John Kerry had a similar line in his address, according to Chicago, prompting Obama to complain that the nominee—he used an earthier term—“is trying to steal a line from my speech.”

In the end the line was not missed. “On Tuesday, at about 9 p.m., Barack Obama was an Illinois state legislator running for the Senate,” The New York Times wrote days later. “A half-hour later … he was the party’s hot ticket. Pundits even predicted he would be the first black president.”

Next: Clint Eastwood's Empty Chair, 2012


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